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Breaking Gender Barriers

By Andrea Charcas
University Life Editor  

Male nurses. Female construction workers. If the previous terms seem a bit paradoxical, it is not by accident. Over time, society has constructed predetermined roles of men and women, and male nurses and female construction workers just don’t fit that bill.

Even from the most prehistoric of times, when times were supposed to be simpler, activities have been gendered. Mankind’s earliest ancestors participated in hunting and gathering, a term in which is pretty self-explanatory: wild game was hunted and roots and berries were gathered. However, the women engaged in gathering while the men hunted because women were seen as weaker and men were seen as stronger and more able to take on such strenuous tasks.

Fast forward 1.8 million years later and activities are still gendered. Certain activities and professions are seen as more suitable for either a man or a woman. April Fisher, a senior at Arizona State University, says that, stereotypically, the mens’ role is “being the worker, being more dominant than the woman” while women are seen as “the housewife”. In addition, according to CNN, women earn less than men in the work force for doing the same job; women earn 82 cents for every dollar men earn. It seems that in every situation, women get the short end of the stick, but is change on its way?

“There is definitely more push to break the stereotype,” says Fisher. “Women are definitely changing. There is more emphasis on the working woman.”

Ian Liu, a sophomore majoring in cellular biology, agrees: “Traditionally, a woman’s role revolves around raising a family and nursing children. Men have been the ‘bread-winners’ and have supported the women and children, but it has been changing somewhat.”

Men's restoom sign at Walter Cronkite building. Photo credit to Andrea Charcas.

Men’s restoom sign at Walter Cronkite building. Photo credit to Andrea Charcas.

However the tide turns, change is unavoidable.

“I believe women can make what they wish of themselves, but I also acknowledge the many barriers that still exist that we need to overcome. I think the future is bright because there has been a major shift in attitudes for working women in the male-dominated workforce,” says Ginger Eiden, webmaster of the city of Glendale and adjunct faculty member at Walter Cronkite.

An example of this is evident in the Walter Cronkite building in the downtown Phoenix campus: a men’s restroom with a diaper-changing station.

Traditionally, diaper-changing stations have been proprietary to women’s and unisex restrooms, but recently, men’s restrooms have adopted that feature.

“Having changing tables only in women’s restrooms implies that there will never be a moment in which the dad will be faced with changing a diaper,” says Koa Beck, a writer for online blog Mommyish. However, in the modern day, fathers will be faced with the task of taking care of children, a job that is not exclusive to women anymore.

“I think the push for more equality is inevitable and will continue to evolve. And I think the most important thing we can do as women (or feminists) is to listen, learn and educate,” says Eiden.

The future of gender equality is still a bit uncertain, but one thing is for sure: change is inevitable.

Reach the reporter at andrea.charcas22@gmail.com or via Twitter @DreaCharcas


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