Gender has had a huge influence on the future of men and women since the beginning of times, and in many ways it also influenced the choice of profession, hobbies, and habits. Due to certain expectations society has of males and females, they are often forced into some predetermined roles they do not always want to play. This paper will attempt to show gender issues in the modern society with the help of a scavenger hunt. The gender division and stereotypes related to men and women will be analyzed with the help of the found objects.
The first found object was a question from an exam. It was, “Which of the professions are predominately male in nature, and which are predominantly female?” In fact, this question may be considered sexist because it basically ousts women from professions like mechanic, pilot, builder, miner, and logger, and simultaneously bans men from becoming babysitters, hair stylists, nurses, secretaries, and cosmetologists. However, the gender division assumed by this question should not be viewed as a rule to follow in the future job search. In the last twenty years there has been a shift towards gender integration in the workplace – men and women working side by side at the same level in the same occupation. At the moment women are getting involved in formerly all-male occupations and vice versa (Maccoby, 1998).
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The second thing to be mentioned was a magazine advertisement where a woman is significantly taller than man (Winter, 2014). This may be viewed as an irregularity by some people, especially because of sexual dimorphism – term that explains physical differences between male and female organisms. Typical difference in proportions would be that women have smaller heads and shorter legs. Therefore, a picture where a man is shorter than a woman causes some sort of cognitive dissonance. In addition, the height of a man has both cultural and sociological meaning. Males are considered to be protectors and leaders, and that is why they have to exhibit certain outer characteristics which would represent their superiority. Since the beginning of times men were ascribed such characteristics as bravery, strength, and physical power. If a man looks weaker than a woman in the picture, more feminine characteristics may start being associated with him. Thus, it is inherently offensive for the majority of men to be described as if they are women as it points to their inferior status.
The third found thing was a wedding announcement that lists the groom’s parents first. It is a rather unusual situation because traditionally this place was reserved for bride’s mother and father. Roles of groom’s and bride’s parents have differed significantly since the beginning of times. Bride’s mother and father were the ones obliged to pay the majority of the expenses (Stewart, 2001). Even nowadays they are usually responsible for financing bride’s guests lodging, flowers, reception costs, photography and videography, music for the church, transportation, wedding planner, and wedding dress costs. Groom’s family traditional expenses are less of a burden. They are responsible only for rings, grooms attire, rehearsal dinner costs, transportation, and lodging of groom’s family and groomsmen. It may seem traditionally important to put bride’s parents first on invitation because in all respects they are the host and the hostess of the wedding reception. Therefore, their names have historically gone to the top of the list because of their role in welcoming and ensuring comfort of guests (Stewart, 2001).
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The fourth discovered object related to gender issues was a table of contents from a men’s magazine “Esquire” listing an article entitled “How to break up with a woman” (Chiarella, 2010). This sort of reading material may seem to be a rare occurrence in male magazines compared to female magazines. It is obvious that the majority of topics mentioned in “Cosmopolitan” and “Vanity Fair” may not be applicable for “Men’s Health” and “Esquire” because of target audience difference. If writer wants to attract attention of guys, it is vital to stick to five hot-button themes: movies, sports, adventure, sex, and cars. The article with the title mentioned above seems to be tapping into the emotional side of male psycho, and this is usually perceived not very well. In fact, more often writers for male magazines have to dismiss men as the feeling-less gender. Because of the way boys are being brought up from the early childhood, their ability to deal with emotions is systematically ignored and undermined. Due to the fact that men are not adept at expressing their emotions, they may either ignore articles of emotionally loaded content or hide the fact that they are reading these sorts of things.
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The fifth located thing was a birthday card for a father that has flowers on it (Birthday card from daughter, 2013). Greeting cards for men usually have different picture content from the ones aimed at mothers. They may have either typically male content like superheroes, awards, ties, tools, cars, and moustache, or neutral themes like cake with candles and balloons, father hugging a child, or whole family together in one picture. Floral elements are usually employed to describe various attributes of femininity or female sexuality. In the past men used flowers as a method of communication where words were not enough or allowed. Bouquets of roses, tulips, daisies, lilies, orchids, and many others served a purpose to represent emotions, wishes, and thoughts. Certain flowers also symbolized specific feminine virtues. Therefore, it would be highly unusual to see flowers on greeting cards for men. More common would be depiction of some outdoor activities like gold or fishing because these are typical male hobbies. Another usual picture in greeting cards for men may be a pheasant. It is an important symbol of nobility, power, protection, and sexuality that is why it is associated with masculine gender.
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The sixth thing to be found was a table of contents from a men’s magazine listing a child raising article. It is not a typical occurrence because females have always been the ones responsible for bringing up and educating children. The title of the article is “Raise kids like a man”, and it deals with the rules of fatherhood for stay-at-home-dads (Wisdomkids, 2010). Throughout history it was mothers’ primary responsibility to take care of the children while fathers were busy outside the home earning a living. The most probable reason for that is that women are better at communication with kids, and they are less aggressive by nature. Even in more remote periods in history men hunted and fought, while girls knew how to nurture and support the young ones. Child raising article in a male magazine may be offensive to some men and even may seem to be emasculating to some extent. Thus, the presumption that man has to fulfill historically established feminine role may be humiliating and therefore unpleasant to read.
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The seventh object to be located was an article about a heterosexual couple Joel and Julia from the TV show “Parenthood” who are an example of progressive husband and wife (Goudreau, 2010). This series portrays the life of Joel as a caring stay-at-home-dad with nurturing nature and Julia who is a respected and career-driven lawyer. Such kind of relationship sends a very powerful message about gender roles and their flexibility in the modern society. Even though both husband and wife make mistakes in the process of learning how to be great parents, they still continue performing nonstandard roles for their genders (Goudreau, 2010). It is important to point out that in our modern society many couples develop an understanding of who does what in a relationship. It is especially topical in the situation of global economic recession that made a lot of men unemployed. Some of them become stay-at-home-dads because of this sort of situation and therefore struggle with their masculinity as they are not sole breadwinners anymore. However, they understand that currently this is what is needed for the family’s well-being and that is why adept to changes in a flexible way.
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The eighth and final thing found was an article about gendered drinks from “Esquire” magazine (O’Neil, 2014). Even though many pieces of evidence suggest that drinking practices of men and women converged, alcohol related behavior is still very different in two genders. Nevertheless, why do many people still insist on believing that there are two categories of alcohol beverages – “girly drinks” and “male drinks”? The common stereotype states that females usually choose sweet and colorful cocktails in small portions while males prefer strong and bitter drinks in much bigger quantities (O’Neil, 2014). Such gender-biased choice is motivated by the fact that women are weaker and tend to become intoxicated earlier while men can drink much more and still be strong enough to get home without any assistance and protect themselves in case of upcoming danger. This type of thinking is slowly declining as many women make whiskey or rum their drink of choice and some men start giving preferences to colorful, sweet drinks. Such a change in drinking habits points to the gradual disappearance of gender stereotypes and further progressive development of the society into a gender neutral one.
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In conclusion, contemporary society is still extremely divided due to the gender issue. There are people who still consider men and women to have completely different roles, but there are also individuals who think in the opposite way. The items found during the scavenger hunt serve as a proof that even though some part of society lives by old rules and follows outdated stereotypes in gender issues, there are also individuals who are progressive and challenge similarly predetermined roles ascribed to men and women.