Defining what it means to be male and female at the present century is not easy. Modern society has witnessed drastic changes in social roles of males and females, as well as in their psychological and moral development. Earlier, women used to be only caregivers, while men, who were stronger emotionally and physically, were the breadwinners. Consequently, their moral development took place with regards to these beliefs and stereotypes. The modern world, however, has changed these perceptions and stereotypes, which involved certain changes in male and female moral judgment. This paper is going to consider how the roles of men and women in the society have changed over the past several decades and how it is related to the change in their moral judgment and, consequently attitude towards life1.
Defining gender roles within the society has always been difficult. The matter is that there are a number of cultures in the world and each of them has its own attitude towards the roles of men and women in the society. The reason behind this is not only the rate of development of a particular country, despite the common idea that the chances of a woman to become more independent are higher in a developed country.
These roles depend more often on social, religious, and even political factors that shape the society’s attitudes towards men and women. Additionally, moral development and moral reasoning also contribute much into the role differences of males and females; the matter is that men’s and women’s constructions of problems differ much namely due to their differences in moral judgment (Gilligan, 1982). Compared with the beginning of the 20th century, the role of men and women in the modern society has changed; at present, being female means being an independent person able to build a career in any sphere of human activities, while being male presupposes that a person is free in choosing between male and female occupations, as well as male and female ways of life.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the roles of males and females in the society could be defined easily. The majority of the families followed a patriarchal model which presupposed male dominance in the family (Hakim, 2004). A man was viewed as a breadwinner and, consequently, as the one who established rules in the family. Being a male back then consisted in supporting the family financially and being the head of the family.
It was rarely that serious decisions regarding the family life were taken without the man’s participation in the decision-making process. Moreover, it was namely the word of the man that had the greatest power in the family. As far as women were concerned, they were judged with regards to their ability to care for the others: “Women’s place in man’s lifecycle has been that of nurturer, caretaker, and helpmate, the weaver of those networks of relationships on which she in turn relies” (Gilligan, 1982, p. 17). Such distribution of roles could be observed all over the world, irrespective of ethnicity or religious convictions. Nevertheless, closer to the middle of the 20th century the situation started changing drastically.
It is interesting, that the modern world has mixed male and female roles so much that it is hardly possible to state what being male or female consists in. Emancipation movements turned out to be so powerful that it is difficult to believe in women’s natural weakness. Modern females are of no comparison to those submissive individuals that they used to be only several decades ago. Each of them is currently striving for independence and equality and each knows her rights well.
There are no job positions that females are forbidden to take. Together with the right for education in any educational establishment, women have obtained the right to apply for the positions that were considered purely male earlier. A woman in military is of no surprise for the society and female military pilots have stopped being a wonder since the 1970s when first women began their training in the nation’s elite service academies (Strebe, 2007).
However, for most of females, concern with relationships still remains natural because of their moral development and, above all, the fact that “the importance of intimacy, relationships, and care is something that women have known from the beginning” (Gilligan, 1982, p. 17). It is just that some of them subconsciously fight with this knowledge in their struggle for independence. Thus, today, being female means being not afraid to reach one’s goals, no matter how absurd they may be, as well as constant choosing between the family, their natural calling, and the career in the desire to show that balancing between these two is possible, and being ready to struggle because women are doomed to eternal proving that they are not weaker or less successful than men.
Finally, the role of the men in the society has also undergone tangible changes. Being male does not anymore assume that an individual is a breadwinner, that he is family-oriented and is able to support his family financially at all. This, however, does not mean that being male became easier. Instead, it presupposes that men are now freer in choosing what they want from life. Getting married is not obligatory to feel one’s masculinity in the 21st century.
Nor it is necessary to work hard to earn money anymore. Males, just like females, became less restricted in choosing jobs and careers. This has led to the increase of the number of men in those professions that once used to be only for the women. More and more men now work as cooks, models, nurses, and even baby-sitters. What is the most interesting is that they are no less successful in these professions than women. These all has entailed changes in male character as such. Since women have overtaken a number of male responsibilities, they have also acquired male character features, which made it unnecessary for males to exhibit courage, intrepidity, and fortitude to seem attractive.
Independent and self-confident women make more and more men weaker both physically and emotionally. This means that modern male’s moral judgment has undergone certain changes and, in case with some individuals, became extremely close to females’ moral judgment. Therefore, being male in the present century means being oneself; men can display courage if they wish, but they are also not afraid of seeming feeble if this is how they feel.
In sum, it cannot be stated that roles of males and females in the modern society are absolutely opposite to what they used to be several decades ago. With women getting independence from men, they also got equal opportunities with them with regards to education and career building. Males, at this, have lost some portion of their masculinity and now are not ashamed of displaying some female features of their character. This testifies to the fact that certain changes have taken place in the moral judgment of modern males and females. This, however, does not mean that males and females shifted their places in the society.
Women are still mothers above all, no matter how much some of them try to deny it. Similarly, men are the protectors, because, no matter how weak a man may be physically, he is still stronger than a woman. So, today being female or being male is simply being free in the expression of one’s desires and abilities to be what one wishes to be.
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: psychological theory and women’s development. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Hakim, C. (2004). Models of the family in modern societies: Ideals and realities. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
Strebe, A.G. (2007). Flying for her country: The American and Soviet women military pilots of World War II. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group.