Social Problems of Masculine and Feminine

Watching a husband and wife interact with each other in their Oklahoma home, the husband is working hard to clean up the falling leaves in the backyard and the wife is busy preparing dinner for a family of five. There is no question about the pair of people using the skills that they are better suited for and there is no question if it is right that each person is in the socially accepted place within the household, but there is a question of if each person is better suited because of their sex or if they are better suited because they have been encouraged into those positions in life by social training.

Gender roles and gender stereotyping has been an issue of research, debate and recently, legal contention for almost 100 years now. This largely started in the early 1900’s with the women’s suffrage movement and then was followed closely by the two world wars. Between earning the right to vote and married women branching into the work force during the wars, the debate over the place and roles of women have been openly argued. And while much has changed in the ways in which women have been treated in the work force and the home; there is still a lot that is the same.

Science has gone through the human brain to find the significant biological difference between men and women; and instead of finding the big differences, science has found more that is the same between the sexes. While there are differences (small ones that deal with adaptation to the assigned roles of each sex) in the brains of males and females, the behavioral differences have not been found in the brain but in the socializing that starts in utero. Additionally, the socializing that we enforce upon adolescents increasing the restrictions that we use gender roles for. Looking at the behavior, role models, and presentations of male and female in television targeting teenagers, it is clear that there are gender roles that are trying to be reinforced.

Gender roles are not just about the socially expected behaviors of males and females but also the social responsibilities to the larger society and how those responsibilities affect to continuation of the social roles. I will also provide a brief explanation of why this roles keep going even if it is counter-intuitive to do so as well as examples of various areas of present society that are being held back from progress because of the beliefs in the social and behavioral roles of males and females. A follow-up paper will offer conclusions on why this information is important and what it can be used for in order to equalize the roles, responsibilities and rewards of a balanced society. First, there needs to be an explanation of what gender roles, sex roles, are and masculine/ feminine behavior.

Marvin Harris’ “The Savage Male”

Among anthropologists, Marvin Harris’ work is not the most popular but it is well known. Not only for the methods of explanation he used but also for the criticism that he received about using American culture as too much of a base for his explanations of cultural behaviors. “The Savage Male” is one of the works that got a lot of criticism for being too liberally based on American culture, and for the sake of this paper, that is an advantage.

According to Harris’ theory, war societies have the highest investment in male dominance because the males are the focus of fighting and as a result, death. It is no stretch to say that America is a war society not only because of the ways in which Americans glorify dead soldiers but also because we have many means in which males fight each other, while trying to argue that people are more peaceful than they have ever been. The jobs in which males are paid some of the highest incomes are focused on fighting and competition, either in the field or on the court room and investment floor.

Fighting and competition are the focus points and means to the responsibilities of the males in this societal format, those responsibilities are the acquisition and protection of resources. Males have the role of bringing in the resources that are needed to maintain the family units and without something to acquire and protect, the role of the male is incomplete. This is the reason that a male is expected to purse a mate (or a female) in order to have something to protect and acquire for. Competition for a mate to protect and serve (acquire resources for) is high and often done aggressively through means of competition among males and with “wooing” of females to prove the ability to complete these responsibilities of the social structure.

In direct response to this structure of protect and serve that is emphasized in male behavior, females are expected to complete maintenance and distribution of the resources that have been acquired by the males. Maintenance of the social structure includes: child rearing, training and retraining of socially accepted behaviors. Females are responsible for continuation of the social structure because they are responsible for the next generation and the education of social behaviors. Distribution of resources is another primary roles that has fallen upon females and this is done through activities like meal preparation and house work. Though there are maintenance tasks that have been considered male work, most of those tasks are not completed without either the training of the mother and/or the delegation of the wife.

The skills for protection and acquisition of resources are often trained for over a period of years and when the skills are put to use, they are into short term projects. Many of these projects are seen as having a beginning, middle and end and at the end, there is a celebration and glory. On the other hand, maintenance work is often an ongoing and long-term projects that comes with complacency to the on-going management and the cycled process. There is little to no glory in the maintenance process because it is an on-going but instead gets passed to the next person after the first person has moved on from the role.

Male and Female Work

In order to help with understanding what skills are part of the roles of protector and resource acquisition (bread-winner) and what are the skills of maintenance and distribution, this section will describe a bit of each. The best ways to describe what is typically male or female work is to see if either: 1) publicly noticed and commented on and 2) is an activity that is done once and rewarded or is it repeated over and over again with a general reward given once or twice a year for all of the work done.

