The day when women create sperm and can impregnate men so that they can have babies, that is the day men and women will be equal. Until then, we will be different. Accept it and enjoy it.
We will always be different.
Or, like Stevie Wonder said many years ago:
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream
Until the day is night and night becomes the day-
Until the trees and seas just up and fly away
Until the day that 8x8x8 is
Until the day that is the day that are no more-
Until the day the earth starts turning right to left-
Until the earth just for the sun denies itself
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through
There is a new briefing paper out now by the Council on Contemporary Families by Joanna R. Pepin, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland and David A. Cotter, Professor of Sociology, Union College.
In it, there are some very interesting discoveries about gender roles:
Back in the nineteenth century, as the worlds of “work” and “home” were increasingly spatially separated, a doctrine of “separate spheres” developed to ideologically justify, and reinforce, the division between the masculine public sphere and feminine private sphere. It is telling here that what was considered “work” included only that which took place in the public sphere—waged employment, politics and the like—excluding all of the labor that took place in the home. The tasks of caring for children and maintaining a household were seen as an extension of love and motherhood, with a built-in intrinsic reward for women. This “separate spheres” ideology experienced a resurgence in the post-WWII era and was the primary ideology against which the feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s reacted.
But the question became what would replace that ideology? Some feminists pushed for a more androgynous conception of equality, disrupting beliefs about the oppositeness of men and women. In the 1980s and early 1990s, people seemed to be moving toward the idea that women and men could work equally well in both the public and private spheres. Yet the narrative that eventually emerged became a hybrid of the two approaches, promoting women’s choice to participate in either sphere while trying to equalize the perceived value of a home sphere that was still seen as distinctively female. The egalitarian essentialist perspective mixed values of equality (men and women should have equal opportunities, gender discrimination is wrong) alongside beliefs about the essential nature of men and women (men are naturally or inherently better suited to some roles and women to others).
The revised kind of egalitarianism that rapidly increased after 1994 is rooted in ideology compatible with American cultural ideals of individualism, beliefs associated more with the public sphere than rooted in families. Tellingly, the pattern of increased though incomplete equality in the workplace and persistent though lessened inequality at home is present not only in the realm of attitudes but also when we look at objective measures like occupational segregation and housework. The percentages of men and women who would have to change occupations for all occupations to have equal numbers of men and women declined from about two-thirds (64 percent) of workers in 1950 to about 50 percent by the 1990s, and has been stalled ever since (authors’ calculations from Census PUMS/ACS). Similarly, the gender gap in time spent in core housework activities (e.g., cooking, cleaning, laundry) steadily declined from the 1960s to the mid-1990s and then stagnated.
One possible reason egalitarian ideology is highly endorsed in the marketplace is that occupational segregation permits the embrace of equal opportunity ideals without challenging beliefs that men and women are innately and fundamentally different. Even though “a woman should have exactly the same job opportunities as a man,” women may be thought to choose different types of work because those occupations feel more consistent with their identity as women. The path to blending a belief in equality with a belief in inherent differences between men and women at home is less obvious, which may explain the return to non-egalitarian gender attitudes within families. For example, arriving at gender parity in time spent in housework may require redefining what counts as “men’s chores” and “women’s chores.” It is notable that most of the narrowing of differences in time spent on chores noted above came from reductions in women’s time spent on these tasks. Achieving equity within families requires men to take on tasks that are culturally devalued (cleaning, laundry, and to a lesser extent cooking). In other words, women entering the workforce felt they were gaining something valuable, just as fathers stepping up participation in parenting felt they were gaining something valuable, but everybody hates housework.