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Kriss-Ann Gayle

Ben Henderson
CAS 137H
October 20, 2014

Since the dawn of time, gender roles have been prominent in society. Gender roles are
defined by the norms of individual cultures and set the guidelines for how each gender should
act. In the past (perhaps somewhat today), most societies family systems were based on the
gender roles that helped members of the family play their roles in order for the family to strive.
Therefore, any disturbance in the women. Traditionally, men were known to be the breadwinners of the families because men worked and supported the household. Women on the
contrary, stayed home, did house chores and took care of the children. Women in the past also
did not provide any significant income to the household and were as a result, primarily
dependent on men. This social system was known as a patriarchy or a social system in which
men control a majority of the power and exert authority over women and children (John J.
Macionis, 2013). In the past few decades, people have started to view gender roles as gender
inequality. A majority of people now think that gender roles are a form of discrimination rather
than a efficient way to run a society. This change in thought process can be attributed (but not
limited) to three different reasons that have resulted in three distinct effects.
The origin of gender roles can be dated back to the very early civilizations. Ever since the
dawn of time, when societies began to form, people have differentiated between males and
females. Along with the obvious differences between men and women came implicated and
specific lifestyles in addition to duties and functional areas for each of these genders. These

attributed roles may have also been influenced by biological differences between men and
women. For example, men generally had a tendency towards aggression, need for social
dominance, and a need for affiliation . Women, on the other hand, were more inclined to be
liberal, gentle, and social. There were (are) also physical differences such as the proven fact that
men had more muscle, whereas women had more body fat. Men hit puberty (generally) later than
females and also (generally) had a shorter life expectancy. Perhaps the biggest biological
difference between men and women was that females reproduced (David G. Myers, 2013).
Because biological (and other) differences were very evident, people thought it was natural that
roles in society should be differentiated base on gender. By attributing certain roles to one
gender, who is perhaps predisposed to suit that role, families were able to run smoothly
(Macionis, 2013). Gender roles were efficient in past societies however, not so much in todays
There are three very important reasons why gender roles have significantly changed in
family life. These reasons were varied; however, improved efficiency in technology, changing
views on what is equality, and women becoming more prominent in the workplace were prime
reasons behind this shift.
Over the last few decades, technology has become increasingly more impressive. We can
now do things in a mere hour or two hours. We can now find things on the internet in a matter of
seconds whereas, before the internet, people had to find books on specific topics and then read to
find the particular information that was needed. Not only that, people no longer need to leave
their homes to go shopping thanks to online shopping. Because of inventions like the internet and
online shopping, chores now require so much less time and effort. Chores were the womens line
of work in the past but as technology makes these chores easier to complete, women no longer

need to spends hours after hours to maintain the home. Women were now free to expand their
horizons to other things.
Technology is not the only thing that has changed the way gender roles function in
family. Over the decades, views on what is considered equality and inequality has changed
significantly. In the past, gender roles were just seen as the norms of society compared to todays
society where gender roles will most likely be seen as stereotypical and discriminatory. America
has been making strides towards a more equal nation starting with an end to slavery in 1865 and
followed by a series of events that made everyone more equal. This struggle towards equality
also affected women as evident in 1920 when women finally gained the right to vote. Another
significant step happened in 1965 with Affirmative Action or an action or policy favoring those
who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education;
positive discrimination. Affirmative Action was extended to women two years after its passing.
Women had other victories such as the 1996 United States v. Virginia case when the Supreme
Court ruled that the all-men Virginia Military School had to admit women in order to continue to
receive public funding. Following the 1996 case, in 1999, The Supreme Court ruled in Kolstad v.
American Dental Association that a woman can sue for punitive damages if they feel the antidiscrimination law had been broken. even today, women continue to gain more and more rights
such as in 2013 when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the ban on women serving
in combat roles would be lifted (Imbornoni, Ann-Marie, infoplease). These changes reflected the
bigger picture that views on gender roles for women have changed on a day to day basis. With
these advances in mind, women can now enjoy the liberties that men had since the very
beginning. Men and women are now on equal standing in the family.

Along with the changing views of women roles in society, women have also gained
prominence in the workplace. This can be supported by the fact that in the 1900s, fewer than
20% of women worked. Today over 75% of women work.Women comprise 47% the United
States work force (Myers, 2013). A big problem with breaking away from gender roles in the past
was that females were not prominent in the workplace so they were very dependent. Women
have become more independent as more job opportunities and places in society have open up for
them. As a result, women no longer have to abide by patriarchy. Women now have just as much
right in the family as men do because both contribute to the household. Women have also made
strides in terms of education like being able attend university. Women have in fact, earned 54%
of all degrees in the last few years (Macionis, 2013). Men and women are now also on equal
standing in terms of education.
These reasons for the change in gender roles in family are accompanied by clear results.
These results include a social benefit, a self-esteem benefit, and economic benefit.
The first result of the change in gender roles in family is a social benefit. With more
women out in society, more gets done. There are only so many men in the world so it is only
logical that adding women into the equation would increase the productivity of society as a
whole. Now not only will the husband be contributing to society but the wife will also contribute.
In addition to contributing to the increased productivity of society as a whole, womens gender
roles being eliminated also helps men; men no longer have so much pressure to abide by their
gender roles (Shields, Mandisa, dailyorange).
The second result of the breakdown of gender roles in family is a self-esteem benefit.
Women can now feel independent and confident in themselves since they no longer have to abide
by patriarchy. In the past, men provided the income so they naturally had more of a say in how

things go. Now women have their own income so they can feel confident enough to provide
input where there is a need.With that being said, patriarchy is a system where men hold power
over women. If history has shown anything, it is that those with power abuse it. With the
breakdown of gender roles in family, less women will be under patriarchy and that will in turn
lessen abuse that women have to experience.
The final effect of elimination of gender roles in family is the economic benefit.
According to sociological data, families that have both parents working tend to do better than
single parent families or families with one partner working (Macionis, 2013). It only makes
sense that if there are two people working rather than one then there will be more funds to
support the family. Realizing this, it is only natural that families would want both partners to
work. The Economic benefit is a motive to promote gender equality in families especially in a
bad economy.
Hopefully, with the continued growth of the fight against gender inequality, it will be
completely eradicated. With all the breakthroughs that have been made, it is only a matter of time
until women make $1 for ever $1 a man makes rather than .87 cents for every $1 (Macionis,
2013). It is only matter of time until men complete 50% of household chores rather than 30%.
After all, there has clearly been a step in the right direction supported by the increase of
household chores done by men from 15% in 1996 to 30% in 2000 (Myers, 2013).
Overall, women have been gaining equality, defying gender roles and, made major strides
over the last decade toward gaining all the liberties that men are granted with upon birth. There
has been some drawback of gender equality among family such as less time spent on children
and with each other. However, most people today would agree that gender roles limit what

people can and cannot do and it is only right to fight such a social constraint. The Fight towards
gaining equality for women in their families (and life in general) has only been growing.

Imbornoni, Ann-Marie (2013, October). Womens rights movement in the U.S.
Macionis, John J. (2013). Social Problems Fifth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson Education, Inc.
Myers, David G. (2013). Psychology Tenth Edition in Modules. New York, NY:
Worth Publishers
Shields, Mandisa (2014, March). Shields: Gender Equality Benefits Men, Women
Both Socially, and Economically. Dailyorange