Gender Relations Essay

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Gender Roles: Patriarchy and the Uneven Playing Field

This essay contends that women are still in fact smothered by the heavy foot of patriarchy and that they are not at all liberated completely, not even close. It was only six or so decades ago when women were expected to go into one of four following paths in life: housewife, nurse, schoolteacher, or nun. The movement of feminism and equal rights has been fighting a long battle and has indeed accomplished a great deal, but in many respects, there are decades more of work to come. In fact, one could argue that the very fact that one has to ask the question about this equality between genders means that there is no equality. If the answer was overwhelmingly yes, it's more likely that the very question wouldn't even be relevant.

In recent times, several high-status men have spoken candidly about what they perceive to be as the sheer inability of women in performing certain jobs as competently as men. "Last month, Ceri Thomas, editor of Radio 4's Today programme, defended the lack of female presenters on the show by saying that 'it's just too tough an environment.' He went on to explain that there are more women on the BBC News Channel 'because those are slightly easier jobs. The skill set that you need to work on the Today programme and the hide that you need, the thickness of that is something else. It's an incredibly difficult place to work'" (Wilcher, 2013). Furthermore, Bret Easton Ellis even went on the records saying the women don't make good film directors; as a means of explanation Bret Easton Ellis explained that women were unable to be "aroused by looking" based on their physiology (Wilcher, 2013). However, his famed book, American Psycho was directed by the female Mary Harron (Wilcher, 2013).

The professor Farzana Bari recalls a recent Air France flight that landed in Paris where a man was punching and yelling at woman onboard. The passengers, cabin crew and all other people looked on with indifference; Bari rushed over to help the woman, but she was the only one. Bari demanded for the arrest of this man who engaged in the attack and wondered why she was the only one (2013). The woman who had been attacked, Bari described as reacting in the most feminine manner to what had happened. She burst into tears, rather than demanding for the arrest of the man who had hurt her (2013). Bari concludes, "What I experienced on that Air France flight is a reminder to all of us that patriarchy is a global phenomenon and a continuing challenge to human societies and the women of the world. The material and social basis of women's oppression and exploitation lies in the dual system of patriarchy and capitalism, which thrives on the free domestic labor of women" (Bari, 2013). Thus, according to Bari, patriarchy is alive and well in western society if events like these can occur.

One journalist brings up the most obvious evidence for the fact that America is still in fact a patriarchy: it is ruled by men (Cohen, 2012). We only have to look at the numbers of people in Washington in various positions of power to see that this is obvious. This epidemic is not just beholden to America; all nations, aside from Rwanda, have a majority-male parliament: "It is a systemic characteristic that combines dynamics at the level of the family, the economy, the culture and the political arena" (Cohen, 2012). The highest political and economic leaders are the ones who are at the forefront of these types of numbers; but they do contribute to a telling pattern, which is the fact that the higher you go up in power, the more males that turn up (Cohen, 2012). Cohen is the expert who echoes the sentiments presented at the beginning of this paper, "If a society really had a stable, female-dominated power structure for an extended period of time even I would eventually question whether it was really still a patriarchy" (2012). This sentiment just wonders that if the playing-field was in fact equal, would there really be any need to ask the question. A level playing-field presents its level-ness as irrefutable evidence of its pristine equality. There's no reason to question it.

Thus, if one were to pose the question as to whether or not men are as socially liberated as women, the answer would be of course not. They experience no liberation because they experience no subjugation. The playing field is already skewed in the favor of men, so there's absolutely no liberation needed for men. The society is very much patriarchal and there's no struggle for men to gain equal access or equal fairness as it is for women. Roxanne Gay offers the following perspective on how patriarchy is not only alive and well, but is in fact supported by misogyny. "At TechCrunch's Disrupt, two programmers shared the TitStare app, which is exactly what you think it is. Something so puerile is hardly worth anyone's time or energy but it's one more example of the cultural stupidity that is fueled by misogyny" (Gay, 2013). This is a clear example of how the chauvinism which so often embodies the power and control of men is often characterized by a rampant objectification of women. This objectification of women often excludes them from much else. For instance, Harvard debuted Riptide too long ago, which is a project which scrutinized how journalism succumbed to the pressure of the digital age: "Unfortunately, most of the people interviewed for the project are white men, offering, as usual, a narrow perspective on an issue that would benefit from a more diverse set of voices" (Gay, 2013). What this remark fails to acknowledge is that when it comes to deifying white males as the experts and authorities to all modern and classic questions and issues, it sets up all of society to lose. No one can win when there's such a narrow perspective being presented and when the panel of experts are simple a small portion of the population at large.

Aside from lack of opportunity and objectification, another way in which women are judged or "othered" by society is in terms of what's expected from them biologically. One cannot help but agree that there is a strongly pervasive notion in society that women should have children and that it is their biological and physical destiny to do so. Most experts outside of the collective voice of society will assert that motherhood is not at all as instinctive as many would have one believe (Rollin, 1970). "Motherhood-"instinctive" shouts distinguished sociologist/author Dr. Jessie Bernard. 'Biological destiny? Forget biology! If it were biology, people would die from not doing it'" (Rollin, 1970). This is perhaps one of the most fundamental and meaningful points that one could make about bearing children: if there was really a fundamental, biological necessity present, then the very survival of women would depend on it. However, this is far from the case. Just because women can have children, doesn't mean that they have to or are supposed to. However, as one psychiatrist explains, many women feel that they have this "instinctive drive" to have children because they live in a world where that is the norm. Women are programmed from a very young age to become a wife and a mother: they are told that this is not only something which is expected of them, but which is natural for them to do, when in reality, this is far from the case. As Dr. Richard Rabkin has asserted, "Romance has really contami-nated science. So-called instincts have to do with stimulation. They are not things that well up inside of you" (Rollin, 1970). Rather, as Rabkin alludes to, what feel like instincts and strong biological urges are actually the culmination of societal pressure to reproduce.

As one sociologist explains, "there are no instincts…There are reflexes, like eye-blinking, and drives, like sex. There is no innate drive for children. Otherwise, the enormous cultural pressures that there are to reproduce wouldn't exist. There are no cultural pres-sures to sell you on getting your hand out of the fire'" (Rabkin, 1970).The lucidity of this statement is abundantly apparent. So much of the urge to have children is absorbed from the rather intense collective pressure to do so, not from anything else. The collective pressure tells the individual woman that bearing children amounts to biology and nature, her gift to the planet and to the human race and of the utmost importance. To not have children becomes something which is viewed as odd or against nature, or something which is inorganic.

As Rollin's article demonstrates, the pressure of motherhood is even more multi-faceted. Women are pressured not only in the necessity of bearing children, but to embody the picture of blissful motherhood (1970). As some experts have pointed out, it really is remarkable that the motherhood myth is able to…[continue]

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