Gender Roles 7/10/19

By Richard Bleil

As the primary bread winners, men work hard. It is unlikely that a woman would be able to understand just how hard men work. As such, when he returns home, he is too tired to worry about cooking, the children or the state of the household. This is why women should never feel demeaned when they are expected to cook the meals, keep the house clean, take care of the kids and look pretty for their man.

If reading this makes you angry, then congratulations: you are living in 2019, not 1919.

Yes, I baited you. But I’m not going to apologize. Anybody who knows me at all, and that includes anybody who has been following my blog posts, knows that I don’t think like the first paragraph reads. At all. We’ve moved far beyond that thinking and thank God that we did. The role of women, and men for that matter, have expanded far beyond the shallow and unhealthy attitudes with which I opened this post, but I did this because I want to take the reader back so we can explore this antiquated thinking and a little bit of the history as to how and why we’ve moved on.

This type of thinking was actually very common. Every once in a while, somebody will come upon a magazine article that reflects such thinking and posts it on social media as an amusing diversion. But back when those articles were written, it was the societal norm. The men went off to work, while women read articles on how to be attractive, clean and cook and actually followed the advice.

Then, the second world war happened.

Yes, like so many technological advances, changes in attitude towards women was also a wartime advance. Much of the workforce was drained as men (since women were forbidden to serve) went off to fight leaving factories bereft of large portions of their labor. Needing to keep the factories going, especially to build weapons, they turned to women to fill in temporarily (hence “Rosie the Riveter”). I have done no research on this, but it is my guess that these women were also paid significantly less than the men who were fighting would have been since, after all, women were not viewed as capable employees. I further believe that this attitude ingrained itself into our society, which I expect is why even today women are paid less for the same work than men. That’s my hypothesis, anyway.

But the thing is…they were capable.

The war was won, the men returned expecting to get the jobs they left behind back. But things had changed. Women not only proved that they could do the same work, but they also realized it. Yep, after centuries of being told that man’s work can only be done by a man’s man, suddenly women were, to quote Aretha Franklin, “Doing It For Themselves.”

Okay, that’s probably not the intention of that particular song, but it fit in so nicely, doesn’t it?

Today, men and women of every gender, ethnicity, faith, orientation, socioeconomic standing and any other means of segregation imaginable have the opportunity to stand side by side, elbow to elbow and work together in any job, task or duty imaginable. Notice I call this an “opportunity”. Many people might call it a right or might roll their eyes while thinking “have to” quietly to themselves, but the reality is that strength comes in diversity, not uniformity. Bridges are constructed of various alloys, concrete, rubber, blacktop and other materials, not just steel, giving them both the strength and flexibility to withstand the elements for many years. Different backgrounds give rise to different perspectives, and therefore ideas, than homogeneous. Women don’t think the way men do, but rather than trying to force them to fit into the male mindset, their approach should be celebrated.

Unfortunately, many of the attitudes from a hundred years ago persist today. Generations of men raised with the belief systems of their fathers and their fathers’ fathers has caused outdated thinking to be so deeply woven into the fabric of our society that the extraction is painful.

In yesterday’s blog, I answered questions from women about men, and far from being a fun and whimsical post it was rather more serious about why men tend to ignore women, expect women to clean after them, and generally tend to disrespect them. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that there was a common thread throughout the questions. Ultimately, I hypothesize here, women are still struggling for the respect that they deserve, while men are still struggling to accept (and see) women as equals. The thoughts in today’s post may be completely off target, but as you read it, I’m hoping that it will give everybody, men and women alike, something to consider. I’m suggesting that men could be struggling against centuries of training that they are in every way superior to women, while women are fighting to gain the respect and dignity that they should have had, frankly, all along.

Sitting in a thermodynamics class, with endless derivations and mathematical manipulations, our professor would periodically stop and say that models are useless if they have no practical application. I’ve just developed a model suggesting that the problem with today’s gender disconnect is most likely due to centuries of training regarding the roles of men and women. So, now the hard part; what do we do about it?

Just as anybody regularly following the beginning of this post must have known this to be uncharacteristic of me, I’m guessing that what I am about to propose will sound familiar. If we want to move beyond this awkward stage of our evolution, I believe it will take understanding and conversation. Old habits die hard (I cannot tell you how many times I’ve tried to kick the Diet Pop habit and failed…but only miserably), but we should at least discuss it. If you notice a man falling into these traditional roles and habits, before becoming agitated, take a moment and ask yourself if this is a man who is honestly trying, or just some butthead who is too hard-headed to learn. If he is hard-headed, it probably won’t do much good to try to reason with him. But if he’s honestly trying, open up the conversation. Explain to him what his toxic behavior is, and how it affects you. Help him learn.

For the men, my only advice must be…don’t be some toxic hard-headed butthead.

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