Men’s work is seen as dealing with going outside of the protected area of their territory and being in a position to not only incur physical damage but also gain resources to bring back into the protected area. These are skills like hard physical labor, trade, and community interactions. During the years of hunting and gathering, male were the ones that would seek out meat and bring it back to the camp. During the times of agriculture, the focus was going into the fields and bringing in the crops. Much later, going to work and bringing back a pay-check for the women to spend on the resources that were needed in the home.

Additionally, men’s work includes protection. The skills for this are building safe, sound homes that are able to hold up to weather and attack (a large reason that castles were so often a goal for a young female looking for an ideal mate {Princess Fantasy}). Physical features most often described as attractive are once that are connected to the highest levels of protection and security, including larger bone structures, bulging muscles and facial features related to stubbornness and determination. Maintenance of the external property is considered male work due to the relationship to household protection. Most of the house work most commonly related to male work is dealing with protection of the property (yard work) and has little to do with ascetic.

Women’s work starts with training in distribution of the resources that are used and stored, as well as distribution of information and knowledge (often in education of traditions, norms, and skills within the community and family). Females also distribute labor among people making some of the greatest leaders to not be remembered in all of history. Most males were not allowed to ascend to the throne of their kingdom until they had a strong female to work with and for them as a people manager. Women manage the ill and ensure that they get enough, but not too much, in the way of resources to help them heal. (Until the 1600s, 90% of all medical treatment was provided by females.)

Medical care also falls into the area of maintenance which is part of the never ending cycle of birth, life and death. Females were responsible for the birth of children, and care of the females whom have given birth in addition to be expected to provide children for their mates to protect. Life is an on-going cycle of production, maintenance and consumption. During agriculturally focused times, males primarily worked from spring until fall with a celebration at the end of harvest, while females had the responsibility of storing, maintenance, and distribution of the resources year round. Other skills, like sewing and cooking are part of the skills related to maintenance and distribution.

Additionally, females hold the responsibility of maintaining the social structure and cultures. Traditions require time, investment and skill as well as education. Norms are reinforced and taught through the females to the offspring, often starting in the youngest years, and pushed heavily during the teen years of a child. Child-rearing is a distribution and maintaining set of skills that start as soon as the female is with child and does not end until death. Females had few celebrations in their lives which all are related to children; 1) coming out party, or availability to marry, 2) marriage and this is often the biggest party of their life and 3) the birth of the first child unless the women marries a high status male, then there is a celebration of each child birth.

Typical male or female work is defined against two standards: 1) publicly noticed and commented on and 2) is an activity that is done once and rewarded or is it repeated over and over again with a general reward given once or twice a year for all of the work done, if there is a reward or praise at all. Male work is most often publicly noted and rewarded with medals and celebrations in addition to it being done once and then rewarded. Female work is cycled, done in private or away from the public and rewarded once or twice a year (mother’s day and birthday) and in bulk, if at all.

The work that has been considered “male responsibilities” has not changed more than small amounts in the last 100 years (since World War I and The Great Depression) but the roles of women are far wider than they have been in any other time in history. Not only are women still expected to handle the responsibilities of maintenance and distribution, but now are increasingly expected to manage acquisition and protection (for at least themselves and their off-spring). In many ways, the maintenance and delegation responsibilities have slowly started to be neglected and replaced by machines in the American society and this has resulted in many problems that have become national issues in the legal system, and socialization of individuals. The following sections are going to cover many of the ways in which this unbalance is affecting American life and at the end will be presented a simple point of view of how best to resolve this single issue that affects all of the following issues.

Social Problems as a Result to Holding on to this System

Thy system of dividing labor between males and females as a means of making sure there is enough people doing each of the roles has worked, for the most part… and for a long time. But like all systems that are dependent on life remaining stagnate (and life does not), so it is with this system. Efforts to keep this system has created many of the major social problems that are presently being suffered. This section is going to provide a paragraph or two on several of the major social problems currently being debated and frustrated in American society.

Problem #1: “Love a man in Uniform”

The idea of loving a man in uniform can be traced back to the Roman times and there are very few times in history in which a man wearing a uniform was not seen as a good and desirable in a mate. The primary reason for this because the roles that require the use of a uniform are protective in service to the community and the larger environments. Police, firemen and even soldiers are all seen as very masculine and protective. Additionally, in the last 100 years, this positions have seen an increase in income from the work in the uniform and as a result, the uniform represents a stable job, income and means of acquisition of resources.

While many might not see this as an issue, that is primarily because of the belief that a compliment in any form is not a bad thing even if it is socialized to reinforce beliefs that are harmful. Men in uniform are expected to not only put their life in danger for the sake of protecting but they also have to up hold the standard of masculinity and if they fail to do this, then they are not seen as male or manly enough. The movie “I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry” did a very good job of pointing out the frustration of being seen as masculine when in a position of wearing uniform. The military has had this problem for years and the results of holding a tight, rigid standard for being a man has resulting in many damages including rape, emotional trauma and harassment.

