Regius Brown is a forty year resident of the Ottawa area. He has written op ed pieces for the Ottawa Citizen and was a regular contributor to the Spectrum under his own name as well as under pseudonyms. He is father of three and recently became a grandfather. He now spends most of his volunteer time working with his church but is a past President of the Jamaica (Ottawa) Community Association, past President of the Board of Directors of Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization for four consecutive years and was a founding member of the Ottawa Area Police and Community Council that evolved into COMPAC. Regius is a manager in the federal Public Service and operator of his own documentary video production company. He loves to sing, laugh, write and debate.
Gender Roles in the Twenty-First Century
by Regius Brown
I have been having an ongoing debate with my 33 year old son about the nature, need and definition of gender. The only settled issue between us is that men and women are physically different. Everything else is contested. I have also been engaged in a Twitter debate with Crystal Wright, a black Republican woman who, shall we say, is no Melissa Harris-Perry. She claims that men are no longer men; that they have become feminized and that it’s the fault of feminists and other leftists. I have also been engaged on line with a thirty something Christian black woman who is a leader in her community and on line. She creates situations for young people to assemble and start conversations that could lead to friendships or even marriage. During her online activities, she has raised questions about gender roles, dating etiquette and role confusion. Her name is Fiana Andrews and her social entrepreneurial activities are conducted under the Approach2link brand on Facebook and at www.approach2link.com.
To summarize the issue; in the past, the roles of men and women were clearly defined. There was a cross-walk between those roles, but rarely. Men worked to support the family and women stayed home to rear the family. Men were leaders by default and women were followers. Men even defined the roles of women. That oversimplified state of affairs has changed. We are now in an era where old ideas and newer ideas of gender roles co-exist. Some claim that there is role confusion in this transitional period. Beyoncé asserts that she is an independent woman who needs no man to buy her home, automobile or clothes. At the same time, she expects the trappings of chivalry. She wants to be respected like a man but treated like a lady. The Feminist movement, leftist critical analysis and Liberalism are credited or blamed for this transition.
At its most visceral, some say that men have been neutered and that women have grown hyena-like appendages that intimidate men. ‘Men are no longer men’ is the lament. ‘Women are no longer feminine’ is the refrain. Mixed in to the debate is the voice of homosexuals and transgendered people who are asserting their rights to a voice in public spaces. There has been talk of multiple genders beyond just male and female.
How do the children of baby boomers navigate this more complex social environment? With great difficulty, apparently. Fiana’s Facebook page caught fire in a discussion about women making the first move in a potential dating relationship. Some people were absolutely against it. The most lurid point was that “I have never seen an egg pursuing a sperm”.
My son makes the obvious point from Sociology 101 that gender roles are social constructs that may be redefined at will. Some Bible believing people would beg to differ. The man is head of the household like God is head of the Church. The orthodox religious view is that women play a lesser role than men yet there is the pretence that women are in an honoured status.
So, how does one raise children when there are no clearly defined gender roles? My son would say “Teach them to think for themselves.” He has no problem with my granddaughter playing with trucks or disassembling her scooter. Neither does he mind her playing with dolls. Most important to him is that she is equipped with the means to navigate the complex world of gender roles for herself.
Dating? My conclusion of the whole matter is that it is about negotiation between gender equals who can agree about what they are comfortable with. There really is little room for gamesmanship in the modern era of dating. Be straight up with your dating interest. I start with the assumption that relationships must be built upon a foundation of respect. Honesty is paramount; be as direct as the two of you can tolerate.
Gender roles continue to evolve. My daughters live in a world where they set their own limits, in spite of lingering patriarchy. My son can be as macho or as tender as he and his partner may wish, and it’s OK.
Funny, in my old age, I learned and displayed many of the lessons of this era. My late wife and I negotiated a relationship of mutual respect and caring. We agreed to make our courtship permanent. There were vestiges of traditional gender roles, and that was OK. I treated her like a lady; opened the car door for her always, even when our dating relationship had hit a bump in the road. She, in turn, treated me like her gentleman.
Have fun out there, children! Negotiate well.