Over the last few years there have been huge changes in gender roles. Men are taking jobs that had been traditionally as feminine and the vice versa. There have been effects and arguments have always arisen on who benefits with the gender role changes. There are those who think that men have suffered as a result of these change and argued that it is the women who have benefited. This essay will analyze both sides of these arguments.
Traditionally, the gender roles were defined the woman acted as the homemaker, while the man went in search of a job and worked outside the home or in the farm to earn income for the family (Cyberparent, 2010). The few women who worked outside the house worked in areas where the job involved caring and serving their male counterparts. Then came the gender movement and the roles changed. Currently the gender roles boundaries have thinned. We have men acting as stay at home parents while the wife is working and bringing home the family income, as well as we have women being national presidents, governors, ministers, as well as Chief Executive Officers in big corporate firms. This change in the gender roles has had an effect in the work place, at home, and even at schools.
The Change in Roles
How have the roles changed? The woman was financially dependent on the man. She would depend on her father before she got married and later on the husband when she got married. Thus a man’s value was on how much income he took home. His character was not as important as long as he provided for his family. On the other hand, the woman’s opinion was not important. Since she depended on the husband to provide for her, she had no power to question her husband on any negative thing the man did.
The man would misuse his income and when questioned by the wife, he would become violent on the woman. Traditionally, domestic violence on the woman was the norm. Women had been regarded as owned by the husband, part of his property (Jensen, 2001). More boys had been taken to school while the girls’ education was ignored. In the political arena, women did not have any voting rights. The feminists and gender movements fought against this vice and these days there are laws against domestic violence.
According to Faqs, (2010) there are two reasons that can be used to explain the development of gender roles. First, there is the physical difference between boys and girls in the brain structure and in the hormones. The brain structure explains why girls are better in some subjects and different in others. Secondly the gender roles are impacted on a child by the parents and societies expectations as he is growing up. A girl will be provided with dolls to play with while a boy will be provided with car toys. The society will find nothing wrong with a girl crying while a boy is not expected to openly show his emotions. Thus the boy will grow up finding it hard to show his emotions. This has a negative effect as the boys feelings are kept bottled up, unless he finds a positive way to deal with the feelings.
This may explain why there are more male teenage suicides than there are female teenage suicides. Recently it has been reported that the girl child has been given too much attention and the boy child has a result been neglected. This is as a result of the pressure from the many feminists movements that are active. There are no male movements that are specializing on the needs of the boy child. This has created reversed discrimination, where the girl receives too much attention and the boy is ignored.
Traditionally there were few choices for the woman. It was either being a home maker, or some selected jobs such as being a nurse, teacher or a secretary. The gender and feminist movements fought for changes that would give the woman more opportunities. They wanted equal rights with the man. The women wanted to ‘have it all like the men did. After sometime the women realized they couldn’t have it like their male counterparts had. This resulted to the ‘superwoman’. It was a hard role to play, perfect wife and fulltime working mother. After sometime, the women realized that they couldn’t have it all. The woman’s role was again redefined, defining a woman as equal to the man, but different in many ways.
The woman was defined as independent (Shah, 2010). This was a more accepted role by both male and female. According to a survey that was conducted in 2008, there was almost an equal agreement that the whole family benefited when the husband worked and the woman stayed at home (Lewis, 2010). The results were 42 percent for men and 39 percent for women. This is a complete change from the previous survey (1977) which had indicated that 74 percent of men and 52 percent of women preferred it when the wife stayed at home. This shows that the gender roles are not static. They keep on changing. However the opportunities and choices are there for the woman and the modern man.
Who Has Benefited?
Who has benefited from the equal gender roles? Both men and women have benefited. To an extent, the family has benefited in that the two parents can assist each other. Combining their incomes helps them to cope in providing and uplifting the standard of living for the family. Another way that the family has benefited is that either parent can be the stay at home parent. This is more so when the father is a better parent than the mother and the mother is better in the work place than the father.
There is the benefit of choice. However the woman has benefited to a greater extent than the man. The gender rights movements have created more opportunities for the woman. She is more aware of her rights both at home and in the office. In the work place, she has equal opportunities in the workplace as the man. Though, gender discrimination is still existing in some areas, it is to a lesser degree and there are laws and regulations against this through which she can channel her grievances.
The woman has benefited from the changing gender roles. She has more choices at work. However, there is still a lot that needs to be done for equality to be achieved. This is because that though the woman has opportunities at work, in most cases; she is still responsible for the house work back at home. She has to do shopping, cook, ensure that there are clean clothes. This is true despite the fact that the woman maybe working longer hours than the husband. This results partly from the fact that women are naturally nurturers and partly because nature has it that way in that it is only the woman who can carry the pregnancy. Most women are learning to cope with the two jobs and luckily there are employers who understand this and hence have a nursery where they allow young mothers to carry their new born babies to work. This is another positive result of the gender movements.
The changing gender roles have not benefited the man as much as it has benefited the woman. As already discussed above, the boy is expected to hide his emotions. He therefore grows up ashamed of his emotional feelings. This may have an impact even as an adult which may affect his relationships. Again, the macho man that existed a few years ago may have no place in today’s society. The male is thus a confused species who is trying to reinvent himself. The gender movements assisted the female in knowing her stand in society and in accepting who she is. The man is still trying to define himself as the physical strength that defined him in the past is no longer important.
However for the man who has an open mind, he may take the changing roles as an opportunity as he can make a choice, to let the woman work while he stays at home as the new homemaker. There are those who have already taken this role as a survey showed that the number of men who do the cooking had risen to 56 percent in 2008 as compared to 34 percent in 1992. The same survey showed that the men who shared responsibilities for caring for their children was 49 percent in 2008 as compared to 41 percent in 1992.
There have been enormous changes in the gender roles. Women have better opportunities at the work place than ever before. Much needs to be done and employers should ensure that they give as many opportunities to the man as much as to the woman. The men should be supportive of their wives, by either sharing with some work at home or providing funds for hired house help. The two genders should design an understanding, avoid the existing competition and instead assist and encourage each other. Husbands should encourage their wives in their careers and wives should encourage those husbands who choose to be stay at home parents. The biggest benefit earned is the opportunity and choice, both for the woman and for the man.