“Gender: Balance in Human Society” Gender defines an individual whether it be a human or any other organism since birth. Although, we refer to gender and sex analogously, the two words are rather very different, with gender defining the accepted norms and roles of males and females in society and sex signifying whether the individual is a male or female. In my opinion its a word created by us humans to rise a discrimination between men and women but in the natural sense the words the word should just signify whether the organism is male or female.
In humans one little DNA code difference can completely change the offspring’s life forever. If fetus DNA chromosomes read XX then it’s female and if chromosome pair is XY then it’s male. On the micro level that’s the only distinction between men and women but in reality it turns out to be a huge difference. We live in a society where a child’s life varies based on its gender. If it’s a boy his upbringing will be different than a girl.
It’s a fact that we have all taken for granted and have accepted it without really questioning ourselves. We have associated long hair, good looks, household work, cozy environments, fashion sense, cooking sense all with females. While all the dirty work like playing in the mud, living in rather rough environments, violent sports has been associated men by describing the aforementioned activities as manly. This distinction between male and female is not innate in children; in fact it’s acquired by them throughout their formative years.
The media, commercials, schools… all play a significant role in creating this gender disparity amongst the children since birth. For instance if we a parent conceives a baby boy then they decorate his room with toys like cars, trucks, toy guns, action figures, and sports equipment, and they even dress the boy in clothes symbolizing such toys. If a girl likes to play with these ‘masculine toys’, they are frowned upon and deliberately taught to play with dolls, kitchen-sets.
So, since birth we program the boys to become future soldiers fighting for the country, to become race-car drivers and professional athletes. While girls on the other hand are programmed to be kind and caring and become good mothers and housewives or go into professions such as nursing, modeling, or fashion. In his essay, “Being a Man”, Paul Theroux states “Just as high school basketball teaches you how to be a poor loser, the manly attitude towards sports seems to be little more han a recipe for creating bad marriages, social misfits, moral degenerates, sadists, latent rapists, and just plain louts” (439). Theroux, through his rather aggressive language hits the ‘bull’s eye’ in conveying his point that the widely accepted gender roles, are the sole culprits in causing pain and misery in the lives of most men. And, the interesting fact about this distinctive nurturing of boys and girls is that it’s not unique to any given culture; in fact it’s prevalent in all cultures and this something for us to ponder upon.
When humans came into existence as nature dictates there was a female and there was a male so that together they can reproduce and further create more human beings. So my theory on the stereotypical roles of men and women in our society is that since women were the ones who gave birth and nurtured babies since dawn of humanity their role of nurturing has been promoted and thus women were asked to stay indoors, prepare food, look after the kids and look presentable at the same time so that their male partners are attracted towards them and mating continues.
From the hunter-gatherers time period men would have gone out hunting in search of food and asked the women to take care of the children, so they would have passed on these values to their children, thus given rise to the gender distinction present till date in human society. Even in the modern era, the general role of men and women is that men will be the breadwinners in the family while the women will be the care-takers of the family but across culture the extent to which men and women follow this guideline varies.
Generally, the western world tends to give women more freedom than the rest of the world. In America we live in a rather female friendly society where women’s rights are safeguarded more than men’s but still women have yet to reach powerful positions in the society. For instance, in the 234 years since American independence we have never had a Woman President (Hillary Clinton came pretty close in the 2008 elections). From movies, television sitcoms, and commercials gender disparity is ubiquitous in the American society.
We promote the idea that the ideal role of a woman is to be a good mother, wife and take care of the kids and the household work, while on the other hand, we promote that men should perform manly activities like fixing the house, cars, playing sports with the kids and supporting the house financially. Though the orthodox American society idealizes the aforementioned gender roles, women today are slowly moving into the mainstream American workforce nd soon this gender disparity will become close to being nonexistent. For instance, in a recent article, “The End of Men”, Hanna Rosin mentions that women are starting to outnumber men in the corporate world, medicine, law and have even started to enlist aside their male colleagues in the military. On a personal level I too have seen this gender disparity in my family as well. My parents are of Indian origin but the gender disparity in our culture is exactly similar to that in the American lifestyle.
