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‘Boys will be boys’ is a common phrase used to describe the way boys act when growing up. From a young age, boys are excused for the way they act. Today this mentality reigns true into adulthood for boys. As men, they are excused for being forward and frank. Not only are they excused, but they are often praised for acting in such a manner and referred to as a ‘boss’. When a girl, or woman, acts in such a manner they are given titles such as sassy, or even referred to as a ‘bitch’. Nicki Minaj supports this argument in her MTV Documentary entitled “My Time Now”. In this documentary she compares her experience in a photo shoot to that of Lil Wayne. When Minaj left a photo shoot because it did not meet her standards, as Lil Wayne had previously done articles in tabloids and entertainment networks arose and proceeded to call her a ‘bitch’. No discussion was given in regards to Lil Wayne by the same tabloids and entertainment networks. The gender roles prominent in society today do not benefit anyone and should be removed from society. In fact, many women, such as Nicki Minaj, are beginning to speak about the injustice of gender roles and demand equal treatment as men. Mary Wollstonecraft, in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, focuses on challenging gender roles in society, which I believe only benefits society.
In her text, Wollstonecraft challenges many arguments presented and accepted in society. The prominent gender role accepted in relation to women is the lack of education that they receive. Women were not permitted “to have sufficient strength of mind to acquire what really deserves the name of virtue” in terms of education. Women were kept ignorant by men who attempted to keep women undereducated at the level equivalent to that of a child. Education allows individuals, women or men, to formulate their own opinions and to respect one another. It is a necessary foundation for every individual. Wollstonecraft agrees when she states that, “the mind will ever be unstable that has only prejudices to rest on”. These prejudices and preconceived ideas hinder our minds. Education breaks down these prejudice thoughts and actions by teaching us. Education also makes us aware of our bias and the opposing side’s view. The education of women advocated for the breaking down of gender roles. It broke down the believed notion that only men were capable of learning and benefiting society.
Using Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s arguments as her platform for accepted gender roles in society, Wollstonecraft continued her break down of gender roles when she argued in favor of equal education for children and advocated for the integration of girls and boys in schools. The main reason used by Wollstonecraft to challenge Rousseau’s claim on young girls was based on the fact that she was once a young girl and “can recollect [her] own feelings”. This not only proved her credibility but decreased Rousseau’s because, as a female, Wollstonecraft understood firsthand what little girls thought and how their minds formed within a patriarchal society.
Wollstonecraft spoke of breaking down gender roles through children. She spoke of the differences in education, play, and upbringing of girls and boys. In aspects to education, Wollstonecraft observed that the education women receive is lackluster compared to that of men. Boys are sent to schools for a couple years and become disciplined. Girls are not given the same luxury. Instead they receive a disorderly education, differing from the disciplined education boys are granted. In play, women’s “limbs and faculties are cramped with worse than Chinese bands, and the sedentary life which they are condemned to live, whilst boys frolic in the open air, weakens the muscles and relaxes the nerves”. Girls ‘develop’ a “fondness for dolls, dressing, and talking”. Wollstonecraft argues that ‘development’ actually hinders girls, as they become like their mothers, who only focus on clothes and conversation.
The upbringing of girls is the third way Wollstonecraft argues for the dismantling of gender roles. Women grow up with the notion that “should they be beautiful, every thing else is needless,” because men will protect them. With this being taught to girls, they will not believe themselves to be equals with men and will cause them to grow dependent on men. Wollstonecraft does not women to depend on men. She does “not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves”.
However, while Wollstonecraft primarily challenged gender roles, there are instances of her perpetuating gender roles. One instance in particular where Wollstonecraft perpetuates gender roles is when she speaks of dress. She argues that women need to dress conservatively and modestly because “calling the attention continually to the body, cramps the activity of the mind”. The way women dress in no way affects the capability of their mind. While clothes can help individuals feel certain ways, it does not affect the ability of our minds to think and learn. Wollstonecraft further argues that the way women dress distracts men. The belief that women need to dress in a certain manner to not distract men is a ridiculous notion today. It is not the responsibility of women to not ‘tempt’ men to be unfaithful. That is the job of the man. Wollstonecraft argues otherwise, thus emphasizing gender roles and placing the blame on women. Overall, Wollstonecraft promoted the dismantling of gender roles in society in her text.
Today, gender roles are still prominent in our society. Labeling certain clothes, music, activities, cars, and even books, as belonging to one gender enhances the believed notion that the differences between men and women make women inferior. This is ludicrous. Men and women are equal individuals. Yes, there are differences that exist between men and women. However, there are also differences that exist between individuals of the same gender. Being different is not bad, nor does it make anyone inferior. For instance, my sister and I have drastic differences in our taste of music. While I am captivated by classical music, she will take that as a cue to have a nap. Many prominent women in popular culture have spoken about this inequality. One woman that promotes gender equality is Emma Watson. Emma Watson launched a campaign called HeForShe. HeForShe promotes gender equality through actions taken by men and boys that advocate for gender equality. This campaign is non-wavering in its devotion to gender equality in modern times.
Gender inequality is a prominent issue that is often dismissed because some believe that women are at least in a better position than many years ago and have the right to vote. While this is true, it does not diminish the fact that women are still treated differently and paid less in relation to men. As stated perfectly by the HeForShe campaign, “gender equality liberates not only women but also men, from prescribed social roles and gender stereotypes”. The gender equality movement is an issue very much alive today that needs to be fought by everyone, regardless of age, gender, or skin color.
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