When analyzing gender roles in our age today, we are less likely to see the striking differences in the characteristics of men and women as they were portrayed let’s say thirty years ago. However, a strong sense of Androcentricity still remains in not only our society but is stronger than ever in other societies around the world. From the beginning of time, from what we’ve learned in textbooks, television, and other sources of media, of course, the male figure has always been portrayed as powerful, the decision-maker, and the head of the household.
When we think of prehistoric times, for instance, I could almost bet that mental picture of a caveman dragging a woman by the hair is embedded somewhere in the minds of many people of many ages around the world. Not only has this image been handed down to us but has also been part of our society and the world’s for probably centuries. This is just a small example of how the male and female genders are and have been portrayed for hundreds of years. The male, always strong and in command of the woman, is a role which has faded drastically but still leaves an impression when we analyze certain aspects of our society today.
Since birth, we are already placed in our roles of male or female. The little baby boy, ninety percent of the time being wrapped in a blue blanket as soon as he leaves his mother’s womb, and the little baby girl wrapped up in a pink blanket. This identification of color not only initializes the socialization process between both genders but also follows both males and females throughout their whole lives. Throughout childhood many things account for the gender roles we are placed into, such as the gifts we receive on our birthdays or the activities that we are encouraged to participate in.
As a boy, I remember always wanting such things as action figures, toy guns, toy cars, and things of that nature for my birthday or for Christmas. I wasn’t born liking those things, but these are the things that I was taught little boys are supposed to like, if not by the media then by friends or family. This could be very well the reason why many men join the armed forces, feel some weird familiarity with guns and weapons, or often times feel they should be the ones driving the car as opposed to the woman having control of the vehicle.
These symbols of power which are etched into men’s minds from day one, are a big part in the shaping of the rest of their lives. I also remember the presents my sisters would receive on special occasions, which consisted of dolls, toy vanity sets, or tea and kitchen sets. One could say that giving a little girl a doll could be a symbol of motherhood, to prepare her for the future and the vanity set to emphasize the need to stay beautiful. These symbols also play a big role in how the life of a woman develops and is shaped.
Another factor that plays a big role in gender identity and roles is our educational system and what we are taught. From the time we are in elementary school we learn about all these great historical figures in the fields of Science, Literature, and History and all their great discoveries and achievements. The majority of the discoveries and achievements highlighted are by the men and every so often throughout the book some great achievement is mentioned that highlights a historical female figure. This pattern of education was handcrafted hundreds of years ago and is still implemented in our schools today.
Of course much has changed and today many women are recognized for outstanding achievements and honors, even to the point where some researchers in fields such as Sociology limit their research strictly to the lives of women. Such research is labeled as “feminist” and in the field of sociology is known as gynocentricity, or seeing the world from a female perspective. But as stated in Macionis’ Sociology textbook, in a society so male-dominated as our own there is less chance that this type of research would arise on frequent occasions.