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Gender Roles

Sample paper 3 By K. Nienaber Winter 2011

How have gender roles changed in society? Historically gender roles have been associated with male verse female inequalities and inequities. Social construction of gender differences throughout history have made males the dominant gender. They have been praised and worshiped for thousands of years as if they were the superior gender. This is also known as patriarchal based society. Societies have perpetuated this form of social behavior of men all throughout history accommodating for hyper-masculine social infrastructures. For centuries patriarchal based societies have flourished and it was not until recently that gender equality was regarded as a successful social behavior.

For centuries women have been regarded as the nurturing stay at home figure. It was not until the past few decades post first and second feminist movements that the female role in American society evolved. Women have been seen only as stay at home housewives for too long and they should be offered the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Men have become so comfortable with the socialization of male superiority, that many are unaware of the role they play in oppressing the female gender. "Men came to [have come to] think of themselves [as] inherently superior- based on evidence that they dominated society". (Henslin, 2009, p.270)

Time has shown that gender roles have continued to change towards achieving equality and equity between genders. In today's society it is becoming increasingly common to see role reversals in relationships, in which the males become the "stay at home nurturer," and the females become the "breadwinners." It appears that this is becoming a more popular lifestyle, especially in our current economy. If society is becoming more accepting and moving towards more relationships exhibiting this "role reversal," then why should females be denied the same social benefits and access to resources that their male working counterparts are receiving? Why do the females in our society get the short end of the stick even though they work just as hard or harder than their male counterparts? These are questions that are consistently being asked and that consistently receive vague and unreasonable responses to. Your salary should not depend on whether you are male or female.

Is there any escape from the traditional gender roles? "Around the world, gender is the primary division between people." (Henslin, 2009, p.272) The human species consistently identifies, labels, and groups individuals. This trait automatically sets females in society at a lesser advantage compared to males because of the long standing social tradition that implies that males are the superior beings. Feminism stresses that "biology is not destiny and that stratification by gender is wrong and should be resisted." (Henslin, 2009, p. 272) It has been said that the "glass ceiling is cracking" phrase implies that woman have been able to overcome all the obstacles of sexism that have been placed in front of them. (Henslin, 2009, p. 278) Highly motivated woman have given "up sleep and recreation for the sake of career advancement." (Henslin, 2009, pg. 278) They have also learned to "play by men's rules" in order to advance in their careers as more powerful successful women.

Hilary Clinton has become a great American example of a female who has overcome the many obstacles thrown in her path in a primarily sexist society. "Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win a presidential primary." (Henslin, 2009, pg. 281) "Women's fuller participation in the decision-making processes of our social institutions has [have] shattered the stereotypes that tended to limit females to 'feminine' activities and to push males into 'masculine' ones." (Henslin, 2009, pg. 281) A current example of a highly populated career path that is moving towards gender equality is the nursing profession. Historically this role was primarily filled with female employees. Today, the nursing schools across the country are promoting and advocating for males to enroll and earn their nursing degrees/certificates. This example shows how one field is taking one small step towards gender equality.

"Capitalism also shapes and makes use of gender inequality." (Johnson, 2006, p. 49) Gender inequality has been engrained into our society throughout centuries making it difficult to change the ongoing habits that have been going on for numerous years. Because of the glass ceiling that has been fabricated towards women's careers, it has been very difficult for females to advance into more powerful and important job opportunities. Just because a system is male dominated does not mean that all men are powerful and should be powerful. There has to be bandwidth for both sexes to grow in order to diffuse gender inequality and shape our society into a well rounded non-sexist community.

According to Henslin (2009), your gender will determine whether "you will either benefit from the pay gap or be victimized by it." Women continue to fall victim to this pay gap and still make less than their male counterparts. Henslin (2009) also suggests that a "distinction between the sexes will not disappear but there is no reason for biological differences to be translated into social inequalities." It should not matter whether you are male or female, you should be treated the same and be allowed the same opportunities in all aspects of life, as well as access to the same quality of resources. Johnson (2006) implies that "women are culturally disidentified with power making it harder for them to exercise it in any situation." These structures of power and inequality profile almost every aspect of life in modern society.

Johnson (2006) suggests that, "the hope for something better depends on the ability to work together to face that illusion and go through it to the truth on the other side." Based on the curriculum of this course we should now be driven to see past the illusion of a single one way street society and to instead be looking for the multiple paths that make up a society. Driven to see how each of those paths is valuable and necessary to the success of a society, and that no single path is better than another. The sociological perspective is essential in achieving this, we need this set of values to have the capacity to see beyond what is in front of us and more what is beside us.

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Works Cited

Henslin, J. (2009). Essentials of sociology. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Johnson, A. (2006). Privilege, power, and difference. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.