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Redefining Gender Roles?

April 14, 2011

After discussing and reading Lavaque-Manty and Mill’s views on women and feminism, it made me think a lot about the term feminism.

Almost all of my life it seems that feminism has had a negative connotation. I’ve thought that way for the majority of my life. Just growing up the term was always said with that underlying assumption that woman you were talking about wasn’t a very nice person. For example, when talking about a certain teacher… “Man I hate Mrs. Robinson, I always have to listen to her crazy radical views on equal rights for women”

I’ve had a self-proclaimed feminist teacher in high school who just seemed to rub everyone the wrong way. And not just guys, but the girls as well – more often the girls were the one with the negative views.

Famous women’s rights advocates (feminists) are never seen in a negative way, so why does that word have such a negative connotation? Maybe men feel threatened. I know there is always this tension between couples about “who wears the pants,” which usually leads to disagreements. I’m no different. Maybe it has to do with the roles that society has assigned for us as men or women.

Whenever I go out with my girlfriend, I make sure that I drive because for some reason, it is just uncomfortable about a girl driving me around (and no that was not a joke about women’s driving abilities). Then when we get to dinner I always feel obligated to pay, which I end up doing most of the time, and because If a girl buys dinner, society says something is wrong. What evidence is there that men have more money than women? Nowadays, women and men are being educated equally.

Then, when marriage roles around it is always the man’s job to propose to his girlfriend. I know not a lot of college kids are married, which I am not, but how many of us guys actually got asked to a school dance that wasn’t Sadie Hawkins? Eventually the couple has kids, when most of the time Mom stays home with them, but what’s wrong with Mr. Mom? Why is there this stigma about stay at home dads?

Maybe these roles aren’t such a bad thing. I personally don’t have a problem with them, but where did they come from, and will they ever change? Will we ever see women proposing to men on a regular basis? Or more stay at home dads?

I end with this video. It is not a deep, philosophical clip with a hidden message. It’s simply a very funny and entertaining video that deals with gender roles that are more prevalent to us college kids.


  1. Matthew Crowley permalink
    April 14, 2011 3:05 PM

    I agree with this post, it is unfortunate but true that no matter how much progress the women’s rights movement makes there are certain gender norms and roles that will go unchanged. No matter how much ground the feminist movement makes, it sometimes seems as though it will be unable to make up ground in certain crucial areas. You touched on some aspects in this post about one-on-one situations where the man is expected to drive, pay, propose,…etc. You though did not even mention how women still make less than men in the workplace and other similar societal wide issues that still plague women.

  2. Alex Kasnetz permalink
    April 14, 2011 4:42 PM

    I really like this post because it brings up some differences in gender roles that are often ignored in debates about women’s rights. Opening doors, paying for dinner, insisting on driving–these are certainly differences that, although perhaps changing, seem to persist in society. My question is, are these things bad? I don’t think that differences in gender roles are necessarily negative. In fact, in some cases they may just be natural or constructed for genuine reasons. Furthermore, sometimes I worry that because of feminism, men may feel that they do not need to be chivalrous anymore. However, I believe that we men should be able to preserve manners and decorum while honoring women’s rights.

  3. Khushi Desai permalink
    April 14, 2011 9:45 PM

    hahah. I really enjoyed that video.

    This post really exposes the issues of gender roles in today’s society. I believe that although it is true that women are still being denied the same opportunities as men and they are earning less, on average, in the workplace, there are gender roles that are not necessarily negative. From a woman’s perspective, I believe that actions such as opening doors, paying for dinner, and proposing, are traditionally male actions, and while women can certainly do these things, I still believe it means more when a man does it. This reminds me of something I once read:

    Dear feminists,
    Chivalry is dead…because you killed it.
    Sincerely, a woman.

    Although this is not serious, it does make a good point. Feminism does have a certain negative connotation, and while they should fight for women’s rights, I don’t believe they need to fight against these gender norms.

  4. molliefein1 permalink
    April 14, 2011 11:07 PM

    I recently wrote a post about gender roles in society, and I think that this helps to answer some of the questions that I posed. As a female, I found myself wondering why traditional male roles seem to stick even today, when it is so unnecessary, and I think that you helped to answer that question with your post. Maybe the answer is that there is no answer. Maybe things are the way that they are because we just can’t escape the 1950’s social norms that are so engrained in our heads through media influence. I don’t look down on the “Mr. Mom” that you speak of, but I understand the stigma that revolves around such a thing because it is abnormal, and it’s still at a point where it doesn’t feel right.

    Maybe, at this point, it’s not that women are still stuck as slaves in their own marriages as Mill once said, because that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Rather, what if men and women are both “slaves”, stuck in their own traditional roles? Yes, this may be a stretch, but in a world where men and women are essentially equally educated and employed, we seem strangely closed-minded for the most part to real equality. Why is this the case?

  5. Pierre Gerondeau permalink
    April 14, 2011 11:18 PM

    This was an interesting post to think about feminism and gender roles in society. I agree with you that the possibility of changing gender roles is not really a bad thing. You made an interesting point about the fact that men women are educated the same, but men usually feel like they should pay for dates, propose, etc. While this is tradition (and Burke would probably say we should keep it the way it is because it has worked/been the way of life for so long), we are in an ever-changing society, and who is to say that certain traditional gender roles shouldn’t change as well? Work in the family should be split equally, and it really shouldn’t matter who is doing what job as long as the job gets done. If the wife makes more money, so be it. If the dad stays at home, so be it. As long as the family is happy, it should matter who proposed, etc.

  6. Katarina Evans permalink
    April 14, 2011 11:47 PM

    You make an interesting point that women and men are very confined to their traditional gender norms. For the most, I agree that it may not necessarily be because men are sexist or trying to be dominant, but rather just because it is very traditional and has been happening for so long. However, historically, women have been very oppressed, and the way that the situation used to be did place many restrictions on them. Evidently, much has changed over time, and the situation is becoming increasingly more progressive. As for you feeling uncomfortable with your girlfriend driving, or not always paying, I do think that that stems from what gender roles have always been assigned traditionally. Another example of well-established gender norms is domestic abuse. I think most people would agree that all kinds of abuse are terrible, but that most would also be more disgusted by a man slapping a woman, rather than the reverse. So I would agree that the conventional norms as to the appropriate ways for men and women to behave are firmly entrenched. On the other hand, maybe we should cut the feminists some slack. The stereotype of a manly, pushy, aggressive women stridently making demands overlooks the important role feminists have played in the struggle towards gender equality. Woman have made a lot of progress in the forty five years since Betty Friedan wrote “the Feminine Mystique” There is still a long way to go, and I think that gender norms will gradually fade over time but I don’t think that they will ever fully dissipate. Maybe that’s a good thing.


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