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The Social Roles of Men and Women as Parents

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Women and men are nuzzled into predetermined cultural forms when it comes to gender in American society. Women assume the roles of mothers, housekeepers, and servants to their husbands and children, while men act as providers, protectors, and heads of the household. The division of labor in the household hold depends on the environment. Society creates gender ideology that affects the roles women and men take on in the household. However, it depends on the time period and society you live in that determines the "norm" gender ideology. We, as a nation, need to do severe critical thinking about this delusion of gender, how has it limited us in the home, media, and education, how it currently limits us, and what the results of the current and future changes in gender roles will be. Why did women go to work? Sociologist, Emile Durkheim would answer this question with his theory on "Division of Labor". Just 100 years ago, the structure of the family was quite different than what we see today. In the early 1900, predominantly agricultural, the father was the sole breadwinner and the mother worked in the home and tended to the children. The division of labor was based on gender and it was centered on the home, all members having a particular job to do which was an important part of the family's survival. This provided a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. The Industrial Revolution separated the workplace from the home and altered the division of labor between men and women. It destroyed the household economy by removing the production in the home and taking out of the women's hands. Karl Marx's theory of "Human Nature & Alienation" applies here in that we are in conflict with the way we are forced to work in a capitalist society. Capitalism implements its objectives upon us and they become our own. We become entrapped in its processes of productions. Currently, many studies that have attempted to keep up with the changes have reported very interesting findings. There are many reasons from divorce to sheer boredom, but many of these reasons have shown different affects that would cause the study to get too broad and complicated to report the findings properly. Many studies that have been done were only those where the women could afford to stay home and have chosen not to do so. One particular study was very specific in recording the reasons behind why mothers were seeking employment. This study was a longitudinal study conducted in 1975-1976 and then followed up in 1985-86. This study reported that the main reasons for women returning to work could be put into two categories. These categories were "self reasons" and "family reasons." (Bilton, 1996) Under the category of "self" the women expressed their dislike of housework, depression and boredom while under "family" the reasons were money for the family, husband's health and husband's job insecurity. (Bilton, 1996) Traditional gender roles are based on the belief that women should fulfill expressive functions, whereas men should play instrumental (task-oriented) roles. The traditional male is a "superman": tough, hard, and self-controlled. The traditional woman, on the other hand, is nurturing, dependent and submissive. Traditional gender roles have both positive and negative consequences; advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, traditional gender roles promote stability, continuity, and predictability--men and women know what is expected of them. On the negative side, traditional gender roles can create stress, boredom, and anxiety. That they probably never characterized the lives of real men and women is one of the biggest problems with traditional gender roles. Clearly, circumstances of family life have changed in the modern era. Industry has been taken out of the home, and large families are no longer economically possible or socially desired. Women have made advances toward the equality they seek only to encounter a backlash in the form of religious fundamentalism, claims of reverse discrimination by males, and hostility from a public that thinks the women's movement has won everything it wanted and should thus now be silent. Both the needs of women today and the backlash that has developed derive from the changes in social and sexual roles that have taken place in the period since World War II. These changes involve the new ability of women to break out of the gender roles created for them by a patriarchal society. Although according to the BBC men do much less cooking and housework than women and are still rewarded better in their careers, the study of British men's lives by the office of national statistics suggests. (BBC News). Unfortunately the gendered division of labor has maintained its origins in the home, while copying its structure in the workplace. This can be seen inside families through the sharp distinctions between paid work and non work, paid and unpaid productivity, and even the separation of the private and public spheres where women are perceived as attached to the private and men to the public domains. (Grant & Porter 1994: 153) This is an important issue because while home and work may be physically separated for working men and women, home is often not a haven for women but rather just another place of work. The gender division of labor then, is not limited to the paid work force, but continues to the area of unpaid work at home.

Issues surrounding power inequalities in the workforce may be explained historically in terms of the arguments of socialist feminism. This ideology argues that since the control of material resources necessary for survival was largely outside the home historically, the location of women in the home became their source of dependence on men and their subordination to men. (Boyd 1997: 51) This argument appears to be more gender specific than other socialist theories such as Marxism, as it emphasizes that gender inequality reflects not only the type of economic system in place but also the power that men have within the household and the economy. Media also plays an important role in the socialization process for young and old people. In most of the early day T.V. sitcoms women were portrayed as housewives and men as the breadwinners. For example, Leave it to Beaver was a T.V. show were June Cleaver stayed at home all times and never disciplined the children. Were as Ward Cleaver was the dominant one who worked and disciplined the children. Now, the sitcoms are completely different as far as the gender roles that each parent plays. Commercials are another way that gender roles are displayed



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