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4 Tutorials that teach Conflict over Gender Role Changes
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Conflict over Gender Role Changes

Conflict over Gender Role Changes

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that uneven changes in a cultures attitudes towards gender roles can be a source of/factor in conflict

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Video Transcription

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We've been talking about gender and how cultures view certain behaviors and traits as appropriate for men or for women. So what happens when these gender roles begin to change? Well, I'm Marlene. And that's a subject I'd like to take up with you today.

So changing gender roles, they do change. And I think we've seen that here in the United States. And we can see changes globally as well.

Gender roles and traits-- you know, what's considered proper, correct, or right-- that's not static. It evolves over time, like any cultural world view. However, gender role change-- the shifts are never instant or are they evenly felt when there are changes.

So a gender role change, for example, like women moving into what have been considered traditionally male roles. There was a huge shift here that started back in the 1960s with the women's movement. Before that in the '50s and even into the '60s, the traditional roles that were considered appropriate for women were teacher, nurse, secretary.

Every girl in school would be prepared to choose what you wanted to be before she got her "Mrs." degree. Because women went to college and it was talked about to get their Mrs. degree, to become a Mrs. And then if they had a career, the choices would be teacher, nurse, secretary, for the most part.

So the women's movement came along in the '60s and changed that. So suddenly you had women who had perhaps been thinking about nursing decided to become doctors. Women who were secretaries thinking, well, perhaps I could be the boss someday. I'll be the manager, the vice president. Who knows? Someday I'll break through the glass ceiling or maybe my daughter will, and I'll be president.

You had women looking even outside of the fields of a professional, white collar jobs, trying to get into blue collar jobs. Women applying to climb the utility poles, do construction work, go into jobs considered totally male fields, like engineering. So this was all happening. And it did cause discomfort. It was asking people to move out of their comfort zone, some people, because these shifts were not evenly felt.

So when you had someone who accepted the change coming up against or working with or perhaps meeting, socializing with someone who would not accepted the change, there could be conflicted. And there was conflict, because these changes ask people to move out of your comfort zone, which is, of course, situations, roles, feelings that people have become accustomed to.

And there were a lot of perceptions out there about what would happen if women moved into these roles. Men would feel the loss of power, loss of privileges. It would be a challenge to the belief.

And there were many women who felt this way that it was perhaps inappropriate to be moving into the work world and leaving the home and the family. It was a challenge to beliefs. So both men and women would feel anxiety.

It caused cognitive dissonance, which is, of course, when you were holding two inconsistent beliefs at the same time. Yes, I can be in the work world. No, this isn't appropriate.

And there is how you handle that cognitive dissonance. Were you able to integrate it or not really had a lot to do with how individuals, as well as society, resolved the conflict. Now, there were conflicts that were resolved.

Some of them took legal action. We have laws that were passed that have said we can't discriminate based on gender. Some of it just took over time. It became more accepted that you would see women moving into managerial roles. You have many women going into the medical field now to become doctors today. You see women doing construction work, and it's not quite the jarring sight that it was at one point.

And, of course, there are still challenges there. For a long time women didn't get equal pay. And just recently have there been some laws passed to change the fact-- although there's still unequal pay in many fields.

Just recently, we've seen women accepted into the military and into combat roles. Women who wanted to be able to do that have not been allowed to do that. And there's still a lot of cognitive dissonance around this decision, to allow women to serve in combat roles in the military.

So the change continues, continues to evolve. And it's easy to forget how it was only 50 years ago in the '60s that much of this began. And then, of course, earlier it began with the vote in the earlier part of the last century. And it went back even before that where women have struggled to step into society and achieve more gender equality.

So we take these things for granted. But change does happen. It's slow. It evolves over time. And when the changes happen, because they're not evenly felt, they can and do lead to conflicts. And how people resolve their own personal cognitive dissonance with what they see happening around them really influences how they will deal with the conflict.

So I've enjoyed being part of this tutorial. And I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
Cognitive Dissonance

A state in which the mind holds two or more incompatible thoughts or beliefs.

Comfort Zone

The range of situations and/or feelings to which a person is accustomed.

Gender Role Change

Changes in gender roles (such as growth of acceptance of women performing traditionally "male" roles) within a given culture.

Gender Roles

Roles considered “right, correct, or proper” for a given gender by a culture.