[The following is excerpted from a group text I’m engaged in with my new friends in NYC. I met them after I started working at Accenture.]

Alice: I’m interested to find out or at least try to find out where this whole “men are better than women” thing started. I’m pretty sure we will never find out exactly when and where it all started but I would love to look into what triggered men into thinking we are these irrational, thin-skinned, whiny child-bearers.

Jinyu: I don’t think it’s their fault that they think this way. Our thoughts and beliefs* come from the environment we live in. The female stereotype/expectation had been around for a long time and it takes time and effort to change it. Not all men nowadays think this way. I want to say that generally men with higher education tend to be more open-minded on*(?) gender roles,* but of course that’s not always the case. But I think education definitely helps.

CY: I don’t have a direct answer to your question, but I think there are a lot of sub-research questions embedded in these general statements:
HISTORY: when and where did the gender split happen?
There’s no clear-cut, definitive answer to that question because sexism has been different throughout the ages. A few years ago, we didn’t all have smartphones, so no girl could imagine being an app developer. But I saw an article saying that the “digital revolution” might be the change that helps close the gender gap faster in technology than in other industries as long as women aren’t shut out of opportunities to learn to code and work in tech. Ten to twenty years ago, women (our moms) were already having children later than their moms were having children, and the era of the modern working mom brought with it a set of issues (the pay gap being the most obvious one). Half a century ago, women were the first computer scientists and were a vital part of the American workforce during the war era when their husbands and sons were fighting abroad. They didn’t just stay home and act scared and cry for their men, they worked and built up the economy to the greatest GDP growth rate the world had ever seen by that point. Then their husbands came back and they were fired in troves and became housewives in troves and the government and the media had to convince them to be happy as a housewife, to buy the products they didn’t need to become bakers in the kitchen and dinner party hostesses for their neighbors. I haven’t watched that many movies from the 1950s, but I would be interested in watching them to study the gender stereotypes that were portrayed at that time. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the stereotypes portrayed in the movies were completely false and contrary to our grandmother’s actual experiences. Even if the Asian experience was different than the American/Western experience, I still don’t believe that we have a full understanding of the “housewife” without more research.
The WWI/WWII and postwar era of is most interesting to me, but I’m sure if you wanted to study ancient Asia and ancient Greece/Rome and the gender roles from centuries ago, you’d find a lot of stories. For example, my friend wrote her thesis on eunuchs in ancient China and how they actually weren’t considered feminine for their emasculation until later in the Qing dynasty. I don’t remember the details, but the idea is that a lot of the misconceptions we hold about people and people groups come from political/economic changes
POLITICS/ECONOMICS: why are women considered “thin-skinned”?
Women are physically weaker than men, but I don’t think that’s even half of the story of why we’re considered weaker. Insofar as I agree with Jinyu’s assessment that men’s perspectives have developed to be more equal and women have also recently been more empowered, I think anyone who contributes to the narrative that women are still weaker/less able to do certain work has been brainwashed to perpetuate this falsehood. I am actual part of the problem when I diminish myself and my self-worth. Yes, I think it’s ok to ask a guy friend to help you move furniture when you’re moving. No, I don’t think it’s ok to call a guy friend for help every time you don’t know how to do something or don’t want to lift a finger. Again, it’s something I’m guilty of, and some girls might say it’s ok if it’s consensual–but I think the truth is that girls are taking advantage of the gender imbalance since we haven’t reached true equality yet.
FEMALE EMOTIONAL RESPONSE/SOCIAL BEHAVIOR: why are women considered “whiny”?
Without pointing fingers, is it possible for us to assess and examine female behavior that’s considered “dumb,” “bitchy,” “whiny,” “emotional,” girly,” (as if that’s a bad thing) “effeminate,” “irrational”?
BIOLOGY: how does the fact that females are the child-bearers in our species affect female decision-making as well as how we’re regarded?
ETHICS/EDUCATION: whose fault is it?
Again, without pointing fingers, what are changes that could make our world a better place for all people?
Advertisements