To sort of piggyback off my last post regarding feminism being “over,” for this week’s blog I’d like to talk about the notion that our society has moved past traditional gender roles. I noticed some discussion on the topic on another blog entry and had so many thoughts I decided to dedicate my own post to them.
I think, as with feminism, the media has something to do with this assumption that gender roles are falling to the wayside. We see a much wider variety of characters on television and film than we used to that don’t always play in to our traditional gender roles. As mentioned in my last post, women fulfill many powerful roles on television now, and some shows even allow men to kiss other men! But in seriousness, transgender characters in particular come to mind, such as Laverne Cox playing Sophia Burset on the wildly popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black.
A show called I am Jazz on The Learning Channel documents a young trans girl’s story, while shows like Transparent on Amazon feature trans characters as well; we even saw a trans character in a big movie like Dallas Buyers Club. With transgender people being represented across the media, one might think that transgender people are accepted across the country, and that we’re breaking down barriers, but many issues still remain. In fact, several trans women have already been murdered in the U.S. this year, and I’m sure you’ve all heard about the Bathroom Bill controversy.
An interesting correlation I’ve noticed is that as positive images of trans people in the media have increased over the last several years, so has the prevalence of “gender reveal” parties for people having babies, as well as the controversy surrounding public bathrooms.
I have considered that this obsession with gender and enforcing it can be at least somewhat attributed to backlash against the attempted loosening of gender identities. I think we see this kind of backlash precisely because we hold so tight to our traditional gender roles. No matter how far it seems we have come in this regard, society can still have a very narrow picture of what a woman or man is supposed to be.
We like to say women have more options now and can do whatever they please, but we shame working mothers for putting their kids in daycare, and shame stay-at-home-moms for being “lazy” (yeah freaking right). And, speaking as a 28-year-old married woman without children, people still think it’s WEIRD for a woman to not also be a mother. Just yesterday my mother told me she’d love a grandbaby hint hint. She literally said the words “hint hint.”
If I were to become pregnant, I’m positive my husband and I would have to fulfill traditional gender roles. He would be able to make more money than I could, because of the wage gap that still exists. It would be irresponsible to not assume traditional roles and stay home myself while he goes to work.
For this reason and others like it, I do not think we can really say gender roles are on their way out. We’d have to have mass upheaval of our current system for these roles to truly be eradicated. I believe we would have to start raising boys and girls the same way from birth to actually get rid of these roles and ensure equality between genders.
Which made me wonder: what would it even mean to raise a child with no gender roles forced upon them? How would we really go about doing that? It seems nearly impossible; even if I can figure out how, the moment they go off to school, or to Grandma’s house, I can no longer control who tells my little boy not to cry or my little girl that she’s a princess.
I’ll admit I have daydreamed about gender neutral nurseries before. I always land on a Harry Potter theme, or Dr. Seuss, or books in general. So, if I would deck out a girl’s nursery in Harry Potter stuff, would we use a book with a female protagonist to decorate a boy’s room? *I* probably wouldn’t care, but what do you guys think society at large would think? What would you guys consider gender neutral?
I’ll leave you guys with this, as it makes me laugh every time I see it: