Change was a reoccurring theme this week. Thankfully, the changes that I noted from the readings were positive changes. Over the years, several positive changes have positively influenced the lives of women in the United States. The changes that have allowed women to live more equal, successful lives are especially apparent in the topics we studied this week, which were families, work and education. However, although a lot of progress has been made toward gender equality, there are still changes that need to be made.
The first positive change I learned about was how marriages have evolved. In my opinion, marriage should be about love, equality, happiness and a successful family structure. However, this idea hasn’t always been respected. This idea was explored in Stephanie Coontz’s PopTech presentation, “Stephanie Coontz: On Marriage”. In her speech, she quoted “As late as the 18th century, the word love was used more often for neighbors, kin and God than it was for spouses”, and it wasn’t until the late 18th century that people began to choose spouses based on love (Coontz 2011). Before this, marriage was more about protection, money and expanding your family ties than love. Additionally, she explained that in the 1950s, a woman married a man who could be the “bread winner” and support the family, while a man married a woman who could raise children. Now, marriage roles are more equal as women work more and men help in the home more, which creates a more successful marriage today. In my opinion, these two changes of marriage expectations make marriages happier and fairer.
A second radical change is the shift away from “traditional” families. Today, families are so much more diverse than they ever were. As Shoshana Devora quoted in her article “3 Ways to talk About Nontraditional Family Structures Appropriately”, “Long gone are the days when the majority of us lived in nuclear families – one mom, one dad, two kids” (Devora 2014). This short introduction perfectly sums up what I want to get at here. There really isn’t a “typical” family anymore, and that’s okay. Just because a family looks different than yours, does not mean the family is unhappy. Today, families can choose to adopt, use a surrogate or semen donor, involve grandparents or aunts, create a family with two mothers, and much more. I work in a hospital, and I see so many different families each day. Just the way the family looks on the outside is not any indication of the family’s happiness. Again, I see this as a positive change because it is a step away from gender norms and a step toward diversity. As Devora stated, “All that really matters is that children have loving people around them…” and I couldn’t agree more (Devora 2014).
Last, the workplace has seriously improved. As I touched on before, a mother’s choice to work is more respected. I find this change both positive and negative. As we learned this week, more women are in the workplace and according to Joan Acker, “Women are beginning to be distributed in organizational class structures in ways that are similar to the distribution of men” (Acker, 2006). Although this is a positive change toward gender equality, I still see two necessary changes. One, as Arlie Hochschild explained in a 2014 interview, women work-full in the work place and at home, while research shows that men don’t do as much housework as women. This needs to change in order to create gender and marriage equality. Second, according to “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap”, “…In 2014 women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 79 percent of what men were paid…”, which is still unbelievable to me (AAUW: “The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap, 2016). These two hopes for change are huge topics, but I’d like to stick to the positive here.
I hope we can all appreciate the tremendous positive changes that have been made for women. However, there is still work to be done. If these changes continue, marriages, families and the workplace will become increasingly equal.
Acker, Joan. 2006. “Inequality Regimes: Gender, Class and Race in Organizations.” Gender & Society 20(4):441-64.
Devora, Shoshana. “3 Ways to Talk About Nontraditional Family Structures Appropriately.” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 2014. Web. 21 June 2016.
Popteech. 2011. “Stephanie Coontz: On Marriage.” YouTube Website (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwtb7jz8G4k).
“The Simple Truth About The Gender Pay Gap, Spring 2016 Edition.” AAUW (2016): n. pag. Web. 21 June 2016.