Women's roles vs. male's roles in the 21st century

Written by michelle lovrine
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Women's roles vs. male's roles in the 21st century
Women have come a long way since the early 20th century, but are still widely expected to be submissive to men and are associated with domestic tasks. (Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

The roles of men and women have changed dramatically since the beginning of the 20th century. Contraceptives have made planning a family around a career easier for women, and political and social movements have allowed women to advance to the point where a woman could be elected president. But women still face many limitations in the workplace, still have a less dominant role than men in relationships and are still shouldered with most of the parenting responsibilities.

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Women's Rights

The 20th century saw a massive shift in the roles of women and men. In a major step forward, women demanded and were granted the right to vote in the United States in 1920. However, women's options were still limited. In 1963, Betty Friedan published "The Feminine Mystique," a best seller outlining the dissatisfaction women felt with their roles as housewives. Women the world over agreed with Friedan's arguments and acknowledged that they needed more out of life.

With the invention of the birth control pill in 1960s, women could control when they had kids. For the first time, they had a highly reliable method of birth control to help plan their lives. Careers did not necessarily have to take a back seat to family. The equal opportunities movement also meant that employers could not discriminate against women in hiring and promotion, providing further protection for women in the workforce. Meanwhile, the number of white collar jobs expanded, enabling more women to find attractive jobs.

Work Life

While women have surpassed the single label of "housewife" in the 20th century, there are still tensions between men and women in the workplace. Josette S. Shiner, an editor of the "Washington Times," stated in a public address that women still feel the need to behave like men at work. They feel the struggle to compete with men in the workforce and therefore behave like them. Still other women, Shiner said, gave up having a family altogether so they could focus more on work. In religious institutions, meanwhile, men are still cast as the leaders, as only they can hold clergy positions in some faiths.


Women still suffer from the stereotype that they are submissive and domestic, while men are the authoritative figures. Miele, a manufacturer of cleaning products, produced a study in the late 2000s which found that eight out of 10 British women are still responsible for most of the housework in a family. Harder cleaning work, like cleaning the bathroom and kitchen, are usually left to the woman. In addition, the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance cited several religious faiths that interpret holy scripture as saying that wives must be submissive to husbands.


Women are also still seen as the primary caregivers for children in most families, but this is changing. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than one per cent of dads were stay-at-home fathers in 2006. Men account for only 19 per cent of single parents who live with their children. However, that still means there were 159,000 stay-at-home fathers as of 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There is a thriving community of stay-at-home fathers who are quite proud of their role in the family and support their "bread-winning" wives fully.

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