Men, who cried, were perceived as weak and less competent than women who cried. When women behaved in ways that didn’t fit their gender stereotype, they had to face backlash because they were not acting as they are supposed to act.
In the present day, the fixed gender roles are not relevant to the extent they were before. The roles are much more blurred and this seems to be the new norm. Compared to the times when women were not afforded equal rights, the progress of gender equality has come a long way. Women are contributing to society in a similar manner as men. We see so many women in leadership positions today. The gender roles are a function of the expectations of the society and as the society evolves so do the roles defined for the genders. There are so many tasks that are now done both by men and women that the traditionally defined gender roles are no longer relevant.
Violations of Norms
These shifting expectations in the present day have definitely benefited our society, specifically when it comes to parenting. These days, parents prefer to be gender-free when they teach their children about moral values and beliefs. In earlier days, there used to be more emphasis on how girls should be submissive, soft-spoken, and dependent, while boys were taught to be tough and “their own man”. Violations of these norms used to create moral outrage.
Some people still feel uncomfortable with gender roles that are unclear and they are in favor of roles overly constricted by gender. These kinds of people don’t realize that overly constricted gender roles can cause repression of feelings for both genders and undesirable outcomes. For example, norms of masculinity that include dominance, and anti-femininity, and can have negative outcomes like physical and emotional abuse for women.
As more women are entering the labor force, they feel more economically empowered as now they can support their families and do not have the dependency on the male members. The traditional role that males were supposed to be the breadwinners is now not relevant to the extent it was. This has made some males uncomfortable as they preferred the status quo situation where the female gender was dependent on them. The feeling of loss of dependency is not readily accepted by males as it makes them less important.
As a result of more women working, we have both the husband and wife doing jobs. The traditional gender role of the women taking care of children is now not the norm but the duty of taking care of the kids and household chores is now shared between the man and the wife. This involves the man sharing his time doing his job and household work. He has to balance his time so that he is able to fulfil his responsibilities, which may be a challenge, and as a result may lead to situations where more conflicts arise in the household. The change does make the men uncomfortable as traditionally these roles were meant to be done by women. And accepting the fact that this responsibility is to be shared is not easily accepted by some men. They had seen the traditional roles being followed in their families and any change is not readily accepted.
Chivalry, Feminism and the Black Community
As women become more empowered, roles that were at one point of time very clear have now become blurred. The male members were supposed to act in a chivalrous manner. Certain gestures like opening a door for the women folk or offering a coat were an accepted norm. In the present day however, the expectation of chivalry from males is very unclear or unfixed as the reaction of women is not that of appreciating the gesture all times… There are women who do not want to be treated as weak and any notion of a male offering assistance or help may be construed as demeaning to the women. It is a very uncomfortable situation for men to be in. Theodore Johnson in his essay “Chivalry, Feminism and the Black Community” discusses gender roles and talks about the history of chivalry and how it has undergone changes and its impact on the African American population. Johnson feels that the form of chivalry can now be equated with courtesy. The word “Courtesy” does not have the gender baggage attached to it. As anyone can be courteous and do an act for helping the other gender and would not be offensive for the women.
The roles are also blurred when it comes to tomboys. In a society that still often expects men to be tough and rugged, and women to be gentle and pretty, the tomboys are much more assertive and stand up for themselves more than other girls. They tend to be more outspoken and more confident. As this does not fit into a typical female stereotype, it makes some females uncomfortable as they have more leadership qualities and have more self-esteem. Sarah Showfety in her essay tells us about Maryellen White who was born as a girl but had interests that were more boyish. There’s reason to believe tomboys are more assertive and stand up for themselves more than other girls.
Deconstructing Rigid Gender Roles
They want to differentiate themselves — to not be a “typical girl” or get otherwise pigeonholed into one category — and they tend to be outspoken. White admits that she’s known as “Blunt Maryellen”. This makes some girls uncomfortable as she calls out a spade a spade. This is not the normal stereotype for a female who is supposed to be submissive and soft-spoken.
Rigid gender roles are not fixed anymore. Social norms, economic empowerment and education have contributed to the women folk taking on roles which traditionally they were not participating in like becoming an attorney or a doctor. Any repression of feelings and desires because of gender stereotypes will not let women operate in a productive way. It is like a pressure cooker, if we let the pressure cooker without a relief valve, operate for too long, the air pressure will build up so much and the cooker will blow up causing damage. If gender roles are fixed and are overly constricted it will cause stress and they will release the stress and pent-up energy in negative ways. I, therefore, feel that the blurred gender roles have more relevance in the present day society.