Male and female gender roles have continually changed throughout history. Your definition of roles for a woman or man can depend on what roles you were exposed to as a child. Gender roles can be described as the attitudes and behaviours expected of men and women in society. Different cultures expect different gender roles. In the United States, gender roles have undergone many changes and advancements as women pushed -- and still push -- for equal rights. Gender roles especially affect the home and workplace.
Traditional roles in the early 1900s
In the early 1900s, definite gender roles existed between men and women. The man worked at an outside job for the family's income, fixed the family car and did the manly "handyman" jobs. The woman stayed at home, cared for children and cooked and cleaned. From the beginning of the country until the mid 1900s, no one disputed the idea of male dominance and feminine weakness as the status quo.
Gender roles start to be challenged
The Great Depression was hard on the family. Many men suffered losses of income and unemployment. Some families pulled together during the hard time while others fell apart. Traditional roles started to change. Men found themselves unemployed and had to rely on their wives or children. Women embraced this abrupt status change and rose to the challenge of finding work to support their family. Being employed increased their power at home and decision-making.
Gender roles still exist
In many cases, women who work full time are still perceived as having the primary responsibility of caring for the children and home. If one of the children is sick, the mother leaves the office to pick up the child. Women still do more housework than their husbands, although men now do more chores than their fathers did, according to Faqs.org. Women tend to do most of the food shopping, laundry, cooking and decorating. There have been great changes in equality in the workplace, but men still earn more money.
Modern family continues to challenge gender roles
In 2008, 41 per cent of employees believed the man should earn the money and the woman should take care of the children, according to the Families and Work Institute. This number was 64 per cent in 1977. In addition, men and women believe females who are employed can still be good mothers. Men and women who had employed mothers have a greater acceptance of working mothers than those who didn't. Working dads seem to be spending more time with their kids than 30 years ago. Men also have a tendency to handle more of the caring for their children than in past decades. Due to the many changes, the gap is shrinking between how both men and women view traditional roles in the family.
- Eyewitness to History; America in the 1930s; 2000
- Marketing Charts; Changing Gender Roles Increase Men's Work-Life Conflict; 2008
- Faqs.org; Women and Gender Roles; 2011
- Knol; Gender Roles in the 20th Century; Aubron Wood; March 2009
- Bureau of Labor Statistics; Earnings of husbands and wives in dual-earner families; Anne Winkler; April 1998
- Getty Premium images