Gender is a sociological term that is used to describe the sex of a person. Sex and gender can easily be confused, and some people use one for the other. Sex refers to the biological state of a person that makes him/ her male or female. Gender is the qualities that society assigns to each sex to define how they are expected to act, and the roles they should assume in society. This paper describes gender roles in the United State from the 1960’s after the world war two, in relation to masculinity and roles. Within the gender dichotomy, the terms commonly used are Masculinity and feminity, to describe the two common sexes.
Every culture and society contains elements that describe a person role in that society. These roles are divided according to a perceived ability in terms of if the person is male or female. Psychologists, particularly personality psychologist see a strong connection between our cultures/societies, and a formation of a person’s personality. They argue that the society we live in, help define who are. This is more so, if the society, as it does, attribute to us certain qualities.
In the United sates after the Second World War, there were not many differences between the roles given to men, and those given to women. This was more so because during the war periods, Civil wars, First world war, second world war and the Vietnam war, more and more women served as soldiers even though the government recognised a war zone as a no place for women.
Women were at first given subordinate roles in the camps, but as these wars became intense, they too started fighting. The armies recruited women soldiers but disguised them as man. This though is a clear indication that women were seen as weak, and in need of protection, which is a notion similar to the Victorian masculinity mind set. This masculinity concept gave men certain characteristics that were directly opposite to the ones given to women. Men were seen as aggressive, rational, dominant, attractive due to their accomplishments, objective, physically strong, exclusively heterosexual, lacking weak emotions like sorrow, while having strong emotions like anger, and having sexual prowess. These attributes were also supported by the sex role theories which saw Masculinity as always being superior to feminity.
Women on the other hand, were meant to be subjective, depend on men, attractive due to their physical beauty, sexually available to men, without being assertive, sociable, passive, and submissive and were to suppress “strong “emotions like anger, mean while express weal emotions. Women were seen as home makers, nurturing children and taking care of the home and their husbands, who would go out of the home to work and take care of their family’s economy wise (Bruni 42).
These cultures together with the sex role theory however failed to consider certain things when giving these attributes Towards the beginning of the 1970’s,women movement came up trying to empower women and revise the roles given to women, because of their sexes. Some of the weaknesses that these attributes and theories had were: They did not put into consideration, the changing role of an individual in the society, for example, a man is not meant to be submissive, but what happens when he goes to work and need to be submissive to his boss? The second flaw was that they failed to recognise that these characteristics typically put the males superior to women. Some of those traits given to men are regarded highly, compared to those given to women. Another flaw is that they did not give reasons why a certain characteristics fit men, while the other fits women. The lack of explanations for the applicability of these traits led to questions and dissatisfaction within women. These characters assume that gender forms the central role in the formation of a person’s identity, without giving reason to other factors like race/ ethnicity, class, religion, social responsibility and talents. Because of these differences and many others, movements and human rights activists came to together to oppose these labels and promote equality. Closely linked with the issue of masculinity is the issue of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Looking at those characters given to men, gay men were therefore not categorised as being “man enough” as they exuded “female” characters.
This stereotyping was also used in division of labour and role specialization. Even when women started working outside their homes, there were certain jobs regarded as: women” jobs and others were strictly left for men. A woman trying to do a man’s job could meet a lot of resistant and disagreements from her male counterparts, while ironically, a man doing a “woman’s job” was respected and even paid more. Some originally considered women’s job included elementary school teaching, nursing, and even social work.
With the education and affirmative actions that has been trying to bring equality between the two sexes, a lot has changed, especially in the last fifty years. The Changing American culture has brought a lot of changes concerning gender roles. There has been a progressive increase in the number of women in certain jobs, like there are more women lawyers, lieutenants, engineers, and many more. This change is greatly attributed to the shift in America Culture that sees women as equal to men, though not completely equal.