In the last century women were generally less educated than men in both western and eastern cultures as women were seen primarily as future mothers since childhood and were trained to be good wives and mothers so proficiency household activities were given more precedence over education. A similar case occurred with my mother who being the eldest of two sisters was always taught to remain silent near males, look presentable at all times and never really had a freedom of speech. Since 12 years of age her mother made her cook food for the family at night, clean the house, wash clothes, pretty much all the work a housewife has to perform.
She dutifully listened to her parents and did the household chores but was very exhausted because she liked to study and wanted to one day pursue higher studies. Her younger brother on the other hand was made to go to school, work in her father’s grocery store. While my mother was being trained for becoming a good wife, her brother on the other hand was being trained to take over the family business so that he could fend for his family later in life. When my mother turned 18 she expressed a desire to attend college because she wanted to study engineering.
Upon listening to this she was slapped by her father who said, “You are a girl, and your job is to please your husband and mother your children. You don’t need to be an engineer, your place is in the house to be a housewife “. To further kill her desire for education her marriage was fixed to an engineer. Once again she couldn’t voice her thoughts and obeyed her father’s wishes by getting married to a guy he picked for her. Even after she got married she decided to play the role of the ideal wife by taking care of her husband, preparing food for him and listening to him in all decision.
Although she acted like the ideal wife she wasn’t deeply depressed on the inside and my father saw this and a time when there were only two-three girls in an entire college he allowed her to follow her dream of becoming an engineer, despite facing constant criticism both his friends and family he took a decision that was way beyond the scope of general public’s beliefs. Finally, my mother finished her degree but instead of further pursuing her interests she had to once again follow the path prescribed by society – to stay home and resume her household duties.
She had to sacrifice her personal desires for the sake of the so-called ‘gender code’ in society. This hurts me that my mother had to give up her dream to fulfill her duties towards our family, but in a way it was good because today me and my mother have a strong bond which might have been lost if she would have been away for long periods due to her job. Thus, even though our society’s specified gender roles led to my mother’s dreams on a professional level, on a personal level she played her roles as a mother and a wife and at the end of the day domestic happiness outplayed her educational dreams.
Looking back, I realize that my familial situation is no different than that of any other culture because when it comes to gender, all cultures have a similar set of predetermined rules each person has to adhere to based on their specified gender. In her essay “Gender Expectations and Familial Roles within Asian American Culture” Amy Truong states, “Within Asian culture, women are raised and taught to be silent and obedient.
I am a first generation Vietnamese American and growing up, I was told, “Do not comment or speak up,” whenever I wanted to voice my opinion. My opinion was considered unimportant” (308). This is significant point to be noted as this gender disparity and emphasis given on a woman’s ideal role to be submissive to men is not unique just to the Indian culture, in fact it’s even prevalent in modern day Asian-American families. Now, one could think of this similarity between the gender roles in different cultures a coincidence but it’s quite the contrary.
Although, women are competing equally with men in all forms in society and we are moving towards a society where women can also be the breadwinners in the family, this gender disparity between men and women will always be rooted in human civilizations because be it nature or nurture women play a key role in motherhood and ultimately being the homemakers. We cannot and should not alter ideal gender roles of men and women but should in fact accept them because at the end of the day one gender has to play the mother and the other has to play the role of a father for families to flourish and thereby our civilization as a whole to flourish.
I am not encouraging the idea that men should always be the breadwinners and women should be the ‘stay at home moms’, instead I am promoting the idea that we as a society should educate our children to accept their respective gender roles, treat people of both genders equally and be willing to sacrifice their dreams for their children and family, but the women doesn’t always have to be the one sacrificing her dreams as both men and women play a vital role in our existence as a species and therefore their combined existence with peace and harmony are the key to the success of humankind.