Thursday, October 2, 2008

American Gender

So, we had a lively, if somewhat erratic, first discussion about American gender, and gender expectations, on Wednesday.  Thank you all for your contributions!  I think our discussion of whether young men could envision themselves as, in the future, "stay-at-home dads" really set some of the deeply entrenched American attitudes about gender roles into stark relief.  We briefly landed upon the issues of ideal physical appearance for men and women, "sexism"in general, men and women in politics, and societal expectations for the roles of men and women in "American culture."  What specific issue that falls beneath the larger heading "Gender Relations and Expectations in America Today," is of the greatest concern, or is the most interesting, to you?  Why?  I am anxious to read your ideas!

11 comments:

Sam said...

To be honest. I am not sure I see the instances of gender discrimination that so many have insured me exist. I personally do not see human beings as divided so strongly into categories of male and female. Perhaps the discrimination does exist, but is perpetrated at an unconscious level and I being a man and do not see it occurring. I have heard there is gender discrimination in the workplace and in society in general; I am interested in having my eyes opened to the truth or the falsity of this observation.

tim said...

I really feel about the same way you do, Sam. While perhaps the idea of the existence of specific gender roles is very much a part of American culture, the actual gender identities of most people seem far less distinct. For example, regarding the class discussion Wednesday, I don't think I would very much mind staying at home and raising the children. Even if I did eventually crave a career outside of the home, I don't think such a desire would spring forth from any type of need to be "masculine" and bring home the bacon. In fact, I think such an assumption would be incredibly counter-intuitive, especially in more recent history: women--not men--have been receiving criticism for leaving the home for the workforce for many, many years. As a result, it would probably be easier to correlate such an act with femininity than masculinity.

It's most likely my position on gender identity is a product of my childhood. I have a difficult time associating various acts or roles with only certain genders. Such classification seems at best fruitless and at worse pointlessly discriminatory.

John said...

I am most interested in the "Glass ceiling" that keeps women from attaining to high ranking positions in the business sector. I wonder if women in fact would do a better job considering the current state of the markets.

nikki said...

I don't think that gender discrimination is very prevalent in our society as well.

However, I do think that the trend of men viewing women as sexual objects rather than equal individuals persists to some degree. This is evident everywhere from the popularity of institutions such as Hooters to the widespread attraction of pin-up posters, raunchy car magazines, and pornography. Even though we usually hold society's skewed view of femininity or men's testosterone-driven desires accountable for these debaucheries, I think women should also be held responsible. I think that women should be responsible for how they present themselves despite societal pressure. When a woman blatantly dress sexily and desirably, men see her as nothing more than an object of sexual fantasy. I don't think this is because men are animals or hateful; they are just too absorbed with the woman's physique to acknowledge her intellect. If a woman wants to be considered an equal, I think she has a responsibility to present herself in a proper manner. When she does so, I think men will naturally treat her with dignity and respect.

Dan said...

In my opinion, in the past men were predominately brought up to be the bread winners and to be more goal oriented. Women were brought up to be the nurturer and raise their children since they are the ones that delivered them. Women seem to be closer to the children and feel it is their right to be there for them. Women gave men more of a chance to find employment.Even to this day women recieve less money with same education in similar jobs than do men. Recently women feel inequality and want better education and better jobs, as they are equal in that there is going to be equal opportunities for both. It is just that women in the past have been looked to as the stay at home mom. I am interested in seeing the flip side in the future when women could be equal in the work place, and have some dads be the stay at home dads

mp93 said...

Due to the current political elections I think women in politics interest me the most. I found the discussion we had about the media's role in sexism especially interesting. I agree with the idea that the media is constantly making gender an issue. Ideally people would completely ignore a politicans race and gender but the media is making this almost impossible.

jon s said...

I think that gender discrimination is not as prevalent as it used to be, or if it is, I have not encountered it very much. That said, I personally think that men and women do have different skills and talents that do make them inherently different. Men are better suited for some jobs, women are better suited for others, and some can be performed equally well by either. I'm not sure if these differences necessarily result in discrimination if both genders recognize that there are differences and value the other as much as their own. This can easily be twisted to become discriminatory, so you have to be careful, but I think that this is the way it is meant to be. All that to say, I am interested in looking more at how the lines between the roles of men and women have been blurred in recent times and seeing if this has given us positive or negative results.

roryrowley said...

The biggest issue for me is "gender roles" and the ideation that one sex is supposed to do certain things, and another is supposed to do different things. Many of us are brought up seeing that men are supposed to be strong, successful, athletic individuals while women are supposed to be ultra feminine, loving, and caring. We also viewed that any deviations from the norms were "different." I think for a female in todays societies being a successful woman encorporates much different skills than those that meet the ideals if a "feminine" woman, often the same skills that develop a "masculine" appearance altering the way women are perceived, and the way we perceive each other.
Nowadays, women view other women who stay at home with the children and such as being oppressed or unfulfilled, a view much different than in history. I believe this is so because the drive for equality has become so intrenched in our minds, that we chose not to do things or to view things based on social perception.

Alan said...

@sam: I am not sure I see the instances of gender discrimination that so many have insured me exist.... I am interested in having my eyes opened to the truth or the falsity of this observation.

Scholarships for women engineers just because they're not male, affirmative action (for women) in the workplace, and expected/pressured gender roles. Hmm, this has a very familiar smell. Oh that's right: it smells like gender discrimination.

Whether it really is or not is for you to decide. Some see it as gender discrimination, others hide it under "gender roles." Me, I just see it as somethin' that just ain't right 'round here.

@john: I wonder if women in fact would do a better job considering the current state of the markets.

Yes and no. If a woman is more competent than her peers, then she does the better job. If she's not more competent, then she doesn't do the better job. Simple as that. That's how it's always worked in the workplace, right? Or is it not so simple because we have a "female" involved here?

Alex said...

I agree with Alan, I think that we are getting so caught up in whether or not there is gender discrimination, that we have begun to discriminate against men. There are many opportunities that exist solely for women, and there exist some solely for men, but, the way we are going, we will eventually begin to discriminate against men. If we want to get rid of gender discrimination, the wrong way to do it is to start discriminating against men because they aren't women.

Vicky said...

Nikki
You are correct in that we as women are responsible for how we present ourselves. I do understand that if you work as a waitress in an establishment like Hooters, you are putting yourself in a position where you most likely will have to endure sexual harrassment. However, sexual harrassment is not limited to women who dress provocatively. In our armed forces it is sometimes difficult to tell between one gender or the other. Female solders wear the same uniforms as their male counterparts, thier is hair pulled back, they wear minimal/if any/ makeup and yet the amount of sexual assault and harrassment endured by female soldiers is phenominal. Sexual harrassment is not always about how you dress, or act, or even how you look. As in the case of rape, it is usually about power and control. Victims of sexual harrassment and assault spend enough time blaming themselves. I should have worn pants, why did I wear makeup, I shouldn't have smiled. We cannot revictimize these women, no one has the right to approach another person in an unexceptable manner regardless of what they are wearing. The blame for such behavior should be placed on the perpitrator.