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Must Tradition Change For Equality to be Gained?

December 10, 2010

One of the most important movements for the past 100 years in the United States has been the push for women’s rights and equality. I for one am a strong supporter of this movement and ideology and would like to see nothing more than for men and woman to earn equal incomes, positions, and respect in society, but I don’t think traditional roles of each gender must necessarily be changed in order for this to happen.

The traditional roles of women in the past have to do the cooking and cleaning for the family, raise children, and stay at home. However, in the recent few decades there have been higher rates of woman going to college, working, and serving as the primary source of income in households. I believe this has been very beneficial to women’s rights, but not because it is changing the role of women but instead because it gives women the power to be able to choose their roles instead of being forced to one in specific.

There are many cases of ambitious women who become successful in the business world, music and film industry, and government and this has opened many doors and provided numerous opportunities for women. However, there are also many women who support equality, but who would rather choose to stay at home, cook, clean, and raise their children and I believe equality is about allowing these people to do as they please just as we would allow a woman to become the CEO of a company.

Choosing to go about life in a more traditional way does not necessarily mean a woman doesn’t support women’s rights, but instead only means that they recognize the many different positions they can have and would like to chose a role that is more traditional than the modern liberal role as income earners.

In his book The Subject of Women, John Stuart Mills explains how traditional roles must be forgotten and things such as chivalry must be eliminated in order for men to see women as equals. I believe that this is not necessarily true because chivalry can be seen as a sign of respect toward women and not a sign of inferiority.

Men and women have always been viewed differently in society due to how men are seen as masculine and women are seen as feminine. Therefore, in many cases if a woman acts as an aggressor it is looked down upon, but if a man in the same position acts this way it is seen as a sign of strength and confidence. This is what I believe is what prevents women from gaining complete equality. In professional environments the mentality of expecting women and men in the same position act differently is what serves as a barrier between the two genders. In social or informal cases men and women will always be expected to act differently, but in work environments and other such formal environments men and women should be expected to act equally so that people do not differentiate between expectations for a male and female who both have the same role. One example is a female candidate in a presidential debate verse a male candidate who both act the same and say the same things, but one person’s actions are seen as good while the other’s are looked down upon.

2 Comments
  1. whitneyspain permalink
    December 10, 2010 3:53 PM

    I loved this blog post. You brought about a lot of good points about how women and men are viewed differently even when competing the same way, for the same position. I would like to elaborate on a particular part of your post. You said :

    “Therefore, in many cases if a woman acts as an aggressor it is looked down upon, but if a man in the same position acts this way it is seen as a sign of strength and confidence.”

    I have seen this happen time and time again, where women are put down for being assertive. However, when a man is assertive, it is perfectly fine. Like you pointed out, because women are viewed as feminine, some believe that means women have to play that role at all times. This may be a far out example, but what happens if a women is being mentally abused. Should she be quiet and take it simply because she is “feminine” and this is the role she is supposed to play in society? – Or should she be assertive and stand up for herself. Most people would agree that in this case she should stand up for herself. But why is it okay for a women to stand up for her beliefs in a personal situation, but not in a business one?

    America has come a far way in terms of achieving equality between men and women, but we still have a long way to go. It seem to be true however, that as many laws as we create to make playing grounds fair, the ideology of what men and women “should” be will never be swiped it away. The ideology of a “masculine” man and a “feminine” women has been engraved in societies minds throughout history so deeply, that it will be nearly impossible to let that view disappear.

  2. blanchc permalink
    December 10, 2010 11:51 PM

    I agree with one sentence in particular in this blog: “I believe this has been very beneficial to women’s rights, but not because it is changing the role of women but instead because it gives women the power to be able to choose their roles instead of being forced to one in specific.” This is so true, for both men and women. Obviously, not all women want to break out of their gender role. And not all men want to break out of their gender roles either. Some women want to stay at home, as do some men. This is why I think that true equality will only be obtained when we stop thinking about what men and women do as “roles”, and instead think about it as people simply choosing what they want to do with their lives. We need to stop looking at activities as a man/woman thing and instead view it as a people thing. Real equality is about people choosing what to do with their own lives, no matter their sex, race, gender, etc. Obviously to change everyone in the worlds viewpoint on the issue of gender roles isn’t really realistically attainable, but to me it seems like the ideal situation.

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