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Is this the end of fixed gender roles?

 
 
aperson
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 09:34 pm
It seems to me, although I haven't been around for all that long, that in modern society, gender roles are being disintegrated. No longer do we have men and women. There is almost no such thing as the traditional man and woman. Gender is far more fluid. I picked up the paper this morning to find an article about an exhibit in my local museum.

Quote:
The exhibition explores the intimacies, complexities and nuances of gender diversity through a collection of portrait photographs and films... [The photographer says] "There are these terms like transgender, transsexual, fa'afafine, hermaphrodite or intersex, as well as drag kings and drag queens, but within those boxes, every person's way of identifying their gender is unique. Not everyone fits neatly into these catagories. Although sometimes it's challenging, I try not to assume anything about anyone's gender identity or, in fact, anything about them.


In my opinion, this is quite an insightful statement. We no longer have solid gender roles in today's world. There are gays, lesbians, bisexuals. There are people who dress like the opposite sex. If one desires, there is surgery readily avaliable which can physically alter you to "become" the other sex, though I think gender and sexuality run deeper than the anatomical details of the person. Increasingly, straight men are beginning to wear make-up.

I found this online article about straight teenage girls kissing eachother:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1196636/Lipstick-lesbians-How-kiss-sparked-teenage-trend-disturb-parent.html

The writer of the article says that this "trend" is a result of female celebrities doing the same thing. This may be, and probably is, true, but I also think it is a result of a relaxation of sexual boundaries in recent times. I even have a friend, confidently heterosexual, who has kissed other guys at parties.

The writer clearly believes that sexual experimentation in teenage girls is a bad thing. Being part of the youngest generation able to have an intelligent opinion, I can definitely say that this is not the case, and that any objection to lesbian activity is probably a result of societal biases of the writer's generation, which is certainly older than mine. My generation has few, or at least far less of the biases that previous generations have held. Educated people of my age mostly have no problems with race or sexuality. I don't think anyone my age that I know is racist. Although we sometimes make jokes about race, they are always in good humour. I, personally, have friends from a large number of races. Sexuality is less accepted. To be called "gay" is still an insult, but I think if you asked people, you would find that most of them genuinely don't have any biases against gays. They are just people. This is the age of acceptance, and we are the children of the age. Ultimately everyone older than us have larger biases, whether they like it or not. Even my own parents, both very educated, intelligent, fair and good people, have shown signs of discrimantion towards both race and sexuality, although they are South African.

So I think that although some societal boundaries should be maintained, such as those between family members, the fact that the boundaries between sexes are being weakened is not really a bad thing. It allows us greater freedom to become what we are in essence, without fear of ostricism or discrimination. Up until now, strong roles have been needed in families and in society for strong structure. However, this is the new world, and things work differently now. Things are more fluid, but you could almost say that fluidity is the strucure of today. Women are not limited to being housewives, and people are not limited to their gender or sexuality.

Going back to the article about girls kissing, I don't think that it is just a trend which will fade away in a few months. If anything, I think this is just the beginning. The world is heading in one direction, which could be described as liberal. Discrimination is dying, for race, religion, sexuality and gender. Animal rights are increasingly being advocated for. We are entering a new age of scientific discovery and clarity of thought. The question is, where are we heading? I certainly don't claim to know the answer, but I can say one thing:
This is a good start.
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 09:47 pm
@aperson,
I question the idea that there is anything unique about modern society.

Homosexuality and bisexuality were accepted in many societies. Previous societies had sexual practices that are no longer accepted, such as the veneration of Eunuchs.

Our society is more prudish then many in some aspects... such as polygamy.

It seems to me that compared with other cultures throughout history, our modern society is pretty middle of the road.

I can also give plenty of examples where gender roles are quite strong in our society... from prostitution, to different expectations of mothers and fathers, to courtship rituals.

aperson
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 10:02 pm
@ebrown p,
I think you will find that the periods in which homosexuality and bisexuality were accepted were ages of relative enlightenment, such as the Greek/Roman society pre-dark ages. And even then, homosexuals were never accepted as normal people. They have always been either cursed, or sacred, or special in some way. It is only now that we see homosexuals and bisexuals as regular human beings, just like ourselves.

