Friday, May 25, 2007

Gender Roles Play A Part In Domestic Violence

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem speaks out about domestic violence, and the need to not only advocate for its victims/survivors, but that our society needs to take a good look at the ways in which gender roles play a part in the abuse.

It is men who most often are perpetrators of domestic violence, she said, but this is not their fault. Men are not innately more violent creatures, as evidenced by the behavior of other species, whose females tend to be more violent than males in protecting their young, she said. Rather, men are taught to be violent by a society, a "cult of masculinity," which "tells them that in order to be properly masculine and thus really have any worth or identity, they need to be in some degree of control. That may easily lead to violence, especially if they have seen it in their own homes and feel that it is normal, and if they are in a situation where they feel challenged or weakened in some way and therefore not masculine," said Steinem.

The traditional gender roles that portray males as dominant and females as submissive must be overhauled, she said. Steinem credited modern families with raising their daughters more like their sons, "so we produce much more whole daughters and assertive and achieving young women, which is great." But "a lot of us feel less comfortable raising our sons more like our daughters. And yet that's exactly what we need to do. Because they are also not being raised as whole people unless they develop in themselves all the human qualities, a third of which are wrongly labeled feminine and two-thirds are wrongly labeled masculine, but all are human," she said.

I will say that I am in agreement with this idea, as WE really need to make a concerted effort to examine what it means to be a woman or a man in our current society. What identifying markers are we placing on ourselves that are limiting our achievements? What identifications do we contend with that are pigeonholing us in to a particular type of person? In what ways are we being dishonest with ourselves?

Answering these questions may lead to the absolvement of many social issues. It may not be simply the moral or religious ideology that creates and perpetuates these problems, it may be the dichotomous society that we live in.