Society has affected people’s beliefs and views on certain issues such as race, sexuality, gender, gender roles, etc. These views are mostly advocated by parents or guardians. Due to the fact that many people in society force their peers or children to conform to gender roles, I want to convince parents and families that gender roles restrict people from feeling safe to be themselves and feeling happy, and that they need to realize that gender roles are constricting and they need to change just like people do.
Many people, including myself, believe that everyone comes into the world as a “blank slate.” This means that you don’t know who you are or what you like and dislike. Soon after you turn a certain age where you start to develop your identity as a child, the notions your parents or guardians have been telling and giving you will start to sink into your mind and become your identity. Many things parents do encourages gender roles; however, they might not even know that painting their baby girl’s room pink and boy’s room blue is playing into gender roles.
In an article published in 2018 by Emanuella Grinberg and Victoria Larned, it talks about how placing certain gender expectations on children from a young age can cause health problems as they get older. This article talks about how the “norms” of boys being the dominant sex and girls needing to be protected is an idea reinforced at the early childhood stages by schools, parents, and media. It also talks about how puberty is the time where the most pressure to conform to sex assigned roles and identities arise.
In the article, it talks about how expressing certain statements and phrases that divide boys and girls into their gender norms of girls needing to be more restricted than boys. In the article it says, “Puberty deepens the divide, especially when it comes to sexuality, turning boys into predators and girls into potential targets, the study found. Messages such as ‘don’t sit like that,’ ‘don’t wear that’ and ‘boys will ruin your future’ reinforce the gender division of power and promote sex segregation to preserve a girl’s sexuality, the study says. ‘In some places, girls come to internalize these norms to even a greater extent than boys.”
This quote from the article is trying to express to the audience that the information parents, guardians, or any adult figure say and demonstrate to children sinks deeper then they might think, This can cause separation in the genders making one of the genders believe they are more in control than the other which might lead to danger.
These statements and phrases are taken to the next level in more gender divided places such as Baltimore, Beijing, Belgium, Kenya, Delhi, etc. In Delhi when girls reach puberty they can’t talk or even look at a boy because it can be misinterpreted as the girls having or wanting to have romantic relations. Girls are also victims of body shaming in Delhi, so they have to cover themselves up in material that gives them no shape, whereas boys don’t have to. Although boys have the most freedom this makes people perceive them as dangerous because they are taught to be strong and emotionless even to their partner.
A lot of boys today still believe that crying is a form of sensitivity and that they shouldn’t do it. I personally know people who see crying as something only girls should do, but that’s what they are being taught. Even though in 2019 people are more open with emotions and having a mix of femininity and masculinity, this mainly relates to females, not so much for males. In my experience, I’ve seen females be more open-minded about having a sense of masculinity about themselves, while most males feel that if they would to show any indication of feminism then society would label them as a homosexual.
Gender roles have changed to some extent; nevertheless, it has been hard work for both men and women. My English class was reading the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, and the book is set in the 1950s. It focuses on many points, but the one that stuck out to me was about gender roles. One of the main characters, Beneatha Younger, is trying to break out of women gender roles at that time by going to school to be a doctor. Throughout the book, Beneatha is constantly trying to be her own person and people are criticizing her for trying to step out of the box placed for women during the 50s.
Today women can be whatever they want, indicating a change in gender roles over time, but the fight isn’t over because women are now being criticized for having masculine tendencies, as well as men, have to go through the same amount of criticizing women had to in the 50s. Men are looked at as people who can’t have too many emotions, can’t have femininity, can’t be open-minded about sexuality which has become new gender roles stereotypes.
In an article published in 2019 by Planned Parenthood, it talks about the common words and colors used to express boys and girls, and how it’s not good for them. In the article it says, “Extreme gender stereotypes are harmful because they don’t allow people to fully express themselves and their emotions. For example, it’s harmful to masculine folks to feel that they’re not allowed to cry or express sensitive emotions. And it’s harmful to feminine folks to feel that they’re not allowed to be independent, smart or assertive. Breaking down gender stereotypes allows everyone to be their best selves.”
I chose this quote from the article because I feel it gives a view of what I am saying about the effects of gender roles and how they can be really constricting to some people. Gender roles open males up to becoming people who think they can take whatever they want, that women are beneath them and need to do what men tell them. This goes for females as well they start to think they have to be submissive to men, they can’t have a voice and that if something bad happens between them and a male that it’s their fault because they somehow did something to provoke the male.
Both men are women grow up being taught that they need to live their lives a certain way, and this is portrayed to children in the media now at a very young age. Parents show their children cartoons that shows the girls are sweet girly princesses that need a man to save her and the men are shown to be strong protectors whose main goal should be keeping women safe from danger because they cannot help themselves.
As people might argue that cartoons have changed to encourage young girls to be more independent which is true, but there is still some compliance to the princes from the princesses which is not reciprocated. And some parents might not find this a problem based on what they grew up watching.
