Traditional gender roles prevail through 21st century

February 12, 2008 — by Alicia Lee

Like many of my classmates, I dread reading the assigned books for English class. Agonizing hours spent hunched over a small book isn’t how I like to spend my time. However, after reading Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew for English 10, I was left with a totally different state of mind. Rather than the anticipated bore, this play actually opened my eyes to an entirely new view on gender statuses.

In the past, women played the damsel in distress, while men came across as strong, bold characters. Yet these outdated views still exist in today’s world. Modern day thinking has left me with only a slight twist on those old stereotypes.

Cracking traditional gender roles has always been a tough issue to handle. Although society has embraced total role changes in the new view of the world, stereotyping is still apparent everywhere, particularly with women being viewed as the weaker
gender. Whether it’s shown in advertisements or at school, society seems prone to reverting back to old gender labels.

Let’s take a cleaning product commercial as an example. I’m watching my favorite re-runs of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch when lo and behold a woman comes onto the screen with a sponge and soap. Women are practically always the ones featured cleaning up after a trail of messes left by a toddler, two teens and the irresponsible husband. Being a girl, I find it uncomfortable to watch a fellow sister, gloves on and detergent in hand, ready to attack the growing mildew in the bathroom. By discriminating against women like this, advertisements make females the targets for domestic-related products in the eyes of the public.

Even school clubs also show examples of stereotyping through the participation of students. Walking into a room during a club meeting, I usually find a crowd that is predominantly one gender. There’s Culinary Club with a majority of female members and Robotics Club with mainly males. Girls are still involved in more domestic activities, even at school, where students should be learning about equality. If boys and girls joined activities out of their comfort zone, the school would encourage the development of a more varied environment.

Even worse, stereotyping occurs in a classroom setting as well. Girls are more likely to be scribes for the class or to help clean the room, while boys do the heavy work like moving desks around and dumping trash. In my experience, I find that some teachers automatically assume that girls are fragile and not good candidates for the “laborious” work. Even if some muscle-man boys think they have the strength to lift a four-pound recycling basket into a bin, it doesn’t mean a girl can’t do it either.

Reading Taming of the Shrew allows us the chance to tackle the traditional gender roles that are displayed in society and at school. Observing the character’s personalities throughout the play, students find that the stereotypes during Shakespeare’s time are generally reckoned with a dominating husband and the soft-spoken wife. Shakespeare wrote his play in the 16th century, but looking around, I find that these same stereotypes still exist today. Society should have abandoned those stereotypes already.

I might sound like the average feminist screaming girl power at the top of my lungs, but this isn’t what I’m pushing for. I simply want society to be aware of this social taboo. After all, men should do their fair share of bathroom cleaning, too.

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