“Darling, I am done ordering. Are you finished with the menu?”
“It is okay. I am not hungry.”
“But you said you–.”
“I said I was fine. I will just have water because, obviously, I am not hungry.”
The husband stared at his wife. She shrugged and sipped her icy water. After his order arrived, she watched him eat with a deep frown on her face and an occasional deep sigh. As soon as he took the last bite of his beef wrap, she skittered out the door without a glance.
The poor man could not sleep that night. What could have possibly made her upset?
Apparently, he did not order for her like he used to, knowing she gets anxious talking to a server. It has been five years since she married this man. How could he still not know her? Did he expect her to get over her anxiety in a snap? Actually, that is what he thought, hence his ordering only for himself.
This anecdote demonstrates the differences between a man and a woman perfectly. These striking contrasts between genders may be the root of every gender norm and role and the off-balance of gender equality. Even before a baby is born, its gender is the first thing people consider to tailor their gifts and unsolicited advice according to it.
Since time immemorial, society has subjected men and women to specific gender norms and roles. Let us discuss the gender norms and roles in the past versus the modern age’s take on them and how it affects today’s silent battle for gender equality.
The past had treated women differently than men. Women were once considered property that could be gifted or bought. Women who could read, count, and write were considered witches or strange. Women’s opinions were seldom heard. By the time kingdoms were waging wars against each other, some women had gained status, especially if they were born royal. Everyone looked up to royal women, if not entirely worshiped. Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Wu Zetian, Queen Elizabeth I, and Catherine the Great are excellent examples. Still, if a woman was peasant-born, she was considered lower than men and had little to no rights.
As the eras progressed, women gained access to education, paid labor, and the freedom to live independently. In the late 19th century, women could manage their businesses, adopt pets, travel alone, vote, and leave their husbands as they saw fit. Nonetheless, these were still frowned upon due to traditional and religious views.
Gender norms and roles for women might have been drastically changing every century. However, some gender norms and roles have persisted.
Some of these, but not limited to, are being submissive, family-oriented (having kids), nurturing, sensitive, emotional, bookish, gentle, classy, beauty conscious, and physically weak.
Modern women are free from the curse of being one’s property, lack of voting rights, wearing chosen clothes, and the imperative duty to be a housewife. Yet, society still expects women to stay at home to take care of the house and the kids. Other cultures still force women to marry a distant relative or someone older to please the family. Society still frowns at some women’s choice of being child-free, not wanting to get married, and being a nomad. Old traditions and control over women’s bodies are still prevalent today.
The good news is that society now welcomes women to engage in activities reserved for men. Acquiring an engineering or architectural degree, triumphing in the sports industry, and physically-taxing jobs. These are the results of women fighting for their rights.
Men, on the other hand, dominated the world in the past. Men were more trusted and depended on to command and create. A household without a man is an open pantry for evildoers. If newborns were male, it would be a cause for celebration. Men always had the final say, and people tend to take their words more seriously than a woman. Men were leaders, decision-makers, builders, and workers. Because of this, people honored and worshiped their work and success. Albert Einstein, Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Michaelangelo, and Jesus were just a few examples.
Although they monopolized almost everything under the sun, this did not mean they had more manageable lives than women.
Upper-class society subjected peasant-born males to slavery, hard labor, and wars. These demands forced men to leave their families for long periods. While women spent their hard days with their children or relatives, men spent their hard days alone or with other men with whom they could not form a comfortable bond. Even when a man was a royal, it was the norm that he spent weeks away from home to tend to important matters.
Nowadays, society still expects men to be physically strong and defeat challenges while maintaining mental and emotional composure. For centuries, tradition and culture told men to “man up,” be assertive, and be bold. This advice was a good trait for many situations and stayed in today’s culture. The society also pressures men to be financially successful and attain a good reputation. Men who lack these qualities will be bullied and looked down on. This treatment causes mental exhaustion and emotional incapability in most men, which would cause several suicides, mental breakdowns, and unstable relationships.
There is a silver lining, however. Modern society encourages men to express their emotions healthily. It gives them the freedom of career choices—fewer people bases men’s success not on their bank account but on their holistic characteristics.
We have differentiated men’s and women’s gender norms and roles throughout the centuries, which leads us to the question: Are all genders equal? Is it possible for men and women to live in harmony?
Gender equality has been off balance for centuries because of traditional gender norms and roles cited earlier. However, with the help of new knowledge about the humanity and needs of all genders, and an open mind, men and women can live in harmony. The key to gender equality is practicing the basic human morals: Respect and compassion for one another.
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