More Gender Roles Musings

My English critical thinking class seems to be in the full swing of the gender roles discussion; it is our first essay! This follows a rhetorical analysis paper we did on an excerpt (from “Gender Blending: Confronting the Limits of Duality) about what is ‘masculine’ and what is ‘feminine’ in North America and the social schemas of man and woman; authored by Aaron Devor (published 1989). I honestly have no issues with his writing because it is well organized with an introduction, arguments, body defining ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and a conclusion. He makes real observations and sound contrasting between the gender roles but it is with his conclusion that I have issue as it is far too short. He takes all of time to set the reader up properly and he concludes that the gender schemes are a matter of, “systematic power imbalances based on gender discrimination.” While I can tolerate his lack of articulation with such a huge idea, and agree with him, I believe I better sum it up with (keep in mind I’m writing it to context):

“In conclusion America was originally established as a patriarchal system in which male attributes were valued more than women attributes and because of this women have been wrongfully discriminated against. Still to this day in the 21st century America witnesses to the discrimination of women in the workplace, politics, civil rights and religion because of the gender schema placed on each sex. While there is still more work to be done in releasing ourselves from these gender schemes we must appreciate how far America, and even the world, has come and it is important to look back over the past to see what successes have been made.”

With that said I will jump to the classes’ interaction on this topic. As the except was analyzed in groups you got the feeling that people were mostly in agreeance with Devor but couldn’t quite seem to associate with what he was stating. For example, we could all agree that ‘masculine’ was being powerful, of prowess, forthright and ‘feminine’ was subdued, polite, and reserved but we couldn’t agree to how that actually applied to today. Devor’s writing would have us believe that the sexes are still in competition to one another versus both sexes complimenting one another. The teacher seemed a little concerned we weren’t getting the message as each student spoke up and explicitly or implicitly stated the gender roles have been blended and blurred. Followed was a student’s comment on how old the except was, “Near twenty years,” and how old Devor’s references were, some thirty years old which was agreed makes a big difference in context. I could see the light shining through slowly that everyone wasn’t buying the line. And then it finally hit me and I put in my voice.

“It isn’t that what is ‘feminine’ and what is ‘masculine’ has changed, as if that was the problem all along, it that’s as a society we value both gender roles more equally. Rather than these roles being in competition for value they are viewed today as complimenting one another and thus more equally valued.”

With this you could tell the final nail was sunk into the coffin of any hopes to bemoan the fact that there is such a thing as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. Many of the students followed with agreeance in their own ways. The African man piped up and said in his thick accent, “Yes, because with my parents my mom stayed home and cared for the children while my dad worked and fed the family. But it is not like that anymore, because in my family at the end of the month I ask my wife, ‘What bills are you paying and what bills am I paying’?” The teacher voiced her opinion that she was unsure of this fact and readmitted the question testing to see if we were sure the gender roles are more equally valued. Again more students reaffirmed what everyone and myself had been saying. I brought up the example of the show, “Queer Eye For The Sight Guy,” in which men favorably take on ‘feminine’ traits of manners, communication, thoughtfulness, etc and this is far more accepted today. It is also far more acceptable for women to reject men forthright and state their opinions.

Class was coming to a close and our teacher had to hand out the essay one topic. As I packed my items away I listened to her describe the coming writing task. We are to take Devor’s writing and compare it to one of today’s TV shows and see if his observations have remained true. Immediately this took me as very odd. I’d think an honest essay would examine whether or not Devor’s except is applicable at all to today, not some TV show. So I said my thoughts, “That seems a little odd in that Devor’s except is an honest examination of the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ genders in real life in North America but TV shows are purely an exaggeration of life. This assumes that TV shows actually represent real life today, which is not true as they take the highlights and make a show about it; like Seinfeld.” She replied quickly, “But that’s a comedy what about ‘Gray’s Anatomy’?” Hoping I’d think that was more real. However, I rejected that and replied, “When I was becoming an EMT I was in an ER room and it was extremely boring and the coolest thing that happened that night was a kid came in with a broken arm,” the classroom laughed as I continued, “and there was no such thing as adulterous affairs, arguments, gun shot wounds all in one shift. It is exaggerated and so are ‘reality shows’.” She couldn’t reply to this as we in a previous class discussed how fantastical shows such as Survivor were because of all the editing.

Luckily for the teacher time was up and we were all ready to leave and she dismissed us with the promise to continue this in the next session. Nevertheless, I believe I made a sound argument for not using TV in such an analytical essay. So we shall see, if she will not change her mind I will use such shows as, “Sex In The City” and “Will And Grace” to illustrate how much American has changed. Therefore, in conclusion it is not about the wiping away of what is ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ the argument that we should be discussing is how each is valued. The fact is there is male and there is female and they are both different and similar and both are needed to complete the circle of life within a family and community. I believe America and other societies, should be more dynamic in their blending of the genders but still respect the fact that we are man and woman. An example of this is in my own house, I often will do the house chores while my wife will tend to her business. I have no problem with it and nor does she. I don’t feel any less masculine nor does she feel any less feminine. There are many example of this in our marriage yet I remain the husband and she remains the wife with love and respect.

4 thoughts on “More Gender Roles Musings”

  1. Very interesting stuff. I’m curious as to why your teacher was so hesitant to accept your assertion that male and female roles are seen as more equal. It makes a lot of sense to me.

    I think one possibility is that you still see men (and women) being critiqued for not adhering to more traditional gender roles. After all, you often hear men called “fags” or “homos” if they make themselves emotionally available to other men. And women who like sports, power tools, etc. are frequently and demeaningly called “dykes.” It’s interesting, it seems like homosexual references have replaced sexists ones to refer to nonstandard behavior. That would seem to mean that there is still a binary there, though the terminology has changed.

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