“No Cry Guys” and “House Moms”: Gender Roles and their Negative Influence

Ellie Lambert, Senior Staff Writer

As a young boy, were you ever told not to cry over something upsetting?  As a young girl, were you conditioned to wait for your “Prince Charming” who would someday arrive to sweep you off your feet and care for you forever? If so, you’ve been a victim of “gender role conditioning.”  Gender roles can be defined as “the behaviors, values, and attitudes that a society considers appropriate for both male and female persons.” Their social influence has been enforced all throughout history, to the disappointment and challenge of many. These roles have a major impact on society and how it functions, not always positively, often creating many negative stereotypes.

Up until the 1940’s, during the war, it was emphasized through advertising, media and print news that women belonged in the kitchen and men needed to be the head of the house and the breadwinners. However, during WWII, when all the men went off to war, someone had to keep performing jobs here in America. This allowed women to enter the workforce for the very first time, earn their own money, and begin to get out of the house. When the men returned home from the war, they wanted their jobs back, but the women had found a new freedom in joining the workforce and wanted to continue with this ability. This desire to be more than just a “house mom” fostered the feminist movement, which flourished in the 1960’s.

This feminist movement encouraged women to achieve higher levels of education because most knew that education was the key to better-paying jobs.  Still, women had to fight against gender stereotyping. According to an article on the United Nations Human Rights site: “Girls were often socialized to assume domestic and care responsibilities, with the assumption that they would be economically dependent on men. The stereotype of men as breadwinners led to the prioritization of boys’ education.” In some countries, this is a stereotype women still fight against today.   Senior Whitney Hendrix said, “I can’t imagine being forced to stay at home and take care of a family for my whole entire life. I want to be able to have my own career and do things that I want to do.” Many women were, and still are, harshly judged if they want a successful career, don’t want a family, like being independent, or embrace any aspect of masculinity.  So although many things have changed, some still remain the same

Gender roles also have a major influence on men. Men have been told for so long to “be a man” or “man up”, implicating they should not show emotions or shouldn’t be expressing themselves in any way that is typically feminine.  Even today, men or boys may be criticized or made fun of for wearing the color pink–just remember Gatsby and his pink suit; although the story line is set in the 20’s, the stereotype remains.  When men express themselves in any way slightly feminine, they are harshly judged and ridiculed. Senior Gabe Gilliland stated,  “Society tends to force things, such as gender roles, onto people and it can limit them, make them feel uncomfortable about expressing themselves in their own way.”

Gender roles can be seen in your day-to-day lives, whether it be girls being forced to wear skirts as part of a school uniform, women being stay at home moms, or men having higher pay and more well-respected jobs. Many people may be perfectly content with these roles, but many have also challenged them and will continue to challenge them. Everyday, more and more women enter job fields that are heavily male dominated. Everyday, more and more men begin to embrace their femininity and defy the notion of what it means to “be a man”.

Gender roles should be fluid, and these sexist stereotypes do more harm than good. People should be able to do what they want, in the sense of jobs and clothing, and be able to express themselves as they want to without feeling judged or criticized. Gender roles and gender stereotyping should not have a place in today’s progressive society.

Sources:

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WRGS/Pages/WrongfulGenderStereotyping.aspx

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/gender-identity/sex-gender-identity/what-are-gender-roles-and-stereotypes 

https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/10/18/wide-partisan-gaps-in-u-s-over-how-far-the-country-has-come-on-gender-equality/