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The American culture has changed tremendously to accept homosexual couples. Thus in questioning gender roles, one would assume that a man posing as the “wife” in such relationships would assume womanly duties like stay home, take care of the children, or assume the woman’s position during intercourse. However, most of these couples relate on equal basis, where both perform suites, and house chores could be assigned to some one else. This therefore leaves the heterosexual relationships amazed as they too can assume an equal relationship. The acceptance of this group is also an indication that no duties are left to men while others are defined as belonging to women.
In the present America Culture, an individual grows up, knowing his / her capabilities are not defined by the sexes they are. Family or home chores are shared equally among the couples. Like it’s common to see men taking care of children while women work. The October 2009, Shriver Report, showed that there are currently more women breadwinners and co breadwinners in American families compared to the past. And that in three, out of five families, the woman is the bread winner. This is an indication of changing stereotyping, that men should be breadwinners while women home makers. Men and women are increasingly negotiating everything in order to keep their families together, and more men assume what was first referred to as a woman’s role.
There has been an increase in women going to school and even attaining higher qualifications than males, and this competition is also seen in the job market, as more women CEO’s come up, as compared to men. The constant weakening of taboos and affirmative action for women, who in America are seen as a vulnerable group, all contribute to this changing trend. However, America can not claim to have attained complete equality between the two sexes. Still, at present, women have to work twice as much as men, to gain recognition and achieve the same as men. Women, in the same profession as men, still earn a percentage lower than their male counterparts. This is a form of discrimination but is sometimes hard to contain because in some circumstances men are seen to be able to work longer hours without interruptions, compared to women (Kimberly 87).
On New York Time’s article by Dunleavy, she carried a story about the present situation in American families in relation to equality. This article’s main focus was the measurement if America could be said to have “reached there” in equality. As much as most women want equality at home, and are even requesting their husbands to stay home a lot more than them, the women who earn together with their husbands, are quite reluctant to assume full responsibility of the home, i.e., be equal to payments of bills, mortgages, and other major requirements in the home. Only the women who are in families where the husband is not working are eager to do all the above, but still, complain a lot. With the changing culture, another major change to be noted is the high level of divorces and single parenthood in the American Society, compared to the previous years, say, thirty years back. This is attributed to women empowerment, education and the rising equality movements (Kathleen 53).
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Previously, women were not assertive as presently and ideally depended on men. This change is what contributes to the present divorce rates as women are becoming independent and are able to question their husbands. Men on the other hand, feel they are loosing control of their families, their wives and consequently, their own lives. This conflict, as most sociologist say, accounts to the preference of single parenthood and single families. The studies, made by major sociologists like Talcott Parsons, of a changing society, from traditional to urban societies are proven by the current American state. There is a continuous shift from communalism to individualism, and this change is beyond a person’s power, so there is little an individual can do, rather than conform (Dunleavey 86).
In summary, I think that personality, as much as shaped by the culture we live, largely depends on other factors, that are ideally beyond society and culture. We can change our behaviours according to our situations and what we think is best for us. As much as women fight for equality and empowerment, they too contribute to the stereotypes attributed to them this is evident in how parents treat their children as they grow up. Girls are treated as vulnerable, emotionally weak, and attention seeking, while boys are treated as strong and independent. This is clear on the type of toys given to these children, the type and colour of their toys and dressing, and the way they talk to their children (Maria 54).
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The transition is tracked from the period after the world war two, to the resent society. As expected, a lot has changed to bring equality in accepting women as equally competence to men. However, as seen in this paper, even at the war period, women were still assigned work that was meant to be for men. They changed engines and handled guns, just like men. This is not the same as now because that was a time when power was required from any source. But even the, this was done with a lot of precaution as women could be disguised as men. Masculinity debate and gender roles has brought in gender equality as other sex minorities like transgender, homosexuals and bisexuals have gained recognition in the American culture as compared to the past years. We can therefore conclude by agreeing that indeed there has been a significant change in gender roles, with the changing American Culture. However, we can not pride ourselves and relax, that we have achieved the maximum level of equality, as there is still evidence of discrimination, based on sex, as to what a woman can do, and what she can not do.