I just don’t understand why gender roles persist. I don’t get why our society as a whole perpetuates gender roles or how gender roles are helpful to all parties involved. I understand individual motivations to perpetuate gender roles (especially when it is a role that gives power to one in exchange for another benefit), but I don’t understand why gender roles continue based on, well, gender.
Definition of gender roles
To be clear, a definition:
gender roles are the set of perceived behavioral norms associated particularly with males or females, in a given social group or system. It can be a form of division of labour by gender. To put it simply, it refers to the attitudes and behaviors that class a person’s stereotypical identity, e.g. women cook and clean, men fix cars. Gender is one component of the gender/sex system, the set of arrangements by which a society transforms biological sexuality into products of human activity, and in which these transformed needs are satisfied.
So, to be clear, is the the transformation of biological sexuality into product of human activity that I don’t understand/accept.
Gender Roles in Division of Labor
Let’s take the first type of gender role — those that form a division of labour. Other than jobs that require specific physical capability (i.e. fireman, birthing babies), I’m at a huge loss to understand why gender should play a role in a job. I’m not going to buy that males are better at math, because I’m unable to accept that a Y chromosome definitely provides enhanced cognitive capabilities for that field. There is way too much chicken and egg going on here — perhaps the improved capabilities are due to the way the human was raised and encouraged their entire life, either by the parents, family, or society? I’m not going to buy that women are better at raising kids. Is that lack of y-chromosome making someone more empathetic, nurturing, or is this a self-fulling prophecy?
And, wait a darn minute, who is to say that raising kids is best served by commonly-held female gender qualities?
Gender Roles in the Household
So let’s take this to a bit more of gray area — gender roles in the relationship. Why is one of the people in a relationship, as defined as whether they possess or lack a primary sexual characteristic, supposed to take out the trash, fix things, initiative romance, bring home the bacon, or be the spiritual leader?
All of these things because one has or doesn’t have a penis!
Doesn’t this seem limiting — why should my gender specify what I can and can not do? Perhaps unfair — like you had a choice in the matter of your original sex? Or at least questionable — wake up ladies that’s probably your religion oppressing you!
Gender Roles in Homosexuality
Ever hear someone say “Sue and Betsy are a gay couple. Sue is the “butch” of the relationship”. Even gays can escape gender roles! Apparently there is a term for this:
The heteronormative view is that physical sex, gender identity, and gender roles should, in any given person, align to either all-male or all-female cultural norms
Seriously folks, stop limiting others by projecting your gender-view of the world on other people, especially those that renounce your sexual preference roles.
I hope that my kids, or at least my grandkids (either of which maybe I’ll stay home with to raise, or not) can live in a world free of gender roles. It will probably be a lot of confusing for them, but life is usually long enough to figure it out.