Gender Back in History the Only Roles essay

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Gender

Back in history, the only roles of a Korean woman were to be a good daughter, a good wife, and a good mother. She was expected to sacrifice for her family, caring not only for her husband but also for her in-laws. Similarly in America, as the picture published in 1950's "Harmony at Home" shows, only men were authoritative. In the picture, the man is the only one sitting comfortably on the sofa while two women standing on the side seem helpless. Both are leaning on the man. The question remains: is this condition still relevant today? In "Change in the Status of Women in South Korea," Anita Li states, "the employment rate for women has risen steadily from 42.8% in 1980 to 50% in 2008. Furthermore, these women are increasingly engaging in leadership roles in the workforce. Though the gender distinction still remains in our society, the trend is gradually coming loose as people began to seek after individual interests and values.

Sports, as a whole, were once considered a male dominated activity. The American society expects every "real" man to be interested and/or involved in sports. In contrast, there was less pressure for females to participate in sports. This perception reflects the traditional gender roles imposed on our society that men are strong and dominant, while females are submissive and soft. However, deviation from the norm also occurs in athletics as males and females begin to challenge their gender roles. A telling photograph from Colombo's book shows a black male athlete, arguably a symbol of pure masculinity, holding a baby with tenderness. The image shows the blurring of gender roles. Kimmel notes, "peace of mind, relief from gender struggle, will come only from a politics of inclusion, not exclusion, from standing up for equality and justice, and not by running away" (Privilege:a reader p.72). This statement accurately defeats the stereotype that boys do not compete with girls, and that girls and boys occupy totally separate sectors in life. Breaking away from traditional gender roles not only provides equal opportunity between the genders, but also pushes towards overall social progression.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, the phenomenon then known as the 'empty-nest syndrome' was regularly encountered. This syndrome referred to the situation that occurred when children left home after graduating from high school, leaving an "empty nest" at home. The so-called syndrome in particular affected married women who were confronted with sudden loneliness after having sacrificed their youth to looking after their families. Particularly, when women reached their fifties, children grown up and gone, and their spouses enjoying a life separate from them, a sense emptiness overwhelmed women. These days, gender roles have shifted dramatically to the point where both fathers and mothers may experience the empty nest syndrome. Until recently, it was far more likely that middle-aged men had given their lives loyally to a particular company or corporation. They were then compulsorily retired, downsized or rendered redundant. Such company loyalty itself rarely happens now, as men are finding new ways to find personal fulfillment other than through work. Men are startig look to their spouses or children for support. In cases where their children have already left, and their spouses are otherwise occupied with their own work, the gender roles have reversed. The women now have jobs and friends at work in addition to separate hobbies form their husbands. Both parents experience similar feelings with regards to the maturation of their children, contrasted with the shifts happening with their careers.

The outcome of feminist political activism in the 1960s and 1970s, and indeed up until the present day, includes the removal of men's legitimized domination over women. Naturally this has affected the stereotypical image of the masculine, 'macho' man as the main breadwinner and therefore the symbolic economic dominator of society. Gender role changes are not just changing norms of female behavior but of men too. Now, the employment ratio between men and women in the workplace has become much more equalized.

There is still a long way to go before true equality is evident, though. In the 1980s half the accountancy recruits were female (Times 12.12.90), and in 1987 more women than men passed the final solicitors' exam. This shift in employment patterns has had effect in other aspects of society. In home, when women work similar hours and earn similar salaries to men, men must share household and childcare responsibilities, in part because women do not have time to take on the role of housewife as well as wage earner. Men are fulfilling household duties alongside their female partners; and some men can be considered "house husbands." This economic independence of the sexes has also led to sexual independence, where women have broken away from conventional sexual roles opting for 'self-determining sexuality.' Women are free to decide their own sexual orientation and lifestyles. All these are possible because of changing gender and sexuality norms, which have come about by feminists fighting for equal rights. Since women became economically independent, there is no need for them to get married just to survive economically, or to be accepted within the society. It is ok for women to be single, lesbian, or married. By changing the society, feminists have caused men to alter their roles in the house and society, and this has led to the change in perceived masculinity, too.

Some argue that there have been few changes in men's roles, only women's. They insist that women now take on two jobs, that of housewife and wage-earner. Domestic labor is still women's work. This is in part because of what Devor states in "Becoming Members of Society: Learning the social Meanings of Gender." Gender roles are so entrenched and socialized since childhood that it becomes difficult to break free of them. Research substantiates the point that gender roles are changing so slowly that women are still doing most domestic labor. According to research, Young and Willmott found women spent an average of 45.5 hours per week on housework, while men spent only 9.9 hours per week. They also found that men do housework in a 'helping out' way not as a part of life, and are more involved in the pleasant parts of childcare such as playing rather than changing nappies.

Marriage can offer personal survival and greater material comfort for many women considering that most have very poorly paid work. However, Walby believes that the short-term benefits undermine women's "long-term interests in the eradication of the oppression which exists within the family," (Human Rights, Gender&Environment). As well as changing attitudes and actions in society, feminism has caused a change in the conscience of men, knocking their sense of superiority by proving that patriarchy is wrong. Men are not better than women. This is verified by the fact that once women were allowed socially to compete for the same jobs as men, they started getting those jobs. Their performance proved women were just as good as men. This competition with women has caused men to lose their sense of superiority.

To decide whether there is a crisis of masculinity, there must be a way to measure masculinity to see if it has changed. Yet, there is no clear way to measure masculinity because there is no clear definition. What do we call masculinity? Economic progress for women took away the fundamental structure by which masculinity used to be defined. Men's sense of self and power was defined by the types of work they did, which often included typically masculine jobs like factory work. The rise in feminism happened to coincide with a decline in industry. Very typical male jobs such a mining, carpentry and metalwork have either closed down entirely or are much smaller and have fewer employment opportunities. This means that men need to define their sense of self outside the workplace. Typical images of men as aggressive and competitive had a very valid place in industry where aggression can be worked out and channeled effectively into hard, manual work. Competition was useful in this scenario too. As the end of the working day came, men left the 'work mindset' and went home to another persona. Men defined themselves and their masculinity at work and were very grounded in who and what they were. Likewise, at home or in a different environment they were confident and sure of themselves because of their aggressive, strong jobs. If masculinity is measured in terms of aggression and strength, then the loss of industry and the traditional male role has caused a crisis of masculinity. Men no longer have gender-specific jobs like they used to. The boundaries of gender roles have altered, and are no longer as fixed as they once were.

As David Beckham proves, men must challenge the rigid conventions of traditional masculinity, because these no longer belong in the modern world. In the European football subculture Beckham can be viewed as deviant or post-modern. His fluid image changes, and he now represents all masculine men…[continue]

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