How Have Gender Identities Changed in the Last One Hundred Years

Topics: Gender, Masculinity, Gender identity Pages: 5 (2120 words) Published: February 12, 2013
How have gender identities changed in the last one hundred years. Discuss the processes that have made this transformation possible? Over the last 100 years, a lot has changed, especially within society. Laws have changed, policies have been introduced and conflict has been stopped. Not only has the above changed, but also the way in which society accepts and looks upon the population has greatly changed too. One key change that has been made is how the identities of genders have adapted. Society has become a lot more accepting within the last century, especially when considering race and sexuality. The identity of people in societies are now more accepted and understood. But what is identity? The term identity has many different meanings within sociology. Its most common meaning refers to a collection of characteristics that make up an individual or group. It also relates to an understanding of whom we are and who others are. The term identity comes from a Latin word ‘Idem’ meaning the same. Identity can have a cultural connection, determining a person’s relationship with the culture and people within it. The identities of people within society have fluctuated significantly over the last 100 years; however it is the change of gender identities that have transformed the most over time, especially within the female population. Many issues within society have contributed to the identities of gender; Conflict, culture, the media, behavioural aspects of society. Firstly, conflict has a huge part to play in the development of identities. Between 1935 and 1945- the duration of world war2; the way in which women lived was altered dramatically. Prior to the war, women were primarily house wives; they looked after their husband and children, and very rarely had a job in society. This all changed however when the men were sent off to war, leaving the women to do the man’s job. Many women were put to work in factories, making and building bombs and weapons. All of which was considered a male’s job. This in turn changed the identity of many women, from just house wives, to capable, hardworking, employable females; highlighting the opinion that women are not there solely to look after their husbands and family. Stephen. R. Patnode, the writer of the journal ‘keep it under you hat’: Safety Campaigns and Fashion in the World war 2 Factory’, discussed the issues of working women in the USA; speaking about a campaign by the Sperry Gyroscope Corporation in NY, set about to maintain safety in the work place, especially when considering the female work employees. The safety practices ‘eliminated traditional marker of femininity’ (Stephen. R. Patnode). They eliminated long hair and skirts, which prior to the war were perhaps a primary identity of the female race. When in work the women were require to tuck away their hair into caps, and wear trousers and steal cap boots; essentially transforming them in to a very masculine form. Despite conflict seeming to have a positive effect on women’s identity, it also appears to have an equally negative effect. The way in which women proved to have the ability to perform at the same levels of the male population transformed their identity into hardworking, reliable and independent women; showing society that they are capable of more than just looking after their families. They showed that they are able to work and provide for the families, thus changing the wide spread opinions on society; that women are incapable of such things. In this way, the changes in the identities of women had a truly positive effect on the female population and society at the time. However, as stated previously, there was also a negative effect. While the women were working in the factories, doing the males jobs, a number of rules were introduced that resulted in the women taking of a very masculine approach; thus changing their identity to one that seems very similar to the identities of the males in society. Although this in...
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