Women and Men: Proper Roles

Does the growth in power of women result in less power for men? If women become more powerful and independent, does it have negative consequences for families, society or the culture? Many would answer strongly in the affirmative.

Let's put this theory to the test. If society suffers as women become more independent and equal to men, then we would expect that the more independent women are, the worse off society is. Similarly, the less independent women are, the better off society is. "Worse off" and "better off" can be measured in a number of ways including economic wellbeing, freedom, happiness, health outcomes, crime and safety, or social stability.

So is this prediction confirmed in the real world? Unfortunately for the hardcore traditionalists, it does not appear to be. It turns out that the nations with the highest respect for women's rights, and the most egalitarian social structures (including Norway, Sweden and Finland) actually tend to have the greatest amount of prosperity, health, social stability and even happiness.

By contrast, the cultures with the least respect for women's rights or freedom (such as Afghanistan and Iran) tend to have extremely low levels of economic prosperity. They also have moderate to low levels of social stability and health outcomes.

Women, Men, Wellbeing and the Data

The UN Human Development Index measures the wellbeing of countries across 3 major areas: (1) health and life expectancy, (2) knowledge and education, and (3) income and material wealth.

For 2009, the top 15 performers on the HDI were the following:

  1. Norway
  2. Australia
  3. Iceland
  4. Canada
  5. Ireland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Sweden
  8. France
  9. Switzerland
  10. Japan
  11. Luxembourg
  12. Finland
  13. United States
  14. Austria
  15. Spain

All of these countries, and a number of others, earned the rank of "Very High Human Development." (More information on the HDI can be found here.)

The Global Gender Gap Report 2010 ranks countries according to the empowerment of women. To determine this ranking, factors are considered such as: the ratio of female labor force participation to male; the ratio of female income to male income; female literacy and school enrollment, relative to male; female life expectancy relative to male; and the number of females in parliament and in government. These were the top 15 performers listed:

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Finland
  4. Sweden
  5. New Zealand
  6. Ireland
  7. Denmark
  8. Lesotho
  9. Philippines
  10. Switzerland
  11. Spain
  12. South Africa
  13. Germany
  14. Belgium
  15. United Kingdom

(The United States comes in at 19).

One will note the correlation between the two lists. Countries that perform well on one measure tend to do well on the other. This also holds when one looks at the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) from the UN's Human Development Reports.

The lowest-ranking countries on both HDI and Gender Gap Report include Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Chad. Each of these countries were included in the rank of "Low Human Development"--the lowest measure. Other low-ranking countries on the Gender Gap Report that had the second-to-lowest rank of "Medium Human Development" on the HDI included Iran, Syria, Morocco, Jordan and Yemen.

(One notable exception to this rule is Lesotho, which ranks 8th on the Gender Gap Report, but only 156 out of 182 countries on the HDI.)

Women have the most power in the richest countries

Source

Women's Rights: Why?

There are two primary reasons why countries that permit their female citizens the most freedom also have the richest and healthiest and most stable societies. The first is correlational: as societies become wealthier and freer, they tend to become more tolerant, peaceful and open, which results in more tolerance and openness for women's independence. So there is a direct correlation between freedom, economic opportunity and security on the one hand, and more rights and independence enjoyed by all citizens on the other.

The second major reason is causal: greater freedom and independence for women actually causes more prosperity and overall wellbeing for a society. A country that previously only permitted men to get a job outside the home, will immediately double its labor force by allowing women to do the same.


What about the Family?

Insofar as the traditional family depends on a mommy and a daddy working in specific roles, that family will suffer as mommy starts to do what daddy used to do. If both mommy and daddy are out working, who will take care of the kids? Who will maintain the house? These are the kinds of arguments made by traditionalists staunch in their belief that greater freedom and independence for women has a negative effect on society.

The first thing that needs to be remembered is that, if indeed it were the case that the family suffered as a result of greater female independence, then we would expect to see millions upon millions of dysfunctional homes and screwed up kids in places like Sweden, Germany, Holland and most areas of the US. In reality, what we find is that dysfunctional homes and screwed up kids are extraordinarily few in number. They are there, to be sure, but they are mostly insignificant in the scheme of things, and even negligible in some places. Clearly families are surviving even in the absence of the traditional model.

