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I think that the so-called "ideology of domesticity" still plays an important part in perpetuating gender inequalities. Eighteenth-century industrialization made women the keepers of the home and men were put to work in factories. This condition gave rise to the ideology of domesticity which created the notions that there were two seprates speheres for men and women. Although patterns of employment have certainly changed especially since the end of the Second World War, the impact of domesticity still encourages gender inequalities in a number of ways:
1 - it fosters contemporary notions of division of labor where masculinity is still associated with productive work, rationality and exercising authority, while femininity is linked with domesti work, emotional behavior and care-giving;
2 - it has suggested a narrow definition of labor as paid employment for much of the twentieth century, making invisible important forms of work done by women. Domestic work, for example, is a crucial feature to maintain quality of life, but has been rarely considered as a form of full-time employment;
3 - it considers work done by women as a "natural" product of femininity rather than the outcome of acquired skills. Looking after babies or the elderly, for example, is considered a natural vocation for women (interestingly enough, in Western Europe, beacuse of the strong recent immigration fluxes from the former Communist bloc, this vocation is becoming more narrowly defined as natural for Eastern European female immigrants).
I think the fact that so many of us understand two things about our genders dominates why we have attitudes or values regarding the issue. Here are the two things we almost always notice:
- Men are physical.
- Women are emotional.
Now this isn't to say that there aren't people that break this mold, or that these statements are rude stereotypes. That is just how we're made. I expect a man to lift something for me when I can't do it myself. AND, I cry when I really don't want to, I can't help it. I think those of us that embrace these as truths perpetuate an attitude that divides genders. That attitude can turn poor, but it really doesn't have to. We can respect the differences in women and men, and prosper from what each has to offer the other in many ways.
I just started watching "Mad Men" - the AMC drama about advertising in the 50s. Let me say, when it comes to gender inequality, we sure have come a long way.
I think one attitude that still plagues many couples (in long term relationships) is the question of roles in the house. Like the first post said - the idea of domesticity continues to be a huge perpetrator of disagreements, fights, guilt, resentment, etc. I also think it is an area that many couples overlook because at one time the boundaries were drawn so clearly by society (and our mothers/fathers).
There's a lot on TV and in movies that promote gender inequality--the silliness and emotional nature of women; the burliness and physical strength of men. However, I don't think real life is nessarily like that. My father was disabled before I was even in middle school. He was the one who stayed home, did laundry, cooked dinner, and got my brothers and me to our ball games, etc. My mother worked full time and went to school until she achieved her MBA. We rarely saw her without a book in her lap and coffee nearby. The roles were definitely reversed in our home, and my brothers and I are different as a result. My brothers, while they are both very brawny, can also be found mopping kitchen floors and changing diapers as needed.
I agree with the above; in addition, I think the area of sports still holds many ideas about gender inequality. I've recently started competing in triathlons and sometimes the stereotypes are rampant. Plus, I think that for a long time, women tried to argue that they were "equal" to men meaning that we are "just the same" as men. "Equal" is not synonymous with "just the same"--we're not the same: our bodies are different.
Two ideologies have had profound effects upon American culture: Puritanism and the beliefs and mores of the Victorian Age. The Victorian Age perpetuated sterotypical standards of conduct and behavior for women that are yet in existence.
In my opinion I feel that religion is one of the root causes for gender inequality. In the Bible many of the stories feature big, strong, men who have tons of wives, and the wives' only get to stay at home and take care of the children while the men get to speak to God and go on adventures. On top of religion I also feel like it's people who don't speak up about gender inequality who feel that it is wrong. There are many people who know that it's wrong but don't want to do anything about it.
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