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The Changing Gender Roles Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1653 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Gender roles play a major role in todays society and have throughout history. They are introduced at birth through several socializing agents. Gender roles have determined who will complete nearly every task in our society ranging from who will join the workforce to who takes care of the household. Society also tells what traits each gender is supposed to follow. Although it is traditionally assumed that males are the breadwinners and women are the homemakers, times have changed as men and women have started to share both of these responsibilities.

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According to Alex Thio, gender roles are defined as attitudes and behavior that a society expects of from males and females. The females were to comfort and take care of her husband and children and the males were to work outside the house to provide for his family. The family, the peer group, the school, and the mass media are all socializing agents in deciding what our gender role should be. Sexism is prejudice and discrimination based on one’s gender. Women have combated against this sexism with feminism saying that women and men should be equal in various aspects of their lives. [1] If sexism did not exist in our society then we would reach gender equality.

Alex Thio says “women are supposed to be shy, easily intimidated, and passive; men, bold, ambitious, and aggressive. Women should be weak and dainty; men, strong and athletic.” [2] In observing around the town of Holyoke and in our school it is shown that very few females are shy. All of them are not afraid to voice their opinion or start conversations with males. Women are not as weak and un-athletic as everyone once thought of them as. Today several females are in the weight room lifting to be stronger and they are competing in more sports than ever before. Not all males are strong and athletic some never play sports and some women are stronger than most males. Traditionally women are supposed to be shy, weak, and un-athletic while the male is strong and athletic, but this is starting to change to be the opposite.

There are three different types of families: the traditional family, the mixed family, and the egalitarian family. Heidi Boon and others say “traditional home-maker/breadwinner type is a household in which the husband only works and his wife runs the home. The mixed type is a household in which the wife’s work is less absorbing than the husband’s, and therefore, she takes on more of the household tasks and looks after the children. In an egalitarian type household, both male and female partners have equally absorbing work; household tasks and looking after the children are shared equally.” [3] 

Males are supposed to be the breadwinners of the family meaning that they go out into society to find work in order to provide for their family. Women were not to work at all or earn any income for the family. In some cases the females was not even allowed to leave the house without being by her husband’s side. In a survey, conducted on random couples in the community, I asked who is more likely to provide for the family the male, the female, or both. Nearly all of the older couples surveyed, who are now retired, answered the male is to be the one to provide the income for the family. All of the younger couples surveyed answered that it should be a joint effort by the male and the female to join the workforce to earn money to provide for the family. According to David G. Meyers “in 1938, 1 in 5 Americans approved of a married woman earning money in business or industry. By 1996, 4 in 5 Americans approved.” [4] Most people said the reason why it is now acceptable for women to join the workforce is because of the higher cost of living in our society today. This explains why the younger couples would want both sexes worker so that they could live a wealthier life. When older couples where working it did not cost as much too live a decent life as it does today. The older couples lived in more of a traditional family while younger couples are an egalitarian family. Heidi Boon and others state “today only 9.8% of the population is married couples with children where the husband is the sole breadwinner.” [5] Women also have to work in case if their marriage ends in a divorce. If the woman loses her husband then she has no way of earning any income and will be poverty or even homeless. Amy M. Blackstone says “because men are expected to be the primary breadwinners for their families, women often find themselves to be in poverty if their marriages dissolve.” [6] With the women working she does not have to worry ever about having to be in poverty. Women used to not be allowed to work any, but society now sees that it is socially acceptable if women are in the workforce.

In the traditional family women were the ones who stay home to take care of the children in the family. Taking care of the children has not changed as much as working, but males have begun to help with childcare more now. Males have to help with the child care role since the females are not at home as often since they are most likely working. Some wives work during the night forcing their husbands to take care of the children during the night making their household more mixed where the female still has to do most of the childcare, but the husband has to help at times. In my survey of couples all older couples said that the female was the one to take care of the children. The majority of the younger couples with children said that it is more of a join effort. There are still some families that the female is the only one to take care of the children. Child care has drastically changed over the years from being just a female role to a male and female role.

Since women were supposed to stay home and take care of the family they never had a chance to further their education by going to college. Alex Thio states that “school guidance counselors were less likely to encourage girls to go to college because they were expected to get married.” [7] Even if a girl did want to go to college she would be told not to by everyone since it was not a socially accepted idea. Males show their dominance over women primarily in the workplace. Today, women want to be more egalitarian to males in the workplace so they want to get better educations in order to do so. More females have been attending college than ever before. David G. Meyers claims that “since 1970, increasing numbers of women have been training to become lawyers, doctors, and dentists.” [8] Women have begun to be more egalitarian to men since they are now beginning to further their education.

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Alex Thio tells us “females can acquire more political power than men. Since female voters outnumber male voters.” [9] If this is so then why did women feel that politics was a male occupation? Alex Thio answers this question by saying “if a woman campaigned vigorously, she would likely be regarded as a neglectful wife and mother.” [10] The thought of that politics was a male occupation has changed in recent years. More women are becoming politicians than ever before. Hilary Clinton for instance was running for president not many years ago. If a woman would have ran for president several years ago than she most likely would have received no votes since it was not socially acceptable to be a women and be involved in politics. Women are gaining power in the political field, but are still a ways off from having equal power with the males.

The three sociological perspectives on stratification stated by Alex Theo are the following: “the functionalist perspective says men perform the instrumental role and females the expression role so that the family can function smoothly, conflict perspective says men’s economic and sexual exploitation of women contributes greatly to gender inequality. Last, the symbolic interactionist says men tend to be more aggressive and to gain more than women, thus helping to sustain or reinforce gender inequality.” [11] 

Society once said that males were to be the only ones to work and that all females could do was to stay home and take care of the family. Today this has changed to where females have more equal rights with men. Females have gained in the workforce and in politics. Males now have to help with childcare more. Society is now starting to become more egalitarian between males and females.


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