The world is changing and to some people it has been very fast in the last 100 years and for many others, it has been far too slow or not enough. But there is no debate that the world for women has changed a great deal, and as a result it has also changed for men. The movement forward for women has been an on-going process since the early suffrage movements and there have been times of sprinting forward and other times of uphill battle, but is does not change that the social expectations and roles for women have changed a great deal. But it has not changed quite as much for men though they have had significant change, especially in the last 20 years.
This paper is going to briefly recap the focus issue and the theory behind the issue, as well as provide a sentence or two on the most affected social problems of the belief in masculine and feminine roles. Then there will be section to describe areas of which there has been significant change towards more equal roles and responsibilities and then a section on what further work needs to be done to resolve the social problems detailed in the prior paper.
It is important to remember while reading this paper that masculinity and femininity are referring to the gender stereotypical behaviors as they are related to gender roles and responsibilities. And while these roles and responsibilities had their place in the time and history, at this point there is less need for following the gender stereotypical roles and instead consider the division of labor tasks be based on skills and desires. Prior papers on this website have examined personality and this paper does not. It looks only at the activities that have been described as men’s and women’s work.
The Savage Male
Over the centuries most cultures have a division of labor that is split between males and females. Males engaged in the behaviors associated with going outside of the protected area of the village, home or lands and acquire resources as well as protection of the lands and village through defense building (fences, houses, castles) and war activities. Most male activities have been done through training and practice activities and then followed with a test, a show of the skills or active use of the skills. After the success of completing the activity, there is often an acknowledgment ceremony or celebration of the success of the activities before moving on to the next activity.
Females have been primarily responsible for the maintenance and delegation duties which have included keeping a home in order, storage and maintenance of foods, and child rearing. Most of these activities require daily attention and rarely there is a day off or times that the projects are concluded. Because maintenance is a daily routine of behaviors, there are few times in which there is a celebration of the completion of the tasks and proof of the skills like there is with acquisition and protection. For most women, their wedding is often the day that they are celebrated the most.
Many arguments over the years have expounded the ideas of bring back this division of labor and there is no debate that both sets of skills are need to ensure the survival of the cultures but there is nothing to prove without a shadow of a doubt this skills are inherited through the “X” or “Y” chromosomes. In fact, documentation through history has shown time and again that these skills are learned and most people are socially pressured to engage in one skill set or another because of the view on sex and gender. These pressures and the lack of appreciation for the maintaining and delegation skills have led to the rise of the feminist movements that started with seeking the right to vote and then followed forward with married women going into the work force (outside of a wartime) in the 70’s and 80’s. These movement have forced change on a massive scale and from where the culture was 100 years ago, our ancestor would not recognized the world we live in, but the movements for equality has stalled in the last 10 years and even though there are pushes to keep the change alive.
Social Problems as a Result of the Change and Stall.
One of the largest problems that has happened as a result of the change but not enough has been a failure to redefine the roles of males. While women are taking on more of the skills that were once designated as male work, males are still expected to engage in the masculine tasks. As a result this has created many social problems that have been growing and in many ways getting worse. One area that is a problem is the relationship between a status or position and the expected behaviors. One position of which has been the most deeply affected is the men in uniforms. Typically these are men in the military, police force and other industries of protection and high physical strength. This jobs have been typically male dominated and have a high standard of masculine behavior and expectations. These standards have been increasingly difficult to up hold alongside the increasing desires for peaceful behavior and non-violence.
One of the results of the problems with the high standards of masculine behavior and being seen in a masculine position has been an increase in violence toward women. While it is know that violence against women has a long history, there has been an increase in the recent years that has left many befuddled and wondering to the reason. When looking at the distribution of the violence, it is found to be highest in areas of which there are the highest expectations for masculine behavior from the males. It is reasonable to conclude that there is a relationship between strong masculine roles and expectations and the additional expectation of a female to engage and remain in their roles and behaviors. Women from the communities or seen by the communities that have these masculine standards are often threatened and in many cases, those threats are followed through. Rape is one of the most well know threats of violence toward women and in recent years there has been a documented increase in the same form of violence towards men whom are not considered to be masculine.
