Before discussing Gender Roles, we need to first understand what it means.
‘’Gender roles are learned behaviours by a person as appropriate to their gender, determined by the prevailing cultural norms’’.
Gender is not an easy conversation to have, it makes people uncomfortable. As thinking of changing the status quo is always uncomfortable.
Gender roles determine how males and females should think, speak, dress and interact within the context of the society. They are adopted during childhood and normally continue into adulthood. At home, people have certain presumptions about decision making, child-rearing practices, financial responsibilities, and so forth. At work, the presumptions are about power, labour, position and organizational structures.
Gender roles influence men and women in almost every aspect of life. The differences between the sexes both real and imagined, are used as a means to justify their existence. Gender inequality arises, from these perceived differences. This has not helped our society, where we raise boys to be providers, stoic, uncompromising and demanding. Whereas we raise girls to be submissive, passive and to cater to a man’s needs.
This has led to expectations where the man always pays the bills, purely because he is male. This is why we tend to have more male robbers and kidnappers, because of the pressure society places on men to provide. It is the reason why single women are constantly under pressure to find a husband, to provide for her and validate her existence as a woman.
In my case, I hated cooking. Not because of a lack of skill, but purely because I just did not enjoy it. I preferred to clean and wash, this was still not enough. I was criticised by society, they said I was not homely, that I was not good wife material. They also added that ‘’every woman’s primary responsibility, is to cook and enjoy doing it’’. At a tender age I was annoyingly asked “Who will cook for your husband if you don’t?’’. Who is this mystical husband and what is wrong with his two hands and two legs that he can’t cook for himself?
I could not and would not pretend, to like cooking when I did not. However, this is not the case for all women. Who often shrink themselves, silence their desires, hide their thoughts and become ‘women who turn pretence into an art form’. One of the greatest disservice gender roles has on our society today.
Gender roles can dismantle marriages, relationships et al. I know of a lady who disliked cooking. However, she pretended to enjoy it during her courtship, up until she got married. She was taught that every woman especially ‘’Good wife material’’ must know how to cook and enjoy doing so. Once she entered her marital home, the pretence dropped as she got tired of pretending. Her husband and his family started complaining that she had changed because she couldn’t continue pretending.
‘’The problem with Gender Roles is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognising how we are’’. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
I urge you to start seeing gender differently, let’s unlearn the idea of gender roles, we should be our true individual selves without the weight of gender roles.
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