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Sex War: The Struggle for Dominance

Updated on January 6, 2011

Men and women constantly fight each other to prove their superiority. This assumed superiority takes several different forms, the most prominent being in the workplace and within the home. For example, men stereotypically assert their dominance while driving by refusing to ask for directions; women assert theirs by insisting that men get the directions anyway. Women demonstrate their capabilities in the workplace by abandoning all sense of femininity and taking on a more masculine persona; men attempt to intimidate their female co-workers by making inappropriate comments. The pursuit of dominance is often a reaction to gender stereotypes, which are the socially shared beliefs about characteristics of men and women in general (Cleveland, 2000, p. 43). Our modern society makes it unnecessary to continue to struggle over gender role and whether men or women are superior.

Men and women often have difficulty relating in the workplace because men instinctually want to exert physical dominance over women. As it is inappropriate to behave this way in the workplace, they exert this perceived authority by expecting women to defer to them. This, of course, is not the way things usually work out. Modern women are raised to believe that they are equal to men and they should be treated as such. Unfortunately, many overcompensate by behaving in a masculine way, and this behavior tends to be threatening to other women and men alike. According to Susan Landon in “Women in the Workplace”, women find it difficult to advance in the workplace because they have a harder time balancing work and family. The truth is that this idea is more of a stereotype. Women have less difficult to balance work and family than it is to explain why they feel the need to do so. Women are pressured to stay home with their children, to put their families first and work second, even though no one asks the same of men. For this reason, men and women end up struggling in the workplace: men and women both want to prove that they’re the providers.

Men and women often feel pressured to fulfill traditional roles at home: the man as protector and fixer of all things broken, the woman as nurturer and housekeeper, depending on “pin money” from their husbands. Even in the 1940’s women had a difficult time balancing working all day and coming home to find that her day had just begun (Chafe, 1992, p. 175). Men and women put pressure on one another to maintain the socially-accepted roles that have been laid out for them, but the solution is to abandon these roles and to decide for them self what their responsibilities should be. Men need not to feel pressured to avoid showing their “feminine” side by nurturing their children. Boys, in particular, benefit from having a close relationship with their fathers, because they tend to be less likely to act out when their father acts like a caring parent and not always the stern patriarch (Brute, 1990, p. 80). Getting the confusion over the “proper” gender roles out of the way can help men and women relate to each other, and their children, better in the home.

Even though most of the people it hired were women, there was still discrimination. The employer didn't think women with young children should be working outside the home. The employer is entitled to this belief. But he couldn't let it affect his employment decisions. When his beliefs did influence his hiring decisions, he broke the law. They then try to determine their roles both in the home and in the workplace. One can only hope that this will lead to fewer struggles between men and women in order to assert their dominance. One can also hope that it leads to men asking for directions and women avoiding brutish behavior in the workplace.

Resources:

Brute, M. (1990). Chapter Three Homemakers Male and Female. In Suburban Lives (pp. 67-89). New Brunswick, NJ: RutgersUniversity Press.

Chafe, W. H. (1992). The Paradox of Change: American Women in the 20th Century. New York: OxfordUniversity Press.

Cleveland, J. N., Stockdale, M., & Murphy, K. R. (2000). Women and Men in Organizations Sex and Gender Issues at Work. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Landon, S. (1996, November). Women in the Workplace: Making Progress in Corporate America. USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), 125, 66+.

 

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