There is an obvious difference between a man and a woman, but it goes even deeper than biology and chromosomes. Men and woman are often seen as polar opposites, but when the genetics and physiology are set aside, the difference between masculinity and femininity is less clear. Aaron H. Devor wrote in his 1989 article, Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender, that due to the structure of American society, “masculinity thus becomes ‘innately’ valuable and femininity serves a contrapuntal function to delineate and magnify the hierarchical dominance of masculinity” (430). Devor describes the role of femininity in current society as merely a way to put the value and superiority of masculinity into perspective. Devor goes as far to say that due to the current state of the American social structure, men and women are entirely separate beings. Assuming that Devor’s claim is indeed true, then the inverse can be said about masculinity; that masculinity exists only to provide a point of reference to define femininity.
Masculinity can be defined in many ways, every culture since the beginning of time has had a different view of masculinity, yet in America, the most common persona of masculinity is a man who provides for his family and takes care of his wife. Femininity, on the other hand, has, for whatever reason, had a somewhat less prestigious set of duties: cooking, cleaning, and otherwise caring for the household. It is the classic cliché of the situational comedies of the 1970’s where the man of the house would come home from a long day of work, and be greeted by a hot dinner prepared by his wife.
Imagine the same scene, but reverse the roles of the man and his wife. Many Americans, especially ones of the older generations, would find this appalling and wrong. “In no country has such constant care been taken as in America to trace two clearly distinct lines of action for the two sexes, and to make them keep pace one with the other, but in two pathways which are always different” (Tocqueville 418). There is an evident line between male and female; from the obvious, such as separate restrooms, to the subliminal messages aimed to interest the subconscious of a certain sex. When the gender roles in a situation like those of the sitcoms of the 1970’s are reversed, our schema for gender identity is challenged. This can cause unrest, and in some, it may even go as far as to dismiss the idea of men and women having equal roles and identities completely.
In the past generations, it was the norm for the woman of the household to stay home and care for the house and children all day while her husband was at work. In some cultures this is still true to this day. Woman had the task of washing the clothes and cleaning the house, as well as preparing and cooking all of the meals for the household. They would discipline and teach the young children the skills they would need later on in their lives. But due to the current state of the...