Gender Roles and Its Effect on Today’s Society
Gender roles encompass the responsibilities and behaviors that that people learn and adopt from their communities and cultural norms. A deviation of the prescribed gender roles is met with derision from the members of the community. Gender roles are often the source of taboos and rules, especially in conservative communities. The premise of gender roles has been transformed in recent years due to a rise of egalitarian policies that recognize both genders as having similar potential and capabilities. In the developed nations, gender roles have been obscured by equality of the sexes. Despite the cultural changes that have diffused gender roles such roles still have a hold on culture. They are social constructs and often oppress one of the genders in favor of the other.
The roles assigned to males and females are expected to influence their thoughts, speech, dressing and interactions within the context of their community. Most of the roles associated with women in the past have centered on the nurturing of children and maintenance of the home. For the males, provision for the women and children as well as offering protection to the community has been the norm (Egerton-Idehen, 2017). The mentioned roles are more or less the blueprint for gender roles that had existed for all communities in the world before the egalitarian era, in the mid-twentieth century.
Males and females were expected to exude certain behavioral characteristics to fulfill their roles effectively. The men and boys were supposed to be stoic, competitive, demanding and uncompromising. These characteristics were meant to help them to become good warriors and active providers for their families. On the other hand, the females were expected to be affectionate, passive, and submissive to their men (Egerton-Idehen, 2017). Such behaviors were thought to help in promoting the women’s nurturing abilities. The behavioral expectations of the genders are what constituted the conventional masculine and feminine qualities. They also make the males more prone to becoming violent and females the vulnerable members of the society.
A Social Construct?
In the current society, gender is a sensitive topic. The notion has been compounded by the emergence of other genders (Nash, 2015). The rise of feminism ignited strong objections to gender roles because the movement believed that the roles disadvantaged one group. Gender roles have played a part in shaping today’s society despite the promotion of the ideas of gender fluidity and egalitarianism. In a majority of communities around the world, leadership positions are seen as a preserve of males. Same is the case with most families, as the men are often the ones that control the finances of the family and make important decisions. Efforts have been made to grant women positions of leadership and influence, but they have not been as successful as intended. Critics have argued that the reason that women are not as successful in leadership positions or in attaining influence in the society as men is the patriarchal system that has been in place for centuries (Nash, 2015). However, it has been observed that women gravitate to occupations that are less competitive and concern the forming of relationships among people, which explains why the majority of employees in nursing, teaching, and customer service are women.
Traditional gender roles in modern society have persisted in spite of the efforts that have been made to ensure equal opportunities for the sexes. The mentioned observation is a sign that maybe there is a deeper biological explanation for the gender roles that seem replicated throughout the world. The makeup of the male brain differs from that of the females because of the hormones that both have (Endendijk, Groeneveld & Mesman, 2018). Men have testosterone, which is mostly blamed for the inclination towards competitiveness and violence by males. Females are deprived of this hormone, making them prefer roles that are less bashful or competitive (Endendijk, Groeneveld & Mesman, 2018). It also makes the females better at nurturing children. Men are still expected to provide for the financial and material needs of their children and their mothers even in this era of equality, which undermines the idea that gender roles are social constructs as decried by patriarchy critics.
The biological theory used to explain the gender roles does not hold considering that numerous women are working comfortably in male-dominated occupations. The stigma associated with working in industries that are not considered to be appropriated for the two genders discourages them from venturing into these industries. Women face subtle bullying when they work in traditionally male jobs. On the other hand, a man taking on home chores is often disapproved by the peers and is encouraged to take up the breadwinner role (Eaton & Rose, 2013). Such reactions prevent a significant portion of men from taking on domestic roles that are traditionally associated with women. The gender roles are so ingrained in the culture that even advancements in equality rights have not succeeded in reducing its influence on the modern society (Nash, 2015).
Oppression Through Gender Roles
In the traditional setting, the males were expected to take up jobs outside the home in offices, farms, mines, and the military among others. The women were required to support their husbands and take care of the children and the home. In totality, the roles offered to the men gave them the upper hand as far as finances were concerned, a factor that made the pioneers of gender equality view genders roles as oppressive to the women (Nash, 2015). The clamor for equality took the shape of wanting women to be involved in the same occupations as the men to level the financial gap and prevent women from depending on the men for their economic needs.
Despite the male gender roles seeming more glamorous than those of females, assigning women domestic roles was not meant to oppress them. The roles were complementary, and they helped to ensure the permanence of the families that made up the homes. Most of the jobs that were taken up by men were associated with risks. Men are better at taking risks because of their body structure that is adapted for fight or flight responses (Endendijk, Groeneveld & Mesman, 2018). Another advantage of the mentioned roles was that they favored the women in times of pregnancy, as they did not have to worry about how it would affect their careers. They could concentrate on raising the children with the assurance that the men will take care of their provisions. Having women work in the same environments as men have made the females experience higher levels of stress and cost employers when handling sexual harassment claims.
The traditional gender roles cannot be considered entirely complementary. They are structured in a manner that makes the women and children dependent on the man, which shifts the power to the men. Such power has the potential to be misused. When they lose such power, they do not feel complete. For example, when a man loses his job and has to depend on his wife for finances and do house chores, he is likely to feel emasculated, and loss his confidence. There is no denying that the evolving roles of the genders are putting a strain on the traditional family set up (Eaton & Rose, 2013). Having both parents work outside the home makes them not follow up on the progress of their children. While both parents might derive happiness from their careers, the children might feel denied of parental love. These parents are forced to employ nannies for their children. The nannies often are from cultures different from the working parents and tend to influence the children towards those cultures. The continuity of the values of the parents, therefore, is disrupted.
The traditional gender roles and a social construct and were engineered to place women under the authority of men. In the prehistoric period, the men would go hunting and leave the women in the homestead caring for the children. Those ancient roles formed the basis for the gender roles that have existed for thousands of years. In the modern society, fervent attempts have been made to negate the conventional gender roles eradicate the inequality of the genders that they perpetuate. Laws have been set up to facilitate the eradication of gender inequality.
Eaton, A. A., & Rose, S. M. (2013). The application of biological, evolutionary, and sociocultural frameworks to issues of gender in introductory psychology textbooks. Sex Roles, 69(9-10), 536-542. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-013-0289-9
Egerton-Idehen, J. (2017). Gender roles and its effect on today’s society – women & career. Retrieved from http://womenncareer.com/articles/gender-roles-effect-todays-society/#.W83PmGgzaM9
Endendijk, J. J., Groeneveld, M. G., & Mesman, J. (2018). The gendered family process model: An integrative framework of gender in the family. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47(4), 877-904. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1185-8
Nash, J. (2015). Gender roles in modern society. One World Education, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.oneworldeducation.org/gender-roles-modern-society