Problem #2: Violence against Women

Violence against women has been an on-going problem since the beginning of fixed sex identity roles and the belief that males and females are separate in addition to a male being superior to the female are the root of the problem. Women whom violate the system have been beaten (privately and publicly), raped, stoned, publicly executed and punished for having any of these punishments happen for it with slander, gossip, and negative foot notes in history. Females are expected to submit to male whims if the female is “owned” (protected and provided for) by the male and this has in many cases resulted in the rape of a female by an old male relative and for hundreds of years, females were repeatedly beaten and raped by husbands and fathers.

Violence against women is on a pendulum or a wave, with periods of history that were highly violent and other period in which there has be less. In the recent times (the last 10 years), there has been a sharp increase in the violence towards women and with technology increasing global information, the violence is not only known worldwide but also noticeable higher all around the world. And the places that have the highest and most violent actions against women are the ones with the highest conformity standards for males. As long as males have that higher standard to hold up to for being masculine, it results in a tighter standard for being female and the responsibilities for be a female.

Problem #3: Feminist Movement has stalled

Among feminists, there is a debate of whether the movement for women’s rights has reached the climax or if there is more equality to have. Many are leaning one way or another based in part on whether many still have the energy to keep pushing. It is important at this point to note that women’s rights have come a long way since the beginning of the suffrage movement in the early 1900’s. But there has come a point in which the momentum slowed and then almost stop for women’s rights. This is that point now and is evidenced by the fact that the same statements for women’s rights have been used for the last 10 years.

What could have stalled the movement? There are several reason working together to explain the stall: 1) violence against women has increased, 2) failure to help men to adjust to more equal roles, and 3) women teaching gender selective behavior because the women whom are reproducing are part of the groups that believe that gender roles and gender behavior should remain the same.

Violence against women is an easy explanation: beating leads to compliance with desired behavior; in other words, beat someone enough and they will do what you want especially if the beaten person feels there is no escape. Some of the violence is as a result of making efforts to re-engage gender specific behavior and in other ways it is as a result of a failure to redefine masculine behavior. The feminist movement helped to push women to take more positions in protecting and acquiring resources but did nothing to encourage males to also take on the positions of maintenance and distribution. Because of the society still holding to the standard that males are the ones to acquire and protect before a female does these actions or behaviors, males are left to compete with females and this can result in violence towards women.

Another issue that has not been presented to the public attention is with regard to which women are primary in children rearing. Many of the more feminist females are having children later, having fewer children and many are not having children at all. The result is that the women that hold more to a “traditional” views of male and female behavior are the ones having and raising children with males that also hold to a more traditional view of sex identified behavior. As many studies in the decades past have shown, sex selected behavior is largely taught, and if the ‘traditional” parents are the only ones having children, then the behavior mention before will be reinforced and taught again.

Problem #4: Abortion Rights/ Reproductive Rights

One of the major responsibilities of a woman in many of the more traditional views of male/ female roles has been having children and for most of history, the point of marriage was reproduction. For centuries, going all the way back to the times of the Ancient Greek and Romans, the point of marriage was to have babies and raise families. During these times in history when mortality was high and the ability to bear children set much later in life (typical age of first menarche for a female was closer to 16, unlike now when it is as early as eight or nine years old), these focuses had their place. In fact, up until the 1700’s the idea of romantic love was scorned and seen as a path to pain and death (examples of this can be seen in stories like Tristan and Isolde, Lancelot and Guinevere, and Romeo and Juliet). Sometime in the 1700’s, the idea of romantic love as the focus of marriage took hold and gained strength over the years, resulting in there being less and less focus on having children as a reason to marry. In the past, if a person did not want to have children, they did not marry.

As it was noted in the prior section, more women are electing to put off having children or not have children at all, but the investment of marriage for companionship and love is still strong. Mortality rates for humans in general and infants primarily has dropped to new lows and the result is a feeling of less need to produce many children. Many couples are rarely having more than two children except for in some areas in the US which will be more or less by a factor of 1. These two factors result in one thing, a need for birth control and abortion for unwanted or damaged pregnancies.

Another important factor to note: in the past females were taught to deny their sexuality and be submissive to their husbands with regards to sex. The males were the ones to decide when and how often to have sex and when a male decided that there were enough children, they would stop having sex with their wives. Because of the changes in the views of sex, love and marriage; the need for birth control is higher now and by restricting access to it, this is demanding a return to wholly male dominated sexual interactions. This might be satisfactory to some people but for most, this is not an acceptable option because sex is being seen as an expression of love.

