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Fixing a problem using the problem

February 22, 2013

The greatest freedom a person can have is the choice in what burdens they choose to bear.

There’s a grand quote for people who enjoy collecting and using grand quotes. Yes; it’s original (as far as I know). No; I don’t mind if you use it, just quote me.

There are a lot of blogs and articles and academics and average intellectuals talking about gender roles. The current zeitgeist suggests that gender roles are harmful. What I find fascinating about this particular discussion is that they so rarely actually discuss *why* these gender roles are harmful. And when they do, it usually involves someone’s lack of choice being influenced by their social surroundings.

Firstly, I’m not convinced that something being a specific way is inherently harmful; even a gender role. If I take a look at a Pride of Lions, I noticed distinct differences in the roles the males and females play in accordance to their social dynamics. The females hunt for the Pride and the males protect the Pride (there are more roles than this, but I’m just going to focus on these two).

Now there is some overlap; the females may have to engage predators and rival Prides in the absence of a male protector, or until one shows up. And sometimes the male may engage easy prey or provide the corpse of the fallen enemy of the Pride as food. But both sexes of the Lion Pride know their duties. Is either one inherently harmful? Not really no.

These roles can be seen through the animal kingdom. But there’s a distinct difference between the animal kingdom and the human world; one of choice. When an animal makes a choice to segregate themselves in the animal kingdom, they are often outcast usually resulting in either death in exile, or the start of a new ‘family’ of like animals where the process begins anew, but with their roles switched to the alpha of the group.

That obviously doesn’t happen in human society; at least not exactly. One of the big problems with human society is that it various depending on your geographical location. A Wolf Pack in Russia and a Wolf Pack in Eastern Canada are going to work the same way (mostly). But Russian culture and Canadian culture are quite different in many ways.

While some societies are more stringent on gender roles, others are more liberal about them. One of the reasons this is, is due to technological advancements. Take a look at gender roles in the African Bush and the streets of London and you might begin to understand that technological advancements offer more freedoms to individual roles just given that you don’t have to concern yourself with hauling muddy water a few miles just so your family has something to drink.

But even with technological advancements, old habits die hard and cultural values tend to stick around a lot longer than most people expect. It’s a mighty huge elephant in the room, but biologically speaking, there are certain things that the genders are better suited for. I’m not saying they can’t do something (with the very obvious exception of childbirth), I merely suggesting that it’s easier for certain sexes to accomplish certain tasks.

Having said all of this, I’m still a huge proponent of choice. And given the level of technological advancements and freedoms my country provides, I see no reason to adhere to any gender role the more traditionally minded may have in store for me. Nor do I feel that anyone else should either.

Going back to the thoughts of others, and the presentation that gender roles are a problem, I still have to inquire into the fundamental problem I see associated with the statement; why? Why are gender roles harmful? In actuality; they aren’t. The gender roles aren’t actually the problem when I start seeing other people talk about them. It’s the social expectation to gender roles that is the problem. And that’s a pretty big difference when you sit down to think about it.

Imagine a play; is the role of Othello harmful? Beatrice perhaps? What about a movie; is John McClain harmful? Is the role of the villain harmful? A bit absurd isn’t it? To claim that roles are harmful. How is a stay at home mother harmful? How is a bread-winner harmful?

So again, it’s the social expectation, or as some people put; the utter lack of choice in the matter. There’s a fundamental problem with that assertion though; people have a choice (at least in technologically advanced societies). There are no laws I can fathom that prevent any gender from pursing what they really want. And there is nothing stopping them beyond social pressures.

Where are these social pressures coming from? My family is somewhat religious, I am not. I was raised in a religious household, and I still rejected organized religion. To this day I still receive the odd comment regarding a man sporting longer hair (a very dashing ponytail thank you very much) and as a whole, society still very much supports shorter hair on men than anything else. So there exists a social pressure to conform with the majority preference.

But is majority preference really a problem? When you hear people claim the inherent moral superiority of democracy, you *seriously* have to question the narrative then, since democracy is all about majority preference. Civilization was built because of how it served the majority preference. Kingdoms and countries have come and gone because of the preference of the population. Why is it suddenly bad?

I know the answer; because you don’t share majority preference. And you know what? That’s fine. You don’t have to. In technologically modern countries, you can do whatever the hell you want. You can learn mechanics, go into medicine, build bridges, write poems and learn the funky chicken dance. So what’s stopping you? You’re need for external validation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to be validated as much as the next person; getting compliments is just plain awesome. But do you really expect them? Do you really deserve them? Do you really think that everyone is going to agree?

We live in a world with 7 billion people (give or take). Do you really expect 7 billion people to share your world views? Do you really expect 7 billion people will say you’re smart? You’re beautiful? Do you really think you can control the thoughts and expressions of 7 billion people just to make you feel a little better about your choices?

There are things that I do that I know other people disagree with. I disagree with a lot of things other people do. But I don’t stand in their way, and more often than not, they don’t stand in mine. The world keeps spinning.

But there exist those who believe the world and society needs to change to correct for the roles they feel imprisoned by. Because your mother, or your teacher, or whoever the hell else suggesting it would be better to go into one role over another is terribly oppressive. Sorry; society does not exist to serve the individual need.

The icing on the cake of course is the only solution those who prattle against gender roles can come up with. Well, there are two actually, but one involves removing select choices from the board, so that’s just a hypocritical way to play the game. The more common solution is a social shift to encourage individuals to choose alternative roles.

So… let me get this straight. Your proposal to fix the social pressure to adhere to certain social roles, is to apply social pressure to select a different role? You might dress up the name by calling it encouragement, but you’re still attempting to manipulate the choice another person makes based solely on what you think is best for them. Now you can call me a few tools short of a shed, but that’s the same thing society, your friends and your family do now.

Let me just say, that I just have to laugh when people think they can fix where a tire has a hole, by rotating it.

Sure, there’s a discussion to be had about the rewards society offers, but that’s for another day.

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