Gender Roles in America
The distinction between the roles of men and women in America is a modern societal dichotomy. What were once the black and white duties of the 1950’s had paled into various shades of grey by the 21st century. The Ozzie and Harriet roles of the 1950’s and early 1960’s were challenged, redefined and sometimes ignored through the decades that followed. Women were demanding and being granted the opportunity to advance professional careers, explore alternative lifestyles, or forego the classic marriage family and be a single parent. In other cases the parenting roles were completely reversed as pointed out by Glenn Sacks in his essay Stay-at-Home Dads (277). During the 1950’s, traditional American society expected women to marry young, have children and support their husband’s career. There was a sort of stigma associated with the 30 year old spinster addressed with the title Miss. This position was reinforced with the social media of the time. Books like Dr. Spock’s, Babies and Child Care argued that women working outside the home actually risked their children’s mental and emotional health! The primary social media of the time, television and movies, also promoted the division of roles with actresses like Doris Day, Harriet Nelson and Barbara Billingsley playing the supportive wife and caring mother; while the likes of Ozzie Nelson, Hugh Beaumont and Cary Grant were the successful dominating male with the last word in all subjects. Men were expected to be a successful all knowing and authoritative figure, working the classic nine to five job. Those who did not fit this mold were considered by society as unmanly, lazy, failures, or just plain no-good. The only acceptable exception to this model of the male persona was the dashing consummate bachelor portrayed by actors such as John Wayne, William Shatner, and Sean Connery. Women had no such exception. The unmarried female of the time was usually portrayed as Gidget (Sandra Dee), Jeannie...
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