Also, polygamy is associated with lack of women's rights, which as I have discuss, go alongside the breaking down of gender roles. So polygamy is actually in the opposite direction to freedom of sexuality.
hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 10:04 pm
@aperson,
I have to concur with the BrownE. You say yourself that the changes in attitude of your generation are among the intelligent. As it has always been. Not everyone in any society is racists, homophobic or sexist.

I would not be surprised if that tolerance is more widespread in your generation but I don't think the percentage difference with my generation are all that much different. And I note with some handwringing that members of your generation are actively involved in gay-bashing and race beatings even in the enlightened antipodes that we both reside.

I applaud your sense/hope that we are slowly improving as the generations roll-on but history tells us that attitudes can change drastically quickly. So I have my fingers crossed for the future but the woollen cap is on the back of my head.

On a side point I don't think het girls or boys same sex kissing is as big a sign of humanity's progress as say, a teenager helping a confused looking pensioner in a shopping mall, or telling some kids off for kicking dogs. It smacks a little of flash over substance - and that you remark on it shows it significance to you (I note that your friend has kissed boys but not you).

Gender and sexuality have a biological basis that no amount of social conditioning will repress.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 10:09 pm
Yes, gender roles are much more fluid, and the link between masculine=male and Feminine=female is much weaker than ever before. It was till recently true that 80+ conformed to the role that their sexual parts indicated, and this number continues to go lower. We also see a lot more gender confusion than ever before, and such result as gender reassingnment surgery.

I personally think that the trend is a bad thing, but plenty of people disagree with me.
aperson
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 10:23 pm
@hingehead,
I agree with you to some extent. We are ultimately bound by our genes and biology, but I think that this current age promotes the more liberal and accepting characteristics in us.

The few extremists of my generation are not representative of my generation as a whole. Every race, country, religion (note that atheism is not a religion...) and generation has it's extremists.

I am hoping that we will continue to improve, but I have fears that society might be dealt a massive blow some time soon. Disease, rdepression, corrupt global powers... it really isn't looking good.

I'm not saying girls kissing other girls is better than a teenager helping a confused looking pensioner in a shopping mall, but it's something at least. I do recognize that we need to improve in that sort of area.
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aperson
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 10:26 pm
@hawkeye10,
I don't think it is confusion so much as exploration. But I'm glad you can see the weakening links between anatomical gender and "psychological" gender.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 10:38 pm
@aperson,
I think what you free range lovers forget is that one must know who they are before they can find their way in this world. Once you obliterate the presumption that male=masculine and female=feminine then you open up a 100% increase in the possibilities. This means that it will take a person much longer to discover through trial and error who they want to be. The leads to such statements as the one recently advanced that in todays age one is not generally an adult until the age of 26 years old.

There are a lot of problems facing humanity, we don't have the time for such self involvement. We need the kids to grow up into adults, be strong, be smart, and help us (the collective) out of our current mess. Those who would rather gaze at their navel so as to figure out what it is need a stiff rap to the head. The second best option would be to ignore them, they are useless in their current state.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 11:27 pm
@aperson,
What the heck do the terms "enlightenment" and "dark ages" mean outside of your own culture?

I think you are basically claiming that your own culture is superior to all other cultures (as if you, being part of your own culture could even judge fairly).

Or am I missing something... does "enlightened" mean anything other than "similar to what I believe"?
aperson
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 11:45 pm
@hawkeye10,
So you would rather people be quickly be forced into a gender role that doesn't suite them than take the time to discover themselves? One of the defining characteristics of humans is our extended childhood, which allows us to become all the more intelligent and knowledgeable when we are adults. I think it is a good thing that people are taking longer to mature, because they are all the more mature for it. It allows them to be more comfortable with themselves, and so better adapted to solve global problems. Five to ten extra years, so what? It benefits us in the long run.
0 Replies
 
aperson
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 12:13 am
@ebrown p,
This really isn't a matter of bias... it's common knowledge that the Romans were quite advanced in their technology and ideas, and that their dominance was followed by a period of superstition and lack of knowledge.

