A look back at history can best capture where reversal of roles began. How women are catching up to men socially and economically speaking, how in the past we depended on the man’s muscle and strength to be the breadwinners but now it is all about skills acquired from education and which have put women at par through knowledge and creativity. Let’s go back, first, the early hunter- gatherer society depended on the man’s physical strength and speed to bring in the day’s big game hunt as the women’s role remained largely subdued to gathering. Their roles complemented each other since during that time, survival was key. Still the ability of the men to handle big roles elevated them over women. The next society, the agrarian society, was the one which introduced gender inequality proper.
Once man began farming and domesticating animals, this began the accumulation of resources. The economy relied on men’s physicality, they could take on the heavy tasks like plowing and harvesting while women were regarded as passive homemakers who performed light duties of preserving food and maintaining the compound. Gender inequality stemmed from these early societies which relied on men’s muscle, which made them do prestigious tasks. Women were considered inferior since their menial tasks did not impact their economy so they could not have access to resources.
In the following industrial society both men and women worked but women’s hours were limited meaning that they earned less than men. Men were given license to any employment opportunity while women stuck to domestic territory. It is in this age that there were two clashing ideologies. One was the wave of feminism which questioned the inequalities among men and women and the Victorian image of women which was driven by Queen Victoria of the UK. She was against feminism. The Victorian image of women dictated that men occupy the public spheres and women stay in the private spheres. Public sphere meant that men had the advantage in wages and politics while the private sphere meant women remained at home.
After the 1st and 2nd World Wars things began changing as most men were recruited to fight in their respective armies, women began filling the gaps and employment opportunities expanded for them. Women’s roles began changing from domesticated to more economic empowering tasks by the end of the industrial society. Presently, we are in the Information society and women are catching up because the domains of the economy have changed.
During the hunter and gatherer and agrarian societies, men’s skills and output was judged by their physical nature: strength, power and swiftness. The economic demands of the information society do not rely on tangible physical skills but intangible abilities like creativity, academic skills to create content, come up with inventions and so on. Education and use of technology has put men and women on an equal footing.
In the words of Horace Mann education is a great equalizer. Both boys and girls are actively schooling. Education imparts those skills needed by the economy now. The same skills are accessible to boys and girls. This has surely obliterated the reliance on the man’s physical specimen. It is not just education but access to information has ensured that talent and creativity gives women a chance to make waves in their own right.
Despite this, women are still miles away especially in this part of the world because of patriarchal influences, in Hollywood lead actors get still more money than lead actresses, in the Middle Est and Asia women still cannot express themselves from the bondage of culture but all in all, we have seen men and women speaking out against gender injustices and Nobel Laurate Malala Yousafzai is an example of a young woman who risked her life in a conservative society to advocate for gender equity and fairness through educating girls.
Times are a-changing as women and men have to either share the spotlight or one has to go over the other and there is no doubt there will be a disturbance in the social order. Most importantly, men and women working together is what will elevate us. We need each other.