The Trials of Gender Roles and Equality
Men and women are undoubtedly different but what if just being born a certain sex offered more advantage? Everyone acknowledges that there are significant differences between males and females such as physical ability. Others see not only the physical but also the social, intellectual and emotional differences between male and female. Gender roles are the social norms that dictate what is socially appropriate male and female behavior. These social norms date back to early American culture where the common job for a male was to be the breadwinner and a woman’s place was in the home as a housewife and sometimes-submissive counterpart.
During the seventies the beginning of the Woman’s Movement occurred paving the road for woman to try to reach equality. During this time an end of the ideals we once held for what it meant to be a “man” or what it meant to be a “woman” came to pass. Women were no longer defined by stereotypes of the common housewife but were making their voices heard in protests and movements for equality. The Women’s Movement was necessary to allow women to be their own person. As a man, I have never felt that I was unable to do something due to my gender or felt deprived of opportunities because of it so it is difficult to relate. Women just wanted to redefine equality for men and women. Gender roles exist and influence both men and women in every aspect of their lives from career, family responsibility and social norms. Growing up with two sisters I witnessed how much freedom I had as a male while my two older sisters were given very little freedom. It was not because of maturity but solely based on the fact that I was a male and could take care of myself.
Even as children girls are encouraged to play with dolls and Kitchen or house type of toys while boys will often play with cars/trucks and nerf guns. Boys are played with in a rough manner and must be tough when they get hurt. On the other hand, girls are taught to be more expressive with their feelings. Whether these gender roles are fair or not, is where the argument begins. Why are we treated differently based on gender and doesn’t that prevent any opportunity of reaching equality in both genders when societal influences are constantly persuading these gender roles. We are raised differently; men are physically stronger while women are more emotionally aware. Men are best suited as providers while women are better nurturers. Of course, there are always exceptions, but these generalizations are relative to our biological origins. We acknowledge the differences between the sexes, but why would anyone assume that one gender is better than the other? They balance each other out. But, in a male dominated world, masculine tendencies are utilized and associated with power. When women finally were able to enter the workforce, they had to prove themselves in a “man’s field,” often forgoing their feminine qualities, and mimicking male attributes. Now females are born with a disadvantage, not only do they have to ignore their natural tendencies, but learn male behavior to succeed in the workforce. Cultural norms have inhibited advancements in equality often exploited by the media, by supporting the association of submission with women and dominance with men. .
Feminist movements, such as the right to vote in the 1920’s, and equality in the workforce and education in the 1970’s, opened up the views and showed that inequalities of the sexes existed. These movements brought attention to basic human rights; that politics, education, and employment should be equally accessible to the sexes. But as more women joined the workforce, they found that to be successful in their career and not be viewed as weak, they would have to model male behavior. In Holly Devor’s essay, “Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender,” she supports this claim of modeling male behavior. She claims that “Characterizing femininity and masculinity in such a way does not portray the two clusters of characteristics as being in a hierarchical relationship to one another but rather as being two different approaches to the same question, that question being centrally concerned with the goals, means, and use of power. Such an alternative conception of gender roles captures the hierarchical and competitive masculine thirst for power, which can, but need not, lead to aggression, and the feminine quest for harmony and communal well-being, which can, but need not, result in passivity and dependence” (Devor 428). Women didn’t realize that by mimicking their male counterpart and trying to reach equality by doing what men did was making it harder for them to reach equality.
A perfect example of gender bias and gender roles that I witnessed first hand was while I served in the military. The military is a male dominated field and women slowly have made their presence known in our armed force branches. While serving I was able to witness how although gender roles existed we all went through the same exact training to become part of our branch of military. In the fleet it was different though women were treated a little more delicately than men especially in combat areas. The women were not allowed to go outside the wire and were protected so while I can understand strides have been made in equality there are still areas where women are treated unfairly or as inferior. In the article, Learn about Gender Discrimination in Society, there was a statement that stuck out, “In order for discriminatory practices to end, change must begin with societal values and attitudes, but equal rights must be enforced by laws because individual members of societies will never all think the same.” Equality can be pushed for but as long as societal views remain the same and laws don’t change it then people won’t change either.