In addition, the traditionalist argument neglects to take account of the positive effects on the family and children that may result from women's independence. For example, mom may be happier and more fulfilled, and a happier mom means happier kids. A better educated mother can better plan her family and her decisions to have children, which is better for everyone involved. A second major source of income in the household means that if dad is laid off or chooses to pursue a new business opportunity, the family isn't sent into financial distress. A better-educated mother can make better purchasing decisions, which helps the whole family. And the list goes on.

The more we think about it, the more it seems a woman's "proper role" is going to school, getting a job and contributing to society. Not hanging out in the kitchen all day.

Addendum

Using Microsoft Excel, I looked more closely at the correlation between prosperity and gender equality, using the rankings from the HDI, GEM and GGI.

After removing countries for which data was not available, there was a 17% positive correlation between a country's ranking on the HDI and its ranking on the GGI. That is a pretty good relationship as far as statistics go.

More impressively, there was a whopping 51% positive correlation between a country's ranking on the HDI and its ranking on the GEM (see below). Although not precise, this indicates that perhaps half of a country's human development is tied to its gender equality! So if a poor country is interested in becoming richer, perhaps the easiest thing for it to do is to get rid of legal and institutional impediments to women's empowerment, such as property rights and girls' education.

There is a strong positive correlation between the UN Human Development Index and the Gender Empowerment Measure
There is a strong positive correlation between the UN Human Development Index and the Gender Empowerment Measure | Source

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Comments 25 comments

HSchneider 6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

This is a wonderful Hub. Increasing power and independence for women is not a zero sum game. Men and society do not suffer because of this. The society is strengthened and it raises all boats. Furthermore this is also true for minorities. There is great fear that their rise affects others. I believe the stronger you make a group, the stronger society is. This is especially true of women. Your statistics were great in illustrating this.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

Thanks, Schneider. You make some great points. Plenty more data where all of this came from. The relationship holds true even within countries (among the US states, for example, between those states where women are move active outside the home and those where they are less active).

Nothing like some good solid facts to dispel misconceptions and simplistic prejudices.


Belle 6 years ago

It's nice and beautifully written...very convincing too.The facts and figures give a good support to your opinion.I totally agree with it.


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secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

Thanks, Belle. Glad you like it.


kathryn1000 profile image

kathryn1000 6 years ago from London

Very interesting and good to see the statistics too.


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secularist10 6 years ago from New York City Author

The statistics definitely have the power. Thanks for coming, Kathryn.


QudsiaP1 profile image

QudsiaP1 5 years ago

I am glad you wrote this hub.

Fact remains that there are countless traditionalists in Pakistan, at the hands of whom women suffer every day.

Let me quote one example.

A mother wants her son to marry a qualified and practicing Doctor.

However, once married the same mother wants that her daughter in law should quit medicine and raise home and family.

Why bring a doctor in the family if you will force her to quit? Well because people are just crazy, apparently it makes good impression that your daughter in law is a qualified doctor and what of practice you ask?

Well now if her husband or children get sick, they have a doctor in the house who can practice free of charge. Woop dee doo.

I think people should slap themselves and try looking at the world from an outsider's perspective.

Some women genuinely love to be only a home maker. Others have goals in their lives that they work for.

I wish someone would bring gender equality, female empowerment and common sense to Pakistan.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Qudsia, you bring up the important point that oftentimes women are just as at fault in enforcing traditional attitudes as men--and for their own sets of interesting and odd reasons. In third world countries, there are often circumstances where basic survival is more important than fancy notions of equality and empowerment.

"Well now if her husband or children get sick, they have a doctor in the house who can practice free of charge. Woop dee doo."

Haha, I'm sure in some parts of Pakistan that's pretty valuable! :)

"I wish someone would bring gender equality, female empowerment and common sense to Pakistan."

