Gender roles: We Don’t Have to Choose Sides
Gender roles: We Don’t Have to Choose Sides

It’s marathon season in my part of the country, and with marathon season comes the resuscitation of an image made famous in 1967 when Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston marathon. Women were seen as “too fragile” to run 26.2 miles. Clearly, the person who made that rule had never witnessed child birth.

There isn’t anything wrong with a man who wants to stay home with his kids or a woman who prefers to focus on her career rather than churning out babies and baking pie. There isn’t anything wrong with switching “man” and “woman” in that sentence, either. The problem occurs when people, male or female, are forced into binary roles based solely on their sexual organs.

Women are brought up to be kind. To be accepting, pleasing to look at, not to take up too much space, and to accept, without question or objection, the flattery of men.  Similarly, men must be manly, strong, and brutish, or risk (gasp) being referred to as a girl (or parts of a girl). How absurd is it that the worst thing you can call a man is … a woman? Both sexes have their share of responsibility, and efforts to defeat this construct often seem futile. There are small victories … I hear McDonald’s has stopped calling Happy Meal toys “the boy toy” and “the girl toy,” at least.

The feminist movement, despite whatever nonsense Phyllis Schlafly is spouting off about lately, doesn’t exist to emasculate men, and recognizing women as equally capable, equally intelligent, equally worthy, doesn’t doom the human race to extinction (because successful women won’t ever be able to find a husband, don’t you know – and what other point is there to life?). The goal of the feminist movement (and, by extension, the acceptance that traditional gender roles aren’t always in our best interests) is to right some wrongs and correct some imbalances. The feminist movement exists to give everyone, including men, the opportunity to be ANYTHING, without fear of judgment, ridicule, or violence. Kathrine Switzer didn’t take anything away from men by becoming a marathon runner, any more than Brent Kroeger detracts from motherhood by being a stay-at-home dad.

What we are taught is appropriate feminine behavior and what we know to be inappropriate masculine behavior are two sides of the same coin. Where women must be soft and weak, men are expected to be hard and strong. Men are expected to prove their strength – to women, to other men, to authority figures – from an incredibly young age. There is a distinct correlation between the gender roles tradition condones and the vast inequality that persists in our culture.

This isn’t a feminist problem, or even a women’s problem. This is a cultural and societal problem that prevents our collective advancement as a society. The only solution is to continue to defy gender stereotypes across the board – to stop worrying about what makes a man a man or a woman a woman, and allow ourselves the freedom to choose the antithesis of expectation.



WWW HeadshotAngela is a mother, writer, animal rescuer, and feminist, in varying order depending on the day. She misses having “student” added to the list, but hasn’t quite made the jump to grad school after getting her BA in English not too long ago.  Give it time.  She is a born and raised Kentucky girl, and buys the big bottles of bourbon to support the state’s economy. To give you an idea what she deals with on a daily basis, her boyfriend makes her use Oxford commas, and quibbles ceaselessly with her about punctuation inside quotation marks.  He has not driven her insane yet, but he seems to be trying. Yoga, reading, movies, playing with her neicii, and catching up on decades of TV on Netflix round out her weeks.  
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  1. Angela Koch
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink
    • Well Written Woman
      Posted May 20, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      This is great!

  2. Mary Jo
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Angela! When I was married to a “successful” restaurateur I was always asked…”how can you stand his long hours?” and I would say…”as much as he can stand mine”. The next response was usually…”Oh, you work outside the home?”…gag! I’ll be participating in the Endowment Institute at Yale University this summer.

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