Although gender inequality has been an issue of concern since prehistoric times, it has remained unaddressed due to the socioeconomic status of women. Women have had little, if any, social and economic security, which made them dependence on men to solve most of their problems. Traditionally, men were the breadwinners and source of security for the family. On the hand, societal settings restricted women’s role solely within the homestead. Overtime, as women gained access to the resources that uplifted their socioeconomic status, controversies regarding gender equality started to emerge with both conservatives and liberalists expressing their concerns on the possible reversal of gender roles. An analysis of the trend in gender roles from the 19th century to the 20th century illustrates the revolution that gender roles have undergone.
In the 19th century, women’s role lay solely within the scope of the family unit. In this regard, they participated in matter relating to motherhood and caregivers in families. On the other hand, men were the breadwinners, decision makers and guardians of the family. The issue of marriage was largely the responsibility of men as the society tagged women as objects in a marriage. Since the society expected women to operate within the narrow scope of the family unit, they did not have the time and access to the resources that would allow them to exploit their goals and aspirations in various socioeconomic aspects (Worell 2001, pp. 593). In addition, this societal setting ensured that public culture focused on men with little attention given to women. The society regarded educations to be important to men since they needed skills and expertise to serve their role as breadwinners. Thus, the 19th century was a period in which women had little chances of nurturing their ambitions fully as the society had created a platform that only recognized the need for successfully men in the society.
Emergence of Modernism
In the 20th century emergence of modernism the shift away from the traditional settings that justified the need to maintain the distinction between men and women’s roles in the society. In addition, urbanization and industrialization, which created the demand for workers in industries and farms leading to the employment of many women and children significantly, changed the previously held notion that women could not survive in the environments of hardships as they could withstand heavy physical work just like male workers (Mackey et al. 2000, pp. 231). Modernization, urbanization and industrialization gave women an opportunity to exploit talents, learn new skills and change their economic status. However, despite these new developments, discrimination against women did not cease with marriage decisions remaining a responsibility of men. In addition, household chores remained the responsibility of women. Furthermore, despite the expansion in the education sector, recruiters largely focused on the boys. Although a few women succeeded to enroll in institutions of learning, the greatest percentage stayed at home making themselves to remain largely dependent on men.
The 21st century has witnessed significant changes in gender roles with most responsibilities previously categorized as gender sensitive becoming cross gender. This has largely resulted due to the rising economic responsibilities, which have rendered the role of man as the breadwinner incapacitated. In this regard, the society has accepted the need to empower women through education to become individuals who can make useful contributions in the economy (Scott et al. 2010, pp. 73). Education has opened the opportunities for women giving them an equal chance to compete with men. Male chauvinism witnessed in the 19th and 20th centuries describing household chores as purely the responsibility of women has ended with family members, irrespective of the gender, sharing household responsibilities. Marriage decisions in the 21st century have become an issue of negotiation between partners, rather than the sole responsibility of the men.