Indeed. If only it was that easy. Unfortunately Pakistan nowadays seems to be heading in the exact opposite direction of all those things as the recent assasination of Salman Taseer has galvanized many lower and middle class religious conservatives, and even so-called "liberals" who can't accept an ounce of criticism of the Prophet Muhammad. They would rather allow a man to be killed.


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secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

The Global Peace Index is another measure that correlates strongly with women's empowerment.

http://www.visionofhumanity.org/wp-content/uploads...


McLaren 83 profile image

McLaren 83 5 years ago from Planet Earth

The only reason women have been given power in these countries is because men have worked hard to provide them with it. Saying countries become richer and more prosperous because of womens empowerment is false and misleading. Many of these nations have always been the most prosperous even before women could realisticaly do the same kinds of jobs men do.

This is a very poor hub that speaks from a flawed feminist perspective and ignores vital facts.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Well, McLaren, to be fair, I only briefly indicated that women's empowerment was a cause of greater prosperity. It was hardly a major feature of the hub. The hub for the most part deals with correlations. So I don't see how the hub is "poor" or "flawed" when it essentially just repeats in different form what a variety of studies and statistics already demonstrate. If you have a problem with the United Nations and World Economic Forum, then you can take it up with them, lol.

Anyway, to your main point:

"The only reason women have been given power in these countries is because men have worked hard to provide them with it."

I agree that men were the ones with the official power when women were granted these freedoms. However, women were still vital to the process. It was the initiative of many women's groups and feminists in the early 20th century and late 20th century in the US, for example, that made female empowerment possible. The male powers-that-be, left to their own devices, would not have done it, or would have taken a much longer time.

"Many of these nations have always been the most prosperous even before women could realisticaly do the same kinds of jobs men do."

This is true, but logically, this does not mean that women's empowerment in its own right does not cause prosperity.

An analogy: Just because a child is born speaking English does not mean that formal study of English does not cause greater skill with the language.

In fact, many economists and academics often cite the large-scale movement of women into the American workforce starting in the 1970s as very consequential for subsequent American prosperity.

I already mentioned that a country that previously held back women can double its workforce overnight. In addition, granting women more property rights, greater education and more opportunities straightforwardly results in more new businesses, new inventions, new innovations in a variety of fields, etc, all at the hands of those more independent and more educated women.

This isn't some ideological tract, McLaren. This is about facts and logic.


Joseph 5 years ago

Great article! Austrian sociologist Peter Jedlicka has also analysed these datasets in his book "Gender Balance" and concludes that gender equality is an indicator for the modernity of a society / organization.

J.Blanks


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Thank you, Joseph. Yes, gender equality certainly is tightly bound to modernity, on a number of levels.


McLaren 83 profile image

McLaren 83 5 years ago from Planet Earth

No its not about facts, its about politcal correnctness and censorship. I will go as far to say that women were never held back. Every stage of human development has led to the comforts we have now and only now can women realisticaly enjoy the same freedoms as men. It is my view that men were always and still are held back much more than women. In history women were only as opressed as their men were and this was not by design (for the most part).

The UN is a highly feminised organisation with entire departments dedicated to women. Much of what comes out of this is nonsense and have proven its self to be.

The hub does suggest that prosperity is somehow a result of female empowerment. I disagree and only only said why.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Well you say it's not about the facts, yet I have provided a battery of facts and data, and so have other readers, whereas you have not provided any.

"The UN is a highly feminised organisation with entire departments dedicated to women."

That is irrelevant to the organization's ability to collect data. And anyway, there are tons of other organizations, totally unrelated to the UN, that have very similar facts and data. You can look into the government records of these countries yourself to get the raw data if you want. Oh wait, I'm sure you would say they're all run by Feminazis! It's a conspiracy! LOL :)

"It is my view that men were always and still are held back much more than women. In history women were only as opressed as their men were and this was not by design (for the most part)."

Well, that's quite a claim. Any specific facts or reasons behind this, or is this a random conjecture?

I find it hard to believe men were held back more than women when the LAWS in most societies, countries, nations and states over the ages specifically limited the freedom and opportunities of women.

