Constantly Shifting Roles

By: Nicole McLaren

When thinking about gender roles it is important that one realizes that they are shaped by culture and exist in a historical context. One of the biggest changes, since the middle of the last century, in the U.S. is the shift from a single income household to a household in which both spouses are responsible for providing income. This has dramatically impacted the roles women are able to take on, not only in their homes but in the workplace and society.

While women have taken on new roles and responsibilities, it seems that men have been slow to take on “traditional” female roles. The roles of caregiving, nurturing, and tending the house are still thought of as feminine, which is unfortunate for all members of the household.

In a recent study that questioned if and how gender roles have actually changed the researchers found that people still believed in gender characteristics and gender role behaviors. The study also found that men believed more strongly in male gender stereotypes and women believed more in female gender stereotypes.

It is not the fault of the individual that gender stereotypes are still being reinforced by society but it is the responsibility of each of us to combat these stereotypes in our lives and in our own roles.

Whether you are a student, an employee, a parent or child, it is our roles as male, female, transgender, nonconforming to combat these stereotypes about the social construct that gender is. For those in positions of power it is imperative to know what sort of gender cues they are giving off so that you can combat them. For parents or siblings this could mean just pointing out sexism when you see it and not discouraging children from activities that have been gendered by our society. For teachers or managers it means creating safe spaces, challenging stereotypes when you hear them, and putting males and females in leadership positions. This is just a start to how to change gender roles but it is an important one that we all have the power to do.