Gender roles. Yet another controversial topic among many. The thing about gender roles is that people in the past accepted it. It was a normal thing for men and women to be separated into different categories. People in different parts of the world still believe in this idea of gender roles in places such as China and India. Gender equality involves a variety of different arguments popping up in areas like culture, politics, economy, etc. The idea of gender roles is changing, but it still retains the same aspects as it did in the past.
In the early 19th century United States, women were see as house workers. Their only job was to bear children, raise them to be good people, cook, and take care of the house while the husband is out working. This idea was spread all throughout the United States and everyone accepted it. Even most of the women accepted it. There was a small vocal minority that openly stated their discomforts about the gender roles, but they didn’t gain much support because people were mainly focused on the abolition movement going on in the mid 19th century. The movement for women didn’t really kick off until the 20th century.
After the Civil War, women started to fight to gain more and more rights. The problem was that people were still fixated on the view that women should stay in the household and not do any sort of job outside of the house. The second industrial revolution started to change things for women. More and more school were being created so they needed more people to teach in them. Women were the best solution they could think of because educated men were considered to only take jobs that were important like being a politician. Women started to campaign for more rights and many started to join in it. Women wanted equality between men and women.
In the early 20th century, during World War I, women made progress with jobs in the US. Men were sent out to the front lines while women were stuck at home. Women wanted to help out so they joined jobs that were left vacant when the men left. Some women even chose to join the army by pretending to be a man. Thought that didn’t last very long as the war ended a year later, but progress was still made.
The 1920s came and women actually gained the right to vote in all states. Men still held their views however. In the book “The Great Gatsby”, the character Tom Buchanan is the perfect example of a man holding this view. Tom Buchanan is a man that sees women not as equals but as objects. They are possessions to him, nothing more than trophies to win. He treats both his wife and his mistress like this, but in chapter 7, “Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic. His wife and his mistress, until and hour ago secure and inviolate, were slipping precipitately from his control.” He wants to maintain control on both of them and keep his grasp on them.
The mid 20th century was still as bad as the 1920s. The nuclear family was still made up of a husband that works and a wife that stays home to take care of the kids and do house work. Judy Brady does a fantastic job of mocking the idea of a wife that takes care of everything in her piece of writing, “I Want a Wife.” To summarize it, she talks about how great it would be to have a wife that can do everything that she wants her to do. She takes the idea of a housewife and cranks it up to 11. She ends it with a phrase that many would agree with. “My God who wouldn’t want a wife.”
The late 20th century had a big boom of women starting to work in jobs that were originally only full of men. Women on news stations even began to wear shoulder pads to start looking more to be equal to them. The idea of women staying in the house was changing. By 2000, the nuclear family had changed from only the father working to both parents working. The book “Nickeled and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich provides a commentary of her time as a minimum wage worker as a woman. Though the main topic of the book was about low wage workers, she did talk about the subject of women workers. She talks about how women still get treated differently from men in jobs.
Gender roles will probably not go away anytime soon. They were widely accepted in the early 19th century, but as the time passes by, they slowly change. Gender roles are deeply rooted in things like culture and tradition. Though gender roles will stay put, there will always be people that will change that.