Problem #5: Homosexual Marriage

In the last year (end of 2013 until now), one of the biggest issues to hit the courts, coffee shops and even the classrooms has been about Homosexual Marriage (Often referred to as Gay Marriage). Many of the opponents claim the following: homosexual couples can’t have children (this is not true, they just can’t have children without planning for it), homosexual couple can’t note provide a balanced parent relationship (once again not true because many of these couple have been together for so long that they are more balanced in their relationship than heterosexual couples) and little boys will not grow up to be men (there is the issue that causes the most panic). Dialectically, when the word “gay” is used to refer to a homosexual couple it is most frequently referring to a coupling of two men rather than either males or females. In the past, homosexual couple and homosexual people most frequently targeted were men and targeting female couples was an afterthought. In examining the relationship between male workload responsibilities and female workload responsibilities, is should be not surprise why male homosexual couples are targeted more.

One of the greatest insults and failings of a male is to be considered a female and in a world in which the box around male standards is still tight and immobile, the coupling of two males has resulted in believing that one or both of the males is ‘the girl’. To willingly give up the right to a female, which is the prize for being a successful male, is as a failure to be a man. A failed male was killed in the days of the cavemen and earliest history of man (and there are cases that are more recent of homosexual males being targeted and killed). There is still the attitude of loathing to a male that is not manly, even now which is a large part of the reason that homosexual relationships are still regarded with fear and loathing. The legal battles are another means to maintain the restrictions of male roles by making these relationships based on love forbidden even though male-female relationships based on love are accepted.

Problem #6: Stress on Non-Masculine Males

There is no question that many people in the present world do not behave in a stereotypical male/ female behavior. While it has become more socially accepted for a female to behave in terms that are considered masculine, a feminine male is still considered to be something of scorn. This results in a lot of stress on these males whom do not fulfill all of the stereotypical behavior standards and the result have been harmful physically and emotional, having in many cases lead to severe trauma and depression. Additionally, some of these males have felt an increased pressure to go against what is part of their nature and the conflict of social behavior and internal personality can have devastating effects on the person’s sense of well-being and strength of self. Loss in well-being and sense of self can create any number of emotional damages and other disorders, of which it is well known that these can cause other outward negative effects on the person and their relationships. Many of these men suffer from a unique form of discrimination that has led to many of the increases in depression and suicide in the recent years.

Problem #7: “Fast Food Nation”

All people in the present time are encourage to leave their mark on the world, one way or another. For many people their legacy is not only the children they have but also the work that they produce. Since women have gone into the work force with full time jobs and careers, there has been a hyper focus on production, acquisition of resources and consumption. Because of the increased focus of careers there has been an on-going loss of skills in maintenance of resources for homes. Many of the skills for maintaining a home are now being referred to as hobbies and as a result, disposable. More people of the recent generation do not have skills such as cooking, cleaning and sewing of which were skills of survival a short time ago.

One of the biggest consequences of not having the skills to maintain the house is out-sourcing. More business have opened to maintain life than any other in recent history. The purchase of new clothing has replaced the creation and maintenance of clothing that was previously done in the home. Fast food and restaurants are a sure business because it is easier to buy cooked food on the go. Many young people have limited ability to clean and the results in letting cleaning go until it has to be done, or hiring another person to do it. This phenomenon has been referred to as the “fast food nation”.

One of the greatest ironies about the “fast food nation” has been the interest in the post-apocalypse survival and the ideas of the skills needed to survive. Most of the survival skills that are focused on are neglected in day to day life. Because of these fears, and many others with regards to comfort and health, there has been a slow moving interest increase in these neglected skills, but this does not change the fact that most of the children in the future will not have basic maintenance skills that are needed for healthy survival into the future.


A simple internal structure of balancing the needs for survival is seen at the base of the sex-identified roles also known as gender roles. These obligations based on sex were created as a means of survival, not just for the individuals but for the family and tribe. Males took on the responsibilities of acquiring resources through farming and then later, business as well as working to maintain protection for the family and society. These skills are most often associated with uniform wearing and shows of wealth. The reward for success in acquisition and protection, is a female to maintain the resources and redistribute them out to the family and tribe. Maintenance and distribution also include the care taking and education of off-spring on social and productive responsibilities.

Because of the shifts of the social roles from a balanced and specialized set of tasks to more people taking on tasks from the acquisition/ protection skill sets, there have been a lot of other shifts in the behavior and perceptions of people. The next paper is going to look at the changes of the distribution of labor, how these changes have affected the social issues online here and then conclude with statement about what actions to take for the evolution of this culture. This paper served for present the issue and how deeply the issue is ingrain in the American society, the next paper will look at what has been done and what should be done in the future.


Harris, M. (1974). Cow, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture. New York, NY: Vintage.

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