Gender Roles

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Gender Roles

Children learn from their parents and society the conception of "feminine" and "masculine." Much about these conceptions is not biological at all but cultural. The way we tend to think about men and women and their gender roles in society constitute the prevailing paradigm that influences out thinking. Riane Eisler points out that the prevailing paradigm makes it difficult for us to analyze properly the roles of men and women in prehistory "we have a cultural bias that we bring to the effort and that colors our decision-making processes." Sexism is the result of that bias imposed by our process of acculturation.

Gender roles in Western societies have been changing rapidly in recent years, with the changes created both by evolutionary changes in society, including economic shifts which have altered the way people work and indeed which people work as more and more women enter the workforce, and by perhaps pressure brought to make changes because of the perception that the traditional social structure was inequitable. Gender relations are a part of the socialization process, the initiation given the young by society, teaching them certain values and creating in them certain behavior patterns acceptable to their social roles. These roles have been in a state of flux in American society in recent years, and men and women today can be seen as having expanded their roles in society, with women entering formerly male dominions and men finding new ways to relate to and function in the family unit.

When I was growing up a woman was never heard of having a job other than a school teacher or seamstress. Our(women's)job was to take care of the house. We had a big garden out back from which we got most of our vegetables…A garden is a lot of work you know…We also had to make clothes when there were none to be had(hand-me- downs)

Gender can be defined as a social identity consisting of the role a person is to play because of his or her sex. There is a diversity in male and female roles, making it impossible to define gender in terms of narrow male and female roles. Gender is culturally defined, with significannot differences from

culture to culture. These differences are studied by anthropologists to ascertain the range of behaviors that have developed to define gender and on the forces at work in the creation of these roles. The role of women in American society was conditioned by religious attitudes and by the conditions of life that prevailed through much of American history. The culture of Europe and America was based for centuries on a patriarchal system in which exclusive ownership of the female by a given male was considered important, with the result that women were regulated to the role of property with no voice in their own fate. The girl-child was trained from birth to fit the role awaiting her, and as long as compensations were adequate, women were relatively content:

"For Example, if in return for being a man's property a woman receives economic security, a full emotional life centering around husband and children, and an opportunity to express her capacities in the management of her home, she has little cause for discontent."

While this statement is arguable in the way it assumes that women are not discontented under such circumstances, it is clear that for most of history women were expected to be content with this sort of life and were trained for that purpose. 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. The home is no longer the center of the husband's life, and for the traditional wife there is only a narrowing of interests and possibilities for development: "Increasingly, the woman finds herself without an occupation and with an unsatisfactory emotional life." The change in sex roles that can be discerned in society is...
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