Over the course of time, activists and other persons have advocated for equal rights between men and women in the society. A change of gender roles has seemingly become a repercussion of equal rights for both genders. Traditionally each gender had specific roles which had been allocated to them by society and these roles could not be performed interchangeably (Brym & John 288).
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The allocation of these duties was done in consideration of various factors. Some of them include the status of various persons in the society as well as the strength that is supposedly possessed by the various individuals. In the contemporary context, however, these roles have changed so that women and men are now carrying out duties which previously were thought to belong to the other gender. These changes can be attributed to various aspects of society such as unemployment, the high living standards, and changes in laws as well as technological advancements. The phenomenon emerged slowly in all societies all over the world, and to some, it was quite difficult because gender roles are a symbol of the status of an individual in society. Family structures, education, and media, have also a hand in the changing gender roles. Thus, gender roles have changed, and it has been difficult because each gender carries on the symbol of its own world with the reasons for the change in gender roles including sex role theory, professionalism, changes in laws, technology, and unemployment.
Changing social requirements as well as conventions have given room for the society to do away with the past traditional gender affiliated roles. Some societies have for a long time regarded the responsibilities of the women to be unpaid domestic work and those of men as paid work, especially white collar jobs. In others, women’s tasks were regarded as those that involved helping.’The term covers professions such as nursing, teaching and secretarial work. Other societies surprisingly view women as equals with the men and hence grant them responsibilities that are similar to those of the men and also share domestic duties between men and women. With time, the societies in the world at large have shifted from the first and second kind of societies and transformed slowly into the third type of society which recognizes women as equals with their men.
The roles which have changed include earning a living for the family, supporting and defending the family, responsibilities of taking care of children, household duties as well as working in the fields. Household responsibilities were formerly the responsibility of the women. Women were expected to remain at home, having no formal employment, to take care of the home, and carry out all the household duties. In some societies, it was a taboo to have men carry out these duties given the status which they were granted in the society. Men were considered to be superior to their wives, and therefore women had to carry out these duties in service of their husbands. Failure to do so, in some societies, a woman would be regarded as defiant and in some circumstances be expelled from the community.
The contemporary society has however witnessed a change in how household duties are performed currently. The sexuality of individuals also influences how household duties are shared among various families. For instance, there are distinct differences in how homosexual and heterosexual families handle issues within their homes. The partners of mothers who are lesbian spend more of their time caring for children as compared to husbands who sire their children with heterosexual mothers. In addition, homosexual couples are very egalitarian in nature, and thus they tend to agree on how household duties are to be shared in their homes (Brym & John 316). Men in such relationships end up carrying out duties which were formerly a preserve of women in the society.
This is usually the consequence that accrues to them as a result of rejecting the traditional and recognized marriage patterns. The fact that they earn almost similar amounts with their spouses makes them somewhat equal in their relationship and also encourages socialization of both genders (Brym & John 316). Some heterosexual couples have also shown the same trend whereby some women spend their time working while their men carry out household duties. This is majorly a result of high rate of unemployment in view of the current economies which has caused living standards to be high. Besides the variation of families due to the sexual orientation of the heads, it matters whether the family is a single parent family or a two-parent family (Brym & John 316). The single parent families are also a reason for the change in gender roles in terms of household responsibilities. In a family that only has a father for a parent, the father would have to carry out the duties which traditionally were a role of the women, especially if his children are young and incapable of performing them.
In a family setting, especially a nuclear family composed of heterosexual heads, the role of the women becomes providing emotional support (Brym & John 298) while the men perform a breadwinner role. To maximize efficiency within the family setting, each member of the family must perform their role as expected. That is why roles are generally gendered in nuclear families especially. In the contemporary society, there have been significant changes in these gendered roles as a result of the gender revolution that since the sixties has mobilized a number of women. Current, most women are economically independent, and they take care of themselves more than ever before (Brym & John 322). Many women have pursued higher education and subsequently joined paid labor in huge numbers. Being occupied by their white collar jobs, women no longer have time for household duties which then become responsibilities of their husbands if they are not working. Such women, being financially stable also take over the breadwinner role from their husbands and provide for all the basic needs of their families, formerly a role of their husbands.
Unemployment has also somewhat contributed to this trend. The current economic situation across the world as a whole has rendered jobs hard to get. Therefore on the occasion that a woman secures a job while their husband does not have one, they become the main breadwinners of the family. Formerly the situation would have been degrading for any such man, but given the current hardships, the society, in general, has somewhat allowed that trend.
Nevertheless, the change in gender roles which has resulted in the involvement of men in the duties which formerly belonged to women does not necessarily mean that there has been a total shift in how these responsibilities are carried out. In as much as men are involved the norm remains that household duties majorly belong to women although men, especially husbands can lend a helping hand where there is need. As aforementioned, the number of women who have been absorbed by the paid labor force sector has increased over time. There has also been control over reproduction, and this has to a large extent influenced the structure of modern families.
Despite the gender revolution that has taken place, one aspect of gender roles has remained almost impossible to change. Household duties, childcare, and senior care, are responsibilities which have for a long time remained a preserve of the feminine gender in view of how delicate they are. The feminine nature also dictates that these responsibilities be carried out by women to ensure that families run efficiently. According to the sociologist, Arlie Hoschild, these are and shall remain so irrespective of any social changes that could take place in the course of time. The sociologist describes the situation as a second shift for the women. This includes women who work full time for paid labor; after their work when they get back home women usually engage in the second shift in which they carry out household duties such as doing laundry, cleaning and helping the children with their homework( Brym & John 310).
There has been a complete turnover in modern families regarding how spouses handle their responsibilities. Traditionally, there were well-defined gender roles allocated to specific genders in view of their status in society, their financial ability as well as their supposed strengths. Members of the family had to adhere to their allocated duties and responsibilities for the family to efficiently as required. However, these have changed. The duties of men and women have become quite interchangeable overtime since they can now carry out roles which were previously meant for the opposite gender. These changes can be attributed to the current high standards of living, a high rate of unemployment, technology as well as the equal status which women have managed to achieve by advocating for their rights.
Brym, Robert J, and John Lie. Sociology: Your Compass for a New World, the Brief Edition. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.
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