I’ve had multiple discussions with various people about the origins, impact and application of traditional gender roles and I always end up feeling the same way about them: I kind of think they should be abolished. I feel they do more harm than good, and that might be because of how they’re typically applied, but that’s how I feel. In terms of their usual use in marriage and family dynamics, traditional gender roles can be counteractive to familial bonds, borderline on being oppressive or paralyzing and build resentment between partners and family members. Under a conservative gender-role model, men are supposed to be the main (if not the only) source of income, manage all the finances/business matters of the home (ex. insurance) and perform any remote physical labor involved in maintaining the household (ex. mowing the lawn or taking out the trash). Women are to handle the child-care, cook and clean.
Resentment can easily build as partners may feel burdened by having to be the only one to do a certain task and desire additional help and/or feel like their contributions are taken for granted, underestimated or undervalued (for example, a man being viewed as an inadequate caretaker because family income is low or some feeling that being a housewife is not “real” work). Resentment can also develop if partners feel forced into or limited by their roles and judged if they seek to step out of them (ex. a woman being made to feel guilty or that she’s a less efficient mother if she has a demanding job, or a man being labeled as weak for being a house-husband). Counteraction to familial bonds can occur with this model as fathers may be more emotionally detached or distant from their children due to mothers taking a more involved, daily role. Also, children can feel neglected by or detached to their opposite sex parent if parental involvement is delegated by gender (ex. Things related to Bobby are handled by daddy and things related to Laura are handled by mommy.)
Exec wives:bad moms? House-husbands:weak men?
Strictly-implemented gender roles can lead to paralyzation in the event that the other partner is not available to perform their designated task due to death, disability, incapacitation or abandonment (ex. If a woman has never handled the family’s finances nor has any knowledge of how to do it, and her husband is incapacitated, major complications may arise). It only makes sense to me to gender assign responsibilities if it’s based on the physical differences between men and women. Men are generally stronger than women; there are tasks that women will have an immensely difficult time performing. Other than that, if both individuals are capable of completing a task, I don’t see why both can’t do it.
In our society, traditional ideas about gender permeate almost every aspect of our daily lives to excess. Children can’t even willfully choose what toys to play with because of such stringent ideas on what’s a “boy toy” and a “girl toy.” Not to mention “boy toys” and “girl toys” are hard-lined gender-role reinforcers: girls get accustomed to child-care early with urinating baby-dolls and boys get the notion that they’re the only ones that can serve the country with G.I. Joe “action figures” (forbid they’re called dolls instead of action figures). This saturated application is why I find rigid gender roles to be more harmful than helpful. They’ve created a sense of competition between men and women and an obsession with power as individuals ferociously seek to avoid being in a subordinate position. It’s also at the root of inferiority/superiority complexes and self-esteem issues (ex. Why a male feels less than if he hasn’t had sexual intercourse by particular age or why females are so obsessed with reaching beauty standards). Why is it that when a male is sexually-assaulted or domestically abused no one believes him or labels him frail? Gender role ideas. Why was Nancy Pelosi asked who would take care of her children when she was seeking a governmental career? Male politicians don’t get asked that. Gender role ideas. Why was there a male heckler with a sign that read “Iron My Shirt” at a Hillary Clinton rally? Gender role ideas. Behind sexism, misandry, misogyny, gender-bias and gender-stereotypes are traditional gender roles.
When confronted with the concept of altering the gender-role model or abolishing it, some people fight it tooth and nail. I think some fight against it so hard because they don’t know life without gender-roles. People are afraid of or confused by what they’re not familiar with. Transitioning to a more egalitarian model won’t be easy, considering how conditioned we are, but it can be done. It begins with openness. Below is a video that was included in a research project by J.Says’ advice columnist, Dio, for a university gender/society course, analyzing the impact of gender-roles in same-sex relationships. What’s your 2 cents on gender-roles?
There are two kinds of evil people in the world... those who do evil stuff, and those who see evil stuff being done and don't do anything about it.-Janis (Mean Girls, 2004)
Opening an article with a quote from the teen film “Mean Girls” might imply shallowness or juvenileness, but it illustrated my point, so read on before you click away. I had long dinner with a friend in which we discussed a little bit of everything: race relations, politics, gender roles, music and life events in general. I couldn’t help but notice that after every topic, she said something to the effect of “I don’t know why you care so much.” Towards the end of the dinner she said “I think you stress out too much about things that don’t affect you directly.” To give a more specific instance, when were discussing gender roles she said “Who cares if there are couple of super-traditional men with sexist views? You just don’t marry that guy and you’ll be fine.” Considering sexism can affect how women are viewed & treated personally and institutionally, yeah, I should care. Even if sexism doesn’t blatantly damage my life specifically, I should care about how other women are treated simply because I too am a woman.
I’ve come across a lot of people with a similar approach as my friend to societal issues, and I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s because I’m very touchy about human suffering or that I came out of a counseling program that encouraged social awareness, sensitivity and advocacy, but it’s not in me to have a “not in my backyard” attitude. Just because something isn’t overtly impacting me, doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or that it will never get around to impacting me. Many young people have that attitude when it comes to politics. Even though they’re old enough to vote, they don’t participate in the process because the political issues don’t seem to affect them currently. They’re not thinking about it, but one president’s decisions can affect the country’s well-being for years to come, eventually affecting their livelihood as they get older. In my opinion, a selfish “not in my backyard” attitude is part of the reason why our society is so jacked up and social injustice continues to exist. When you advocate for someone else, you advocate for yourself because it could easily be you that’s getting the short end of the stick. Furthermore, if you ever do hit an obstacle, you’re going to wish someone gave a darn to stand up for or help you. Anytime you turn a blind-eye to injustice or inequality, you ARE potentially responsible for human suffering. It IS your problem. We are all humans. What goes around comes around. Realize and embrace the power of the energy you put out (or don’t put out) into the world. It’s the ripple effect at its best. Below is a video about a social issue that many turn a blind-eye to. Watch the effect of blindness. What if YOU or someone you loved were the young man in this clip?