The violence and threats towards women are well known and public are often directed towards women that speak out to the assistance of the feminist movement/ women’s rights movement or take active roles in traditionally male dominated industries. Many of the women that have made efforts in the last ten years for the continued expansion of women’s rights and opportunities have been threatened with violence. This is no surprise partly because the women’s rights movement has stalled in the last handful of years and in many ways it has started to creep backwards. The same speech about ‘equal pay for equal work’ and distribution of household labor (women are still doing the majority of the house work) has dominated for the last decade with little movement in those areas. It is not because the women are better suited to the work but instead that if the women do not do it, then no one would. Males are not being socialized to these tasks and as a result it is still the women cooking, cleaning and being primary care takers for children.
The other side of the issue that deals with the distribution of labors is also found in the “fast-food nation” that people born in the 1990’s and later are moving towards. Many of these individuals have been socialized to put all of their efforts toward production and acquisition tasks and as a result have no time or desire to engage in the behaviors of maintenance, distribution and care taking. In fact, the skills that were once an important part of daily work are now considered hobbies to engage in because for many it is easier to go and buy the tools and skills needed. Additionally, other skills that cannot be bought such as care taking and teaching are being lost to the younger generations or not valued but instead tolerated.
The ‘fast food nation’ and violence towards women also brings with it the metrosexual males and the changes of homosexual marriage. Both of these issues deal with the views of male behavior and masculinity. With non-masculine males, there is a belief of being a failure as a human being and especially a male, often resulting the loss of self-esteem and self- respect. Many males have been taught to believe that they have a right to a female companion and behaving in masculine ways is how to get a female. Having a female is a sign of status and accomplishment. (A prime example of this belief held in highly gender ‘traditional’ society is the recent kidnapping and enslavement of women in the Middle East, of which males see having a wife as a reward for socially accepted behavior.) The males that are not internally of high violence and masculinity tend to bullied, and rejected which can lead to stress related further issues. The other side of this is with regards to men whom are attracted to other men. While on the one hand they are judged for being lesser because they are not desiring a female to take on the feminine tasks but also one of the males in the relationship is viewed as having to take on the submissive roles and this is against the belief of what it is to be a male. The protests against homosexual marriage has more to do with the male with male marriage and not as much with the female with female dynamic. In fact, there has been far less hostilely towards homosexual females than there has been towards homosexual males in all of documented history, and in some ancient times there were hints of female homosexual relationships taking place and being encouraged (please review historical information on harems for reference material).
One of the reasons that female homosexual relationships were permitted and encouraged was to keep a female able and willing to be part of reproduction. A female’s reproductive abilities are the primary focus for the control of females. While a woman will control a household and the care of the members of the household, the engagement of sex is reliant on the pursuit of the male. Additionally, a female is expected to not engage in sex until they have been engaged in a profitable relationship (usually marriage) and then afterwards her sex is to be determined, encourage or even forced by her husband. The efforts of the reproductive rights movement are focused more on the female having control of her own sex instead of being at the whim of a father/ mate or avoided as a fear of pregnancy and having more children. Birth control and abortion rights puts the power of the woman’s body into her hands which is against the rights and privileges of being a male with possession of a female.
There are many other problems that come from the male roles, obligations and standards issues, including feminine beauty, lack of emotional display by males, and failures to communicate because of biased views of either sex. There is a great deal of documentation on these subjects and research on gender roles as well as biological difference fill many bookcases in libraries and bookstores.
Changes that have happened
Women went into the work force in the 1950’s but it was not until the 1980’s that men started doing more of the house work. There have been changes in the last 40 years to encourage men to take on more of the maintenance and delegation roles of the household but much of this has been met with resistance. This created a group of kids known as latch-key kids and these individuals are now paving the ways for men to take a more equal role in the household. Women still do a majority of the work in the household but there are more men in the following roles:
Household Chores: In the 1970’s there were few fathers and sons that knew the skills required to clean a house (strong examples of this are made a joke in the television series “That 70’s show). During the 1980’s, more males where taught by family members to engage in the cleaning skills and in most households today have a more equal division of cooking and cleaning than there has been in prior decades. Women still manage most of the tasks and indicate which are to be completed by whom but males are actively involved more of the tasks. For some couples, the weekly cleaning of the house has become a bonding activity done together.