Many shows made in the 1950s and later showed a lot of women being the caretakers or “trophy wives” which are women that do nothing but look cute and support their husband’s emotional needs. In most of these shows, the women are cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children all day while the husband works and brings home the money.
In my English class, I read an essay by Judy Brady titled I Want a Wife, and it was made in 1971. This essay is from the perspective of a wife and she talks about all the reasons why she wants a wife of her own. A quote from the essay says, “ I want a wife who will care for me when I am sick… I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends. I want a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it. I want a wife who will remain sexually faithful to me so that I do not have to clutter up my intellectual life with jealousies… If by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free… My God, who wouldn’t want a wife?”
These summaries of quotes are a representation of what people thought of women and what they were supposed to do as a wife. And since these things were portrayed on television shows children from that time are seeing this, and they start to think that they are supposed to act like that type of woman, especially once they become a wife. This also goes for how boys think they are supposed to treat their partner once they become a man.
This then leads to the children who used to watch these shows growing up to be the people they saw on tv as well as teach their own children that they should act just like them because it’s the right way to act and to treat a woman. Even though, a lot of material on TV have changed people still pass their actions or responsibilities down to their children.
Many people say that TV has changed the way women are represented in movies and shows, but in the early 2000s a lot of the princesses young girls look up to are taking control of their lives and doing things to make them happy, yet they start to change all of that once they fall in love with a princess and always end up leaving their old self behind to become the prince’s one true love.
This shows that nothing has truly changed, movies and shows are representing the old way of tv just at the end of the movie and calling it a “happily ever after”. This doesn’t help the new generation because now young girls feel that they have to start letting go of their identity to become what their “prince” need them to be which is worse because the media is showing these young girls that in order to find love they have to get rid of them self and become someone who isn’t them and that’s sad.
Gender roles today are all about being a male or female, but in the 1800s gender roles were also based on race. The gender roles for a lot of black men and women were different from what was expected of white people. With black men not having a lot of opportunities or really any rights and this was the worst for black women considering women didn’t have many opportunities, to begin with.
A third essay I have read in my English class is Ain’t I A Woman? by Sojourner Truth set in the late 1700s mid-1800s. The essay is written in the perspective of a black former enslaved woman who talks about how she is treated outside of the gender roles set for women at that time.
In Truth’s speech, she says, “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?” This quote is showing how men feel women need to be taken care of or that they shouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting.
This ties into the whole “trophy wife” stereotype. Yet in this quote Truth is saying that because she is a black woman instead of a white woman, men don’t look at her the same. The author is showing the audience that society doesn’t even see her as someone who needs to be taken care of they just see her as someone who deserves nothing.
Another quote says, “Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”
In this quote, Truth is expressing that she is more than the average woman that some would say she is even better. She can do what men do, and things men can’t or won’t do. Truth is saying that she is strong, brave, and determined, so she should be considered a women more than most because she has gone through so much that she deserves to be. Truth feels it is her right to be treated like a white woman because she is more of a woman than white women.
Gender roles are different for different people and races, but the pressures to conform to them can have the same effect on everybody. People start to become what society wants them too and they get labeled as violent, weak, not man enough, not woman enough, etc. which leads to people feeling unloved, lonely, depressed, and suicidal.
In an article published in 2018 by Jason Rafferty, it talks about what sex, gender identity, and assigned gender are and how to make sure your child can grow up without the pressure of conforming to gender roles. In the article it says. “The point is that all children tend to develop a clearer view of themselves and their gender over time. At any point, research suggests that children who assert a gender-diverse identity know their gender as clearly and consistently as their developmentally matched peers and benefit from the same level of support, love, and social acceptance.”
This quote is talking about how parents can subject the children to certain things and people in life to make sure they live a life without gender roles. Meaning they can be who they are without feeling like they are different or doing something wrong, and they can feel loved and support for just being themselves.
- Brady, Judy. I Want A Wife. The Feminist Magazine, 1971
- Grinberg, Emanuella and Larned, Victoria. “This is what happens when gender roles are forced on kids.” CNN Health, 3 Oct. 2018, cnn.com/2017/09/20/health/geas-gender-stereotypes-study/index.html. Accessed 2 June 2019.
- Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. New York, Random House, 1959
- Rafferty, Jason. “Gender Identity Development in Children.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 18 Sep. 2018, healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/Pages/Gender-Identity-and-Gender-Confusion-In-Children.aspx. Accessed 4 June 2019.
- Truth, Sojourner. Ain’t I A Woman. Akron, 1851
- “What are gender roles and stereotypes?” Planned Parenthood, 2019, plannedparenthood.org/learn/sexual-orientation-gender/gender-gender-identity/what-are-gender-roles-and-stereotypes. Accessed 4 June 2019.