Look at Saudi Arabia or Iran today--they are windows into the past of almost all human civilizations.

I agree the vast bulk of people, male or female, were oppressed by the ruling elite in most places, if that's what you're getting at. But female peasants still had less power than male peasants, and female elite had less power than male elite.

If you stop concerning yourself with the extreme beliefs of radical feminists and just focus on history and reality, you can see this.


McLaren 83 profile image

McLaren 83 5 years ago from Planet Earth

The UN being highly feminised is extremely relevant to the organisations ability to collect data. The UNs women's departments regularly collect data, publish papers and suggest problems that women are supposedly more affected by. After the 2004 tsumani in Indonesia it was suggested women suffered the greatest, but in fact men made up a higher percentage of the dead and male survivors received less aid too. Women have a great deal of influence in most governments and organisations and with this influence they only seek to benefit themselves. Part of their selfish nature.

And yes men have been oppressed much more even though by other men. Until recent times women simply could not do the same kinds of work men did. Therefore could not realisitcally achieve the same kind of power. Most men never achieve any kind of power in their lives and work longer than women do. Women being of weaker status was not by design. It was simply nature and human development. Only now with the technologies and comforts we have can they enjoy more freedoms than men. The notion that women were oppressed is intolerable. In some cultures such as Islam they are oppressed yes, but in ours and the vast majority of other cultures they are not and arguably never were.

You name one law that oppresses women?

Men truly are oppressed and women don't have the guts or will to stand up for them.

I am not just arguing against radical faminism. All feminism must be opposed and so must the lies most women live by today.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

"You name one law that oppresses women?"

Hmm. That's a tough one. Prior to the 19th amendment, American women could be denied the right to vote in national elections.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteenth_Amendment_...

Guess you need to study your history.

Another good one: In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive. I really can't believe I need to tell you something so obvious.

I still don't see any facts, McLaren. Just more baseless opinion coming from you.

"Until recent times women simply could not do the same kinds of work men did."

You think? And why was that? Because they were legally barred from it! LOL.

Ok, I think you've made it clear you just don't like women for some reason. You think they are inferior. Maybe Betty Sue didn't agree to go out with you in the 3rd grade, and you've never been the same, lol.

Unfortunately for you, almost all of the facts of history and modern science (demonstrating the equal intelligence of males and females) disagree with you.

Oh, and again, if you have better facts that the UN doesn't have on women's rights or the situation of women in the various countries, then please do provide them. You are very free to research the government statistics in Europe, America and elsewhere if you think you can do a better job than international organizations with hundreds of experts working for them.


McLaren 83 profile image

McLaren 83 5 years ago from Planet Earth

Prior to the 19th amendment America as with the rest of the western world was still in a stage of industrial development. Working class men were also unable to vote in our history as were Blacks. Again name one law that oppresses women today?

I did say women ARE oppressed in Islam and that this is one area of the world they truly are oppressed. But even so many in Saudi Arabia would argue they are not oppressed and that their religion and culture is more important.

No i don't say women were unable to do the same work as men because they were legally barred. Women could not realistically work in hard industrial jobs where men themselves were regularly killed, maimed, contracted diseases and worked from sunrise till sundown. Women could not work these jobs and were protected from doing so in MANY countries. As men could only realistically work these jobs only they could stand to gain some power in them. Would you like to work down a coal pit or something else in the 19th century for 20hrs a day?

I like women just fine. I dont respect them as a group in society because they are overprivileged and behave like animals. But as individuals i like them and they can earn my respect if they try.

No, historical facts don't disagree with me. Many of the history books written today are written with the intention of saying women were oppressed and held back, when in fact they were not. Women could not do the same things men could and men were generous to protect them from it. Also intelligence tests show men are more intelligent by 3-5 IQ points.

You might have a point there, perhaps i should do my own research and disprove these womens organisations in government and UN.

Also, in Europe the British government is now trying to close ALL womens prisons and only give female criminals community service. Men will be punished with life behind bars as usuall. One good example of male oppression and female privilege in the West.

