Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Symbolic Interactionism and Gender Roles in the Marriage

We've talked quite a bit about the way traditional gender roles have changed since the dawn of the industrial age. The changes have become even more marked since the 1960s and 70s. Most of the statistics we've seen continue to show that although women have moved from their traditional role in the household to the workplace, the reverse of this is not taking place. Men are not doing more of the household work to take up the slack. Figure 12.1 in Henslin shows there distinct differences is the amount of house work Husbands and Wives do. A Chart from the Department of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2010/ted_20100629.htm) Further breaks household labor down and shows that although men do work around the house most of it is work that does not involve daily labor. Clearly there is a problem taking place in the family that is resulting in an inequality of labor.
Symbolic Interactionism is particularly useful when examining this issue. As we know, Symbolic Interactionism looks that the way things are perceived to be in a society. I.E. The symbol of mother rather then father, or the symbol of worker rather then owner. The way people understand these 'symbols' is critical to understanding how society functions. The symbols within a marriage particularly related to the type of work husbands and wives traditionally did is an important starting point. Men traditionally either worked in the fields (pre-industrial age) or labored somewhere else returning home with money to support the family, while women stayed at home, raised the children, cooked the food, and cleaned the house. These represent the traditional symbols of husband and wife. However, the actual tasks that men and women do in the modern age are different. Now it is common for both husband and wife to work. Yet as we see from the aforementioned statistics the symbols of women's work have not changed to meet the new age. Men continue to avoid doing task such as cooking and cleaning. This inequality, is having an impact on the family and it is mostly negative. With higher divorce rates, there is a direct correlation between the way we view the roles in a marriage/family and the overall health of said family. Clearly the way we currently view the gender roles and responsibilities within a marriage needs to change. The stigmas held about men doing things that were traditionally women's need to be removed.

1 comment:

  1. This is quite interesting. Symbolic interactionism is especially relevant to the understanding of how symbols define roles and therefore restrain and stifle protest by the unfairly treated sex against the status quo. I believe that, for the moment, it is the most appropriate theory for the study of gender relations.