Updated: May 13
Since the early establishment of man and woman on this planet. There have always been defining roles that each gender has had to fulfill in maintaining day to day life. The evolution of the world and how we operate in society has certainly brought a lot of things into question. One such thing is gender roles. The construct of gender roles is viewed as men forcing women to take on a role they are uncomfortable with. It is also linked to the rhetoric that the bible was written to oppress women.
Now before I get too deep with the article, I would like to share my 2 cents on the topic. Firstly I'm a firm believer in gender roles. I say this because I don't view gender roles as oppression to women. Men and women have different attributes that can complement each other in a healthy romantic relationship. I think problems born as a result of gender roles are because there is a lack of communication.
Secondly, the biggest problem with gender roles, in my opinion, is the link between menial jobs such as domestic work and that women are automatically placed in that role. Outside of this, both men and women seem to not have an issue with gender roles. My view is that independent and successful women aka the modern woman can't fathom doing menial tasks such as domestic work. Imagine you are the CEO of a company but you come home to prepare food for your husband.
My brother once dated a successful engineer. She was top in her respective field and had the lifestyle to show. One day while we were out grabbing something to drink. He casually mentioned to me that his girlfriend didn't want to do menial jobs around the apartment. He felt as if he was attacking her for asking to do such chores. In his opinion, he considered it an attack only because she was independent and successful. My brother didn't have an issue with her success but to her, it seemed like menial jobs like domestic work were beyond her.
The other issue with gender roles is the perceived low value that it places on women. I personally have to admit that whilst I did not grow up in a household that placed low value in women, however, I did see it from my dad's side of the extended family. I saw this retrospectively of course as I began to develop my agency around gender equity issues. Our fathers and their fathers before certainly did not have the agency to recognize women as more than the just caretaker of the house. I grew up in a small Township where I witnessed this kind of thinking from my own family members. Women are only seen as the wife, mother, and caretaker of the house. This is still a cause for tension as men continue to adopt the thinking of their fathers.
This is such a debatable topic in our society so I decided to venture out and get opinions from a few men. I considered the opinion of men because I wanted to gauge what kind of thinking do the men of today have. Do men really still think like their fathers or are men embracing the modern way of thinking?
I have learned that in modern society gender roles are non-applicable simply because the world has evolved. Men do not rule with an iron fist anymore and before activism rose up, a man's word was the law in business and in the household. If a man tried bullshit like that in the modern-day, he would certainly have gender equity feminists tear him apart.
Much like the economy is represented by different classes of the workforce. We have different classes when it comes to the social economy. We have men who still believe in the old way, neutral men, and lastly, men who are pro-feminism. The different classes of men certainly cause an imbalance in the practice of how a man must act.
The modern society proposes that to seek balance, people must forego their identity as a man or woman. We must only identify with our government names. Modern society believes that our problems could be far less if people didn't have to think of themselves as men or women because that way we can remove the stigmas that exist within society.
Stigmas such a real man or real woman only exist because society has set a bar in which a person can qualify for such titles. I was also told that creating a society that does not recognize us as men and women would be beneficial with rewriting our traditions. One of the men I interviewed said that marriage is the biggest installer of gender roles. He is convinced that he is not going to practice lobola when he eventually finds his partner for life. Lobola is one part of his tradition that would he like to rewrite. He believes that in a society where we don't recognize as men or women, there is an opportunity for women to part of the conversation instead of being side-lined.
In my traditional view, gender roles will always exist whilst the man is expected to court a woman. Society has favored the colorful scenes whereby a man professes his love for a woman. This sets in motion a sequence of events that compel the man to prove his love. Men enjoy courting women and as a result, it starts building their self-confidence and egos which down the line is linked to the role he wants to play as a man.
Men and women are not equal and if we're being honest, they will never be. It is foolish to try to compare the two genders in the hopes that one comes out stronger. As mentioned previously that men and women have different attributes. It is firmly established that my mom is much stronger than my dad. She is more vocal, instinctive, and directional than my dad. My dad has his fair share of strengths and charisma. He is authoritative, sound, and concise. This does not result in a show of wits against one another but rather agree on how they want to lead our family. Too much time is spent fighting over who should be the lead and who should be in charge of what. Couples must always exercise their voices in a romantic relationship to avoid landing up with a pile of undesirable expectations.
The first insight from the conversation that I had with gents is that romantic relationships suffer simply because we give too much value to what society says. We allow society to influence our romantic relationships and then exhibit crocodile tears when things go wrong.
The second insight I got is that a man must find a woman who will understand his views and vice versa. Don't take a person who does not enjoy cooking and then force them to cook every day – be happy with the fact that you might have to eat takeaway every day or enlist the services of a helper.
It doesn't matter whether you believe in gender roles or not, it matters that you communicate with your partner. We are complicated people and we can't always have a black and white approach. Always do your best to manage expectations within your relationship.
I only believe in gender roles because of how my mother is raising me. She possesses great strength but is humble and respectful towards my dad. My mom distinctively refers to my dad as the head of the family and my dad refers to my mom as the neck. She straight up told me that there are certain things a must man does for his family. It's not that women can't do it but it's because it is attractive to see men care for their families.
As the head of the family, you have a certain role to play as the man of the house. Now I'm not going to spill out my dad's role but I know that gender role is not a bad thing. It really does matter who you decide to spend your life with.
My dad has certainly grown in the last 5 years. He is no longer self-centered and prideful as found in most Zulu men. He has adapted to my mom's career taking off. He can clean the house and cook a meal for himself. The change in his behavior has proven to me that people can modify their beliefs. We just need the right motivation.
Edited by: Khuleko Siwele