The description of gender equality has received many definitions and has been equally misunderstood. It is during the 50th anniversary of Belly Friedan's The Feminine Mystique bestseller book that the issue of gender equality has been revisited. The book is accredited for championing women's movement in the 1960's. Gender equality is a term that has been assumed to be synonymous with women's rights. This is a result of the general view that women have been discriminated from the social and cultural aspects of life while men have been seen as dominating in the society. Each culture and society defined certain qualities and characteristics associated with each gender, whether male or female. The communities have continued passing the practice over generations. Many people and social rights group have been fighting for gender equality. Their main focus is giving women equality at the place of work and, encouraging women take up positions.
The campaign dates back to 1960's, where a survey indicated that 66% of Americans did not believe that gender equality could be achieved or at least desirable. As late as in the 70's, about two-thirds of Americans bore the opinion that it was best for men to be the breadwinners whilst women carried out the home chores and child rearing. By 1994, this notion has dwindled as the revolution for equality in gender role rose. Women took to the workplace but in the early 2000, the equality revolution started stalling.
According to the statistics recorded in the New York Times, the period from 1994 to 2004 marked an increase from 34% to 40% of Americans who believed that the man was responsible of providing for the family while the females were to take care of the homes. The period between 1997 and 2007 saw an increase of mothers on full-time employment that preferred to work part time, from 48 to 60 percent. Of the mothers who stayed at home, only 25 percent would prefer working full time and this percentage dropped to 16 percent by 2007. From the statistical data, it shows that a stall occurred in the gender equality movement. The rest of this paper would examine the reasons for the stall.
In the past, the progress of gender equality stalled mostly due to personality and behavior related cause. The attitudes of American society back in the 60's and 70's, were that women were better off minding the home whilst men, who are more physical and masculine, should work and bring home financial support. The progress of gender equality stalling today is being caused by structural barriers that prevent individuals from achieving their targets. Work related regulations have offered limited choices from which one is required to work within without necessarily reflecting on their believes.
Americans who lived eighty years ago had to work only thirty hours per week. In 1938, a bill was passed that increased this to forty hours per week. Today, people in professional jobs have to work fifty hours a week. For average dual earners, eighty-two hours a week must be clocked and for low income earning couples, a whooping hundred hours a week or more must be clocked. In fact, in the past twenty years, America has failed to pass any bill that would help its citizens balance family and work demands. For nursing mothers, grieving employees or those facing trauma, there is no proper provision to help them balance this situation with their work.
The cumulative slow progress in gender equality has created distinct roles between the genders today. Despite the success of the feministic movement in introducing women to the work force, men have continued to attract better pay and positions of influence than women. Sociologists have made observations that men can provide child care just as good as women do. Men have been observed to maintain their social status even after divorce while women are affected greatly when they divorce.
Gender equality has remained to be an elusive issue emanating from the fact that it is a part of the social structure. Despite the few success stories of women who have risen to very high government position, the majority of women are yet to realize the fruits of gender equality. As some women rise to high positions including being CEO's of companies, others are contented with the status quo. The ideas of masculinity still persist, although the concept of women being home and men being the breadwinner is slowly fading. There is the need, therefore, for an affirmative action to be undertaken to promote gender equity right from the family set up which will eventually transform the social structure and bring to fruition gender equality.
Coontz, S. (2013). Why gender equality stalled. New York Times, SR1.