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Sex-stereotyping and sex-congruency: Components in the sex role definition of medical specialities in India

By Gura Bhargava


This paper draws a distinction between sex-stereotyping and sex-congruency by analyzing medical student's speciality preferences and choices and faculty views on the sex-suitability of various specialities at a medical college in India. Sex-stereotyping is seen as being rooted in and stemming from the nature of a society, particularly its normative structure. Thus the female stereotyping of obstetrics and gynecology in India is rooted in the widely accepted norm of sex segregation. Sex-congruency refers to the perceived compatibility between sex role expectations and the demands of a speciality. In addition, there was a growing realization among S.M.S. female medical students and among most of the faculty at the college that specialities such as ophthalmology, pathology and anesthesiology involving delicate surgery, less competition, infrequent emergencies and regular hours are better suited for females than are the more demanding specialities. The rationalization of sex-congruency seems to be much more logically consistent than stereotyping. Yet it is the latter that constitutes the most widely shared, and highly consensual rationalization within a given cultural context. These two forms of rationalization may overlap, but they basically differ from each other in many ways: stereotyping has a much longer past, is passed on from generation to generation, is culturally specific, highly crystallized, rigid, and resistant to change. Congruency, by contrast, is based on cross-culturally accepted standards, yet is less structured, more flexible and subject to local variations and finally to individual interpretation.

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