Essay Question 1:
Western researchers and academics like to believe that there is a mostly consistent definition of the roles of mother and father within societies. This gives an easy set of touchstones for them to draw comparisons when they are studying different cultures’ ways of parenting, or when they are studying different social and cultural effects that they believe can be tied to alternative parenting roles. While it may be an accurate assumption that cultures have a mostly-consistent set of roles for mother and father, the degree of consistency of that role among individual parents has weakened over the past few decades. In some cases, different cultures have entirely different concepts of these roles and they exist within a cultural framework of the family that is unique to that culture. What are some of those different mother/father roles that exist in western cultures and non-western cultures, and what are the reasons for these alternate definitions of these roles? Without going to extreme examples of remote tribal villages where some demand for boys over girls is so great that there a few motherly influences or some Amazonian-like culture that is largely an aberration, this essay will try to examine real alternate roles within larger functioning societies.
In “Beyond Gender Roles?” by MW Warner, RM Al-Hassan and JG Kydd, the authors identify parental status as a legitimate social and cultural distinction worthy of elevated status. This is because the society values the role of parents in a functional way, not merely as gender-driven. Parental status is like age and seniority – there is an inherent value in people with those roles for the stabilization and productiveness of a culture’s own health and well-being (MW Warner, 2002).
Because it takes two people for one person to become a parent, and because both of those people and society have an assumed interest in the welfare of the child, even if that interest is not always followed through, it is natural that the elevation of the parent in society would lead to the establishment of approved or expected behaviors and qualities of mother and father. This is the origin of society’s establishment of roles for them. The question is the degree to which these roles are influenced by biology or social pressures and standards.
Assuming that mothers are most capable at nurturing and have a biological disposition to emotional comfort, it is natural for society to emphasize those traits and allow a woman to be what is traditionally assumed to be the “caregiver” role. A man’s lesser emotional attachment and more critical nature along with a tendency to under-appreciate sensitivities and emphasize development in skills for independence, it is also natural for the society to make allowances for men to fill the role more suited to him by nature. However, the assumption that men and women are generally of that biological makeup is a tenuous assumptions. One would not look at a...