Gender roles have always been an issue of contention in the society. This is because, since the beginning of life man has dominated over the woman. From the biblical days, we see that the role of the man in the family was the decision maker, the protector and the bread winner. The woman, on the other hand, was the home maker. Her role was to give her husband heirs and to care for the family through her cooking, sewing clothes for them, nurturing the young, nursing the sick and so on. This ideology has been passed on through generations up to date. However, with the beginning of the wars, this trend changed because the men went out to war leaving their women to fend and defend their homes. This was the beginning of change in the American society.
However, even with the change, women were considered weak, thus, were not allowed to work hard jobs, which were considered for men. Women were given jobs as secretaries, waiters and tailors, but were not allowed to take part in any significant job especially where decision making was involved. Women were brought up to believe they were not as potent as the men, and that there were some careers that they could not handle. (Loveland and Franklin 38)This has changed over time through the introduction of technology as well as massive efforts from feminist groups that have been campaigning for the rights of women in society.
Economic trends have also played a key role in the change. At some point, life became too expensive that both men and women had to take up small jobs to supplement the income that men brought. This changed everything since women discovered that given the chance, they could also succeed in their careers and help out in the home. Today, women work on the same platform as men. Women are competing with men in all avenues, and some even earn more than men in their workplaces. Women have also adopted the role as bread winners for their families. Women have stopped sitting at home and have developed ways of embracing their roles as wives and mothers while they also embrace their careers. Today, there is no definite role for a man or a woman. Both seem equal in all fronts. For example, some women join the army leaving their husbands at home with the children; others work as engineers, pilots and many other jobs that were considered manly in the past. (Oskamp and Schultz 426) Men have also changed in that today men are taking up jobs in avenues that were considered a woman’s domain. Today, we have men as prominent chefs, designers and tailors among others. Men seem to have accepted the inevitable changes that have transformed the society and made it as it is today. (Oskamp and Schultz 427)
Factors That Contribute to the Social Construction of Gender
The change in the social construction of gender was gradual but definite. Before, women took up men’s roles out of necessity. The economic trends were proving too challenging, and the women had to work to help their men. In other instances, the women had been widowed and had no option but to look for alternatives to sustain their children. However, this is not the case today; some women chose to work as a hobby or to fulfill their passion not necessarily because out of necessity.
Financial independence is one issue that has pushed many women to look for employment. Unlike in the old days when a girl was to remain in her parent’s house until she was married and the role of providing for her shifted to the man, today, men prefer to pursue other options first before marrying. Women, on the other hand, feel the need to be financially independent even when married. Thus, most women join colleges and get employed before getting married. This could be attributed to the change in the family values and moral decay that has engulfed the society. The result of this is that women feel they need a back-up plan just in case their marriage fails. (Loveland and Franklin 44)
Education has also changed tremendously contributing to the change. Unlike in the early days where women were taught home management skills, today women are taught the same skills that taught to men giving them the same chance to compete for jobs. Women are taught their rights hence they are able to make sound and informed decisions about the direction they want their lives to take. Through education, gender inequality is discouraged and both men and women are taught to respect each other’s opinion as they both count.
The media depict a picture of an independent woman. Successful women such as Oprah, Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton among others act as role models for young girls out there. They show the world that women can make it irrespective of their gender. This encourages most young girls who idolize them and also desire to become independent career women who are not tied down by the traditional role of women. The media also bring documentaries and programs where women are strong and taking up key roles in society. For example, in the movie series “24”, at some point the president was a woman and some of the best detectives are women. Also, in the series, “Desperate House wives”; women are seen as powerful and stand an equal chance to succeed without the men. For instance, Bree opens up a highly successful cooking business on her own and Lynette becomes her husband’s boss at work. These are some of the things that contribute to the changing lifestyle in the society. (Oskamp and Schultz 426)
Impact of These Changes
The change in the gender roles has several impacts. On the positive side, families are more financially stable since both parents are earning income. This means that the children get better quality education, better health services among other things. More income means that the family gets to enjoy a better lifestyle than if the entire family was dependent on the income from one parent. The family is also able to develop faster, as a result.
Another positive impact is that the wife and mother are the respected symbols in the home. In the early says, women were beaten and disrespected in the home. Their input was irrelevant, and decision making was entirely done by the husband and men in the society. Children grew up exposed to violence and gender discrimination where their mother was disregarded. Today, women are more vocal in the home, and they also make sound decisions regarding the family. Cases of gender violence have also decreased significantly. This means that the girl child is appreciated and loved.
In addition, more women join colleges and universities today than in the last 50years. This means that women realize the value of quality education and they are willing to pursue it in order to safeguard their future. A decent education helps women to know their rights and position in society.
Women are also able to access proper reproduction health facilities today. It is within their rights that they should be given the best care available. Thanks to efforts made by feminist groups over the years, women are now able to get the best care while giving birth and during the pregnancy period. This was not the case 50 years ago where most women gave birth at home while many other lost their lives due to pregnancy complications. (Oskamp and Schultz 431)
Freedom comes at a price and with responsibility. Some women abuse the freedom they have when they get pregnant and decide to procure abortions. The media are to blame for this reckless lifestyle since they show films that show drugs, clubbing and drinking as a norm. Another factor that is to blame for this is peer pressure and moral decay in the society. In the early days, women were respectful and obedient and hardly got pregnant out of wedlock. However, this has changed. There is no one with the authority to make them live responsibly. This is one of the things that are leading to the failure of women.
Another factor is the media and society expectations. The media and society have a set image of what a beautiful and successful woman ought to look like. This has led to many problems amongst young girls and women who either commit suicide or end up with self-esteem issues that lead to eating disorders in order to conform to these set standards.
Women, in the quest of being independent have also engaged in criminal activities that have led to their arrest. Some have even abandoned their roles as care givers and mothers resulting in government agencies taking their children. In addition, most mothers spend so much time working that they fail to notice their children changing hence moral decay persists, as well as cases of teenage pregnancies and substance abuse (Weidner 96). This, in the past, would never have happened. Women were loyal mothers, obedient wives and family took the first priority in their lives.
In conclusion, the last fifty years have not been easy especially for women. So much has happened that has changed the world’s perspective about gender roles. Although there are some negative aspects about the change, the positive, in my opinion, outweigh the adverse. Thus, the change in gender roles has helped to make the society better.