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Over the past few decades the roles of men and women have changed drastically. These changes occur throughout society, within a family or in a relationship. In the past, the most common relationship between the two genders would have been very different, with the men being viewed as more masculine and of higher authority, whereas the women of a society would have been viewed to have a stay at home role, where they would look after children and participate in household chores. During the 1900’s women were seen a minority, where the slightest amount of freedom would have been frowned upon.
Nonetheless over the years, as we have developed, so have the different role for both genders, this now consists of sharing jobs equally in a household and around a workplace. The most obvious change within a family would be the amount of work the couple share, both in the household and outside of it. Since the 1960, where the civil rights act was released, it detailed that women were now able to work and should be offered equal opportunities as men, whereas in the past that would have been forbidden.
Due to this seismic change, women are now able to provide for themselves, which in the past would have been extremely difficult as they would have essentially been dependent on their partner’s income. Gershuny, a famous sociologist, said that women who work full time would do less of the domestic labour jobs around the house. However statistics show this is incorrect. Women who work full time tend to still do 73% of the household chores, leavening only 27% to the men, who may or may not work full time. An equally significant aspect of this change would be the commercialisation of society today.
Commercialisation of society is defined as the new technologies that have been introduced into today’s world in order to allow basic household chores, which would have takes several hours to do, to be completed within a few hours. The commercialisation of basic household necessities means that couples still have time to work and spend time with each other. For women, supermarket food products; means they don’t have to spend hours cooking and preparing food for the family. This would also mean, washing clothes now has become much easier due to the washing machine appliance.
Due to this significant improvement, the hours of domestic labour on a woman has decreased a great deal. In spite of this, the commercialisation of products wouldn’t apply to everyone. Working class families or women would be able to afford such expensive items, however this doesn’t quite apply to poorer women; and hence they would suffer with longer hours of household chores. This also doesn’t take into account who uses these appliances; women still load and unload the dishwasher, or wash clothes. Despite having these appliances, it doesn’t necessarily mean these jobs are equally shared; the majority of women still complete them.
Consequently, men and women are now becoming more equal when it comes to making decisions as a family. In the past men were off more authority and hence they were the ones that made the more important decisions. Stephen Edgell did a study in 1980 which showed that very important decisions were usually taken by men, important decisions were usually taken jointly however rarely by the wife alone, and lastly less important decisions were usually made by the wife alone. This has changed considerably over the years since the decisions are now shared equally.
Pooling (where the couple have access to income and joint responsibility) has increased from 19% to 50%; on the other hand, allowance system (where men give their wives and allowance as a weekly budget) has decreased significantly from 36% to 12%. This shows a clear indication of how the roles have changed, although the increase for pooling was very little, we can judge that eventually role will get even. Moreover, we can see from the past that men and women were given gender scripts. Men were seen to be masculine and of higher standard thus they would work.
This was often referred to as the instrumental role, where men were the providers. Women were viewed as having a role solely in the house where they would do household chores. This was often referred to as the expressive role, where women were the homemakers. Nonetheless this can be argued with the concept of homosexual couples. For example within a lesbian couple, they wouldn’t have suited gender scripts and hence would have to negotiate roles equally. Also the idea that now a day’s men aren’t the only providers within a family, women also work and hence can provide for themselves as well as their family.
Having considered those points, there are many things to suggest things still need a lot of time in order to improve and become slightly equal. A concept that could argue the progress over the years would be the idea of dual burden which explains the roles women take upon themselves, or in other words are expected to take. Many feminists believe women are now doing two shifts, one at work which is paid work, and eventually returning home to do unpaid work. They believe men benefit from both works, as they receive a steady income as well as a clean house. Some also claim that women do three shifts, also called the triple shift.
This is described as emotional work which is role which is usually related to women. Women have an extra unpaid shift where they return home to take care of the rest of the family, also called as the ‘labour of love’. Subsequently, it seems convincing to me that although roles have changed over the years, the change itself is very little because the roles within a family still aren’t as equal. Despite having the same job opportunities, the job of domestic labour in a household are far from equal. Nonetheless I believe roles will eventually change one day where they will be close to equal. However I think roles will never be fully equal.