I am quite shocked that you reacted with such venom to my merely factual claim. This is basic history, no offense...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greeks#Science

Quote:
The Greeks of the Classical era made several notable contributions to science and helped lay the foundations of several western scientific traditions, like philosophy, historiography and mathematics. The scholarly tradition of the Greek academies was maintained during Roman times with several academic institutions in Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and other centres of Greek learning while Eastern Roman science was essentially a continuation of classical science.[148] Greeks have a long tradition of valuing and investing in paideia (education).[57] Paideia was one of the highest societal values in the Greek and Hellenistic world while the first European institution described as a university was founded in 5th century Constantinople and operated in various incarnations until the city's fall to the Ottomans in 1453.[149] The University of Constantinople was Christian Europe's first secular institution of higher learning since no theological subjects were taught,[150] and considering the original meaning of the world university as a corporation of students, the world’s first university as well.[149]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Middle_Ages#Transmission_of_learning

Quote:
With the end of the Western Roman Empire and urban centres in decline, literacy and learning decreased in the West. Education became the preserve of monasteries and cathedrals. A "Renaissance" of classical education would appear in Carolingian Empire in the 8th century. In the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), learning (in the sense of formal education involving literature) was maintained at a higher level than in the West. Further to the east, Islam conquered many of the Eastern Patriarchates, and it outstripped Christian lands in science, philosophy, and other intellectual endeavors in a "golden age" of learning.
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 01:50 am
@aperson,
Quote:
I don't think it is confusion so much as exploration.

But exploration of what? I was having supper with my daughter and her friend last night (two seventeen year old girls) after we'd been looking at their prom pictures and there was a picture of two guys kissing- and I mean really kissing -each other on the mouth.
So I said, assuming they were gay, 'Have those guys been together a long time?'
They started laughing hysterically and my daughter said, 'They're not GAY mom! They're not going out - they both have girlfriends.'
Well, then I have to tell you - I'm the one who was extremely confused because I said, 'Then why are they kissing each other?'

The other girl said, 'A lot of boys kiss each other.'
And I asked, 'You mean like how girls who aren't gay are kissing each other, now boys are doing the same thing?'
And my daughter said, 'Yeah'.
So then I said, 'What percentage of boys who are not gay, would you say engage in this behavior of kissing other boys?'
They guessed around 50%.

So my question is- what does it signify? What is it for? I knew that when I kissed someone when I was a teenager - it was because I was attracted to them. I wanted to experience something with and from them that I didn't want to experience with most other people- and being heterosexual - I had no desire to experience that with another girl.
If someone were to kiss me on the mouth, I would think it signified that they wanted to experience something with me.

I guess that's not what kissing signifies anymore. So as I asked - what does it signify? Just that, 'I'm so hip and free I'll kiss anyone - even another guy or girl (depending on my gender)?

I have to say, I think that is sort of a sad loss and confusing. I don't think I'd be interested in a guy who I saw kiss another guy on the mouth, just because I'd never really know- is he gay, is he bi- is he just a shallow show off trying to fit in? What the hell is he?
I wouldn't call that contributing to enlightenment at all.
aperson
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 02:51 am
@aidan,
Sorry, I'd always thought you were a guy Surprised I honestly didn't recognize the significance of that statement until I'd typed it. I suppose that's just another way by which gender lines are being blurred - the internet lets us be whoever we want.

Anyway, I can see what you're getting at.

[Half an hour later]

Right... I spoke to my friend and she pretty much confirmed what you said. It's just to show off sexual freedom and/or impress the guys. Maybe it's not such a bad thing. It's better than real lesbians being discriminated against.
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 02:58 am
@aperson,
Quote:
It's better than real lesbians being discriminated against.

That's true.
My daughter just told me that this trend (of everyone kissing everyone) has gotten so pervasive and distracting that her school (here in England) has made a rule banning ALL kissing.
She thinks that's very unfair. I have to say, I don't have a problem with it. You know - school should be school. We weren't allowed to have public displays of affection when we were in school - and not that I think we should go back and be all shut in and repressed and that nothing should ever change - but like I said- when you did kiss or were kissed - it tended to mean something.
I don't think that's bad.
aperson
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 03:21 am
@aidan,
Well, when you say it means something, you're saying it means something to do with physical attraction. With a kiss between two straight female friends, it still means something, just not something about physical attraction. It means something about friendship and about freedom. Are those things not more important that physical attraction?

Sorry if I'm not being clear; I actually have swine flu at the moment. It's not too bad, but I'm not really thinking straight either.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 06:34 am
@aperson,
The problem is that you are using purely subjective terms like "enlightenment" to set up what appears to me a scale of "advancement" which hints at a universal truth. (You can't put things in an order without an objective way to measure their value.)