Stay at Home Dads: A new development since the recent recession of 2008 has been the stay-at-home fathers. Many of the jobs seeking skilled employees were positions that have been dominated by females and as a result, many women found work but many males did not. As a result, many males stayed home to care for their small children or work part time and take on most of the tasks of care taking for children and household. In the beginning, this was met with distain and criticism for the males staying home, there has been a significant shift in the short time to being supportive and accepting of this change. It is a sign of a step forward though there is now more pressure on females to always be in the work force or to not take time off for family interests. Interestingly, many stay at home dads have said that they enjoy staying home with their children and would like to remain in the task for long term.
Single Fathers: In the 1990’s there was an epidemic of children living with mothers whom were addicted to drugs or in deep poverty situations. As a result, there was a review of the belief that a child is always better with their mother and the conclusion was that there were times in which a child was better with their father. This began a trend of single fathers raising their children. While in most places it is still preferred to place a child with their mother, it is less of a socially unacceptable option to place a child with their father. Additionally there is less and less fear that a child will be molested by a father than there was many decades ago, which part of the reason that it was considered preferable to have a child with a single mother rather than with a single father. One area that is still an issue is the child support payments that are mandatory to the primary care taker. Men still make more money than women do and as a result, single fathers work with far less or nothing from the mother to support the children they care for.
Women in the Work Force: Other areas in which there is significant change in the roles of men and women has been in the work force. There are more women taking on a larger variety of positions in the work force than any time in the past, and though there are more men management roles still, women are taking more responsibilities than before. Now more than other time, women are not only taking major leadership positions but also being respected in those positions. As it has been addressed time and again, there is a lot more work to be done with regards to equal pay and balanced decision making in hiring but there has been more progress than in other times in history. Additionally, women are no longer expected to give up careers for family though it is still difficult for a woman to not be expected to drop all tasks for considerations of family and men to expect that women would handle family issues.
Women in Combat: Women in combat is another issue of the current era that has seen a great deal of change and this is partly due to The Cold War (there was an increased awareness of female spies and intelligence agents) and Hollywood showing the world of stronger women not afraid of a fight. There is a long history of women fighters going back to the legends of the Amazons and the Celtics and there is plenty of documentation of women disguising as men and entering the military. Recently there has been an increased push for women to take active roles in the combat operations on the front line though this is still an uphill battle. More women are involved in combat in the command stations, and making tactical decisions. While women as still few and far between on the front line, there are more women rising to the rank of general than any other time in history.
Recommendations for the Future and Conclusion
Why is the information in this paper important? The answer is simple: to fix a problem, one should be aware of where it came from and what it is affecting. Many are so focused on what is seen as the benefit of being male and how all people have a right to those same benefits that it is forgotten what benefits there are in the traditionally female roles. Also, many have bemoaned the loss of certain skills, ethics and moral behaviors in the last few decades while not being aware of where those skills were lost to begin with. This paper is about a problem and how deep that problem runs as well as the trouble it has caused. One must know what a problem is before they can seek a solution for it, and many say that they are not aware of these issues and the common tread until it is brought forward.
The best recommendation for the future is encouraging people to be what they are without the enforcement of masculine and feminine roles based solely on sex identity. This is being done but there is a serious neglect of maintenance and delegation skills. Teach these skills to all children as much as the skills of acquisition and protection. Teach all children how to build a fence as much as cook dinner and then the skills will be maintained by the person with the best skills instead of the person that is socialized to do it. There was a belief in science fiction stories and shows that there was going to be a day in which sex had no relevance on skills and with the on-going education of children becoming more gender blind, this might happen as long as we all believe that it can. The most important thing to be taught, learned and practiced is the sex identity is not destiny and gender roles are learned from the people that are not aware that they have taught them.