Women are nothing more than pampered children.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

"I like women just fine. I don't respect them as a group in society because they are overprivileged and behave like animals. But as individuals i like them and they can earn my respect if they try."

Man, I don't know where the hell you live where women act like "animals"! LOL! That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. I don't see any women running around biting random people or drinking out of the toilet or eating out of a dumpster. Unless they're homeless! LOL. You have some odd ideas.

IQ and other measures of intelligence demonstrate that, on average, women and men have the same level of intelligence. A few points off here or there is not statistically significant.

"Prior to the 19th amendment America as with the rest of the western world was still in a stage of industrial development."

Yeah, so what? I said that throughout history women were oppressed all over the world, and that is an example.

"Working class men were also unable to vote in our history as were Blacks."

Yes. And? That doesn't take away from the negative experiences of women.

"Again name one law that oppresses women today?"

In the modern west there are very few, if any. That is precisely what this hub is all about, lol! The countries where women are freer and less oppressed are typically very well-off. That's the whole point. The others that have not developed or advanced as far (and are in an industrial or pre-industrial state) are where women have fewer freedoms. You asked me originally for laws from history.

I think the main stumbling block here is that you don't seem to think that women have any INHERENT rights, just for existing. On that point, you need to understand that all humans, male and female, have certain inherent rights, just by virtue of existing as humans. The right to not be harmed, for instance. What some government "chooses" to grant to a person is irrelevant to their basic rights as a human being. Male or female.

If you are trying to say that women are more dangerous to society than men, this too is factually incorrect. The vast majority of crime--violent or nonviolent--is committed by men, in every society. This does not mean men are inferior, it is simply a fact.

"Women could not work these [industrial] jobs and were protected from doing so in MANY countries."

First of all, industrial jobs have only existed for about 200 years or so. That means that for the vast majority of human history, before the industrial revolution, when practically everyone worked in agriculture, your statement does not apply.

Secondly, if you are simply referring to physical labor then yes, of course, since men are on average larger and stronger than women, it goes without saying that they would be the natural choice. This also applies to soldiers.

But that was not what I referred to originally. I referred to rights and freedoms. Having the right to try for a job, and fail, is one thing. Women never had the right to try for anything except very insignificant tasks. This applies to NON-PHYSICAL tasks as well as physical ones.

What about priests? Bureaucrats? Scribes? Historians? Artists? Governors? Merchants? Cooks? Or a variety of other non-physically-intensive jobs? Men enjoyed dominance and preference in all these areas for millennia, both culturally and legally. A woman's freedoms was largely determined--de facto AND de jure--by her husband or her father.

So it looks like you have your work cut out for you: disprove and overhaul the entire fields of history, anthropology, psychology, neuroscience AND disprove the claims of the largest and most respected international organizations, with better data and statistics than they can apparently come up with.

Good luck.


Courtney L J profile image

Courtney L J 5 years ago

obviously rated this article as "awesome..." love that in the richest countries, women have the most power.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Obviously, Courtney :) Thanks and I'm glad you liked it.


CR Rookwood profile image

CR Rookwood 4 years ago from Moonlight Maine

Such a good article. I really appreciated the stats and lists. Also, it gets so tiresome to hear the "We're number one!" stuff all the time from U.S. politicians, when really, we so are not. But I guess "We're number 19!" doesn't have quite the same ring. :)


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secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Haha, definitely not CR. Thanks for coming.


Tori 4 years ago

I loved the facts and reading your comments and your statement backed up by facts. And I enjoyed your debate in comments section as I have heard these arguments before, and they always made the hair on my back of neck bristle, because I knew they were inaccurate, but didn't know how to verbalize it. It is heartwarming to hear men and women have inherent rights, no need to "earn" it. I feel life is spent as a female always trying to "prove" ourselves or "earn" respect. It is exhausting and demoralizing....and wonderful to think it is changing for future generations so women can take any path in life and enjoy inherent rights, just for existing. Thank you for writing this blog and putting into black and white what needs to be said. :)


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Thank you, Tori, for your great thoughts. Glad you enjoyed it.

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