It is the "universal truth" implicit in your judgment that I have a problem with... and I find it a might big coincidence that this "universal truth" supports the specific values of the culture you and I happen to find ourselves in.

Let's assume that you and I believe that human evolved through a process of natural selection without a guiding purpose or divine force. This means that every human trait is based on an evolutionary trait we happened to develop (more often then now with survival value).

Now using only facts (i.e. not the values of the specific culture you happened to find yourself in) explain to me why getting rid of genders, or accepting homosexuality or even equality for females is any more "enlightened", or even objectively "better" than any other way human society might evolve.

aidan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 08:20 am
@aperson,
Quote:
Well, when you say it means something, you're saying it means something to do with physical attraction. With a kiss between two straight female friends, it still means something, just not something about physical attraction. It means something about friendship and about freedom. Are those things not more important that physical attraction?


Well honestly, although I'm from the generation before yours, I've always felt free to be friendly and show it to whomever I pleased.
And also, if I'd wanted to, I'd have felt free to show physical attraction to a woman if I'd wanted to - yeah- from the time I can remember feeling sexual - I've never been in an environment in which I've known or felt that physical attraction needed to be stifled...but again...I'm not gay, so I don't know that that's how gay people felt twenty years ago, although I've been witness to alot of affection between gays, so I don't think it's been an issue so much as younger people of your generation might think it has been until now and this very moment- maybe that's why you think it's such a big change.

I think it's about expression - and if people who are friends are making out with each other...what's left for people who want to be more than friends?

I don't know - it just strikes me as showy and fake and not really necessary or indicative of anything other than showing off. But I feel that way when a guy and a girl feel they have to make the whole world aware of the fact that they can be physically free with each other.
I just don't need to witness it - and I don't need to kiss my best friend for her to know that I love her.
But to each his/her own.

hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 04:06 pm
@aperson,
Hi Aperson

Quote:
This really isn't a matter of bias... it's common knowledge that the Romans were quite advanced in their technology and ideas, and that their dominance was followed by a period of superstition and lack of knowledge.


Actually though it may not be bias, it is a very western-centric view. It is well known in historical circles that as Europe fell into the dark ages the arab-islamic world preserved and built on the Greco-Roman scientific legacies. And in pre-renaissance time it was not unusual for noted scholars to have spent time studying in Moorish centres, learning Arabic, as it became a competitor to latin - even as we sent crusades in to slaughter.

And what of the Indian and Chinese societies - that's nearly half the world's population, fairly successful on that measure at least. I'm not really arguing with you just asking you to consider your assumptions of what is 'best' in societal terms.

Back to your original thought. I have always had a problem with the reference to young people 'discovering themselves'. It's a nonsense in many of its facets and assumes that there is a 'complete' them just waiting to be uncovered and released. In actual fact the act of self-discovery is more like an act of self-creation e.g. I'll try this or act out this role or personality and if I like it it's part of me that I'll hold on to, and if it isn't I'll drop it.

And just to get all generational on you - I don't think generations spawn the conditions that allow them to test societal norms, it's the previous generation that creates an environment where that is possible (sometimes where it's mandatory). Although let's face it, there are no clear delineations between generations they all leak massively into each other.


OGIONIK
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 04:15 pm
@hingehead,
i have often pondered the question

"why wouldnt i engage in homosexual activity?"

because society says its a no no?

because i dont find men attractive?

then i wonder, if society didnt say it was a no no, and i didnt have it ingrained since i was a child that gays are a taboo, would i find men attractive?(well ive heard gay men have different brain soemthing or another iono if its true)


i dont know, but gender is definitely fluid..

in the next 10 years i think there will be a very large increase in homosexuality/bisexuality..

pretty much i think people will want to be able to have sex without remorse, regardless of sex/genitalia etc..

and the church has far less influence...
Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 04:25 pm
Western culture is very prudish by comparison to a number of standards, consider:
Quote:
........many North American Indian tribes so valued 'gayness' that people who displayed these characteristics were picked for special office.

Gay traditions were prevalent in most American Indian tribes. There are reports of both women and men living in same-sex marriages, of women who dressed and acted as men and men who acted and dressed as women.
http://www.bluecorncomics.com/2008/10/homophobia-isnt-genetic.html
 

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