Female firemen, male nannies, and other gender role revolutions

I consider myself a progressive thinker, although I still find myself having trouble letting go of belief systems that I developed growing up. I remember one occasion when I took my younger sibling and two cousins shopping – all boys. Two out of the three chose a car to buy. One chose a miniature doll that came in a compact miniature world. I admit, I kind of raised an eyebrow. “Look,” he said, with a giddy little smile, “I can put her on the swing, make her go down the slide…” I conceded. Why not, since he enjoyed it so much?

Gender roles go beyond which toys are “appropriate” to play with. For example, if you’re a man, how would you feel about being a subordinate to a high-powered and very assertive female manager? If you’re a woman searching for a reputable nanny, would you think twice about a male caretaker or “manny” for your children, despite his exceptional references? Some people may be all for narrowing the gender gap, but when the issue hits close to home, being politically correct doesn’t come easy.

When Queendom assessed gender role views, we uncovered some rather interesting contrasts between men and women. When it comes to their work life, women who took Queendom’s Gender Roles Test generally had more modern attitudes. Women were not only more comfortable with the idea of challenging traditional gender roles at work, they were also more likely to act in accordance with their modern attitudes by, for example, wholeheartedly pursuing traditionally male positions, hiring women for traditional male positions or vice versa, or turning to a male colleague for emotional support and encouragement at work. Male test-takers, on the other hand, felt that there are certain job positions that are more appropriate for men (judge, carpenter, prison guard), and others more suited to women (nurse, administrative assistant). In addition, the men were more likely to endorse stereotypic traits of how males should behave at work. For example, they believed that male employees are more “intimidating” and more likely to “steal your ideas” than women are.

When Queendom assessed men and women’s views on gender roles in the personal realm, the opinions revealed a mix of modern and traditional opinions. Both men and women enjoy chivalry (I love chivalry! Who says it’s dead?), but the majority of men (53%) felt that they should pay for the first date, while the population of female test-takers had a variety of views, from “going Dutch” to suggesting that whoever initiated the date should pay. But it isn’t all knights in shining armor and damsels winking coquettishly. Both men and women added a modern twist, generally believing that it’s ok for a woman to ask a man out on a date – and to get down on one knee and propose.

One area where men and women seemed to differ significantly and where things got a bit “touchy” was views on child-rearing. Men were more likely to encourage children to take on gender roles that are “appropriate” for them, particularly in regards to their own kids. Some men were uncomfortable with the idea of their sons stepping away from what would be considered traditional hobbies and behaviors (e.g. choosing to play with dolls instead of more masculine toys), and more men than women (51% and 27% respectively) would actively discourage such behavior. A greater percentage of women than men would encourage their daughters to reach for any goal, despite it being considered more appropriate for boys, while more men than women (18% versus 6%) would teach their son that crying and whining is not acceptable behavior. 

Queendom’s research also revealed that women are more comfortable with their femininity than men are with their manhood. In essence, women are more comfortable in that they don’t need to act like a woman in order to feel like a woman. For instance, most women were totally at ease with the idea of pursuing a career that defies tradition, of making more money than their partner, of not getting married and having children, and of being tomboyish (I was, and still am, a bit tomboyish…which is why I’m one of few women who has great nails and can still throw a perfect spiraling football). The women in Queendom’s sample also indicated that they feel equally feminine whether they’re wearing a ball gown or a pair of jeans. Contrarily, many men were less comfortable stepping away from what is considered stereotypical masculine behavior, and still uphold the idea that “macho” is equivalent to “masculine.” For example, many of the male test-takers felt that they would be less of a man if they lost their job and were unable to support their family (58%), or if they didn’t beat someone up for harassing their girlfriend/wife (77%). In addition, only 31% of men were comfortable with the idea of having gay friends.

The bottom line here is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to gender views, unless we try to force our opinions onto others. The world is still moving forward, and while change is inevitable as the world progresses, there are some traditions that will be hard to drop. It’s all a matter of personal attitude. So men, feel free to open the door for a woman even if she doesn’t say thank you, and ladies, reach for that brass ring and refuse that diamond one if you so choose to.

What’s your view on gender roles? Share your comments below!

Join me for next week’s discussion on career advancement!

Insightfully yours,

Queen D

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