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Should women stick to their "natural role" in society?

Updated on January 28, 2016
June Cleaver from "Leave it to Beaver"
June Cleaver from "Leave it to Beaver" | Source

I had to do some serious deep breathing after I read the letter below to the Orlando Sentinel.

Women don't belong in combat.

Archie and Edith Bunker, characters on the 1970s sitcom "All in the Family," used to sing a song at the beginning of the show. One of the lines was "girls were girls and men were men.

In a Sunday Sentinel picture, it was hard to tell which gender was photographed. The only clue was that it accompanied the article "Vt. guardsman is 1st woman combat engineer." I find it rather sad that a woman is content to be admired because she is masculine. To what purpose?

I do not believe the military needs females in combat ever. According to some reports, mixed units don't perform nearly as well as all-male units. There is definitely a place for women in the military, but I do not think it is in special forces and on the front lines.

However, feminists have shrilly begged for "equality" for so long, and now they have it; or do they? Not all women want it; nor do men. Equality is physically and emotionally impossible.

Society flounders and becomes coarse and nonproductive when men and women do not accept and assume their natural role.

Oh how I wanted to respond but alas, I was too late. The editorial was closed to comments. Had I had the opportunity to weigh in, this is what I would have said:

I’m glad we agree women have a place in the military and much as I wish it weren’t so, you’re right, the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force formed to study male-female ground combat units found that all-male units performed compared better.

But Madam, to refer to women's insistence for equal opportunity as "shrill" is to reveal something inside you that is either threatened or largely unfulfilled. Some of us (indeed, most people I know) root for gender equality because frankly, we’re evolved, not because we think a woman wants to be "admired" because she looks like a boy. How insulting and absurd. There’s far easier ways to look like a man than to sweat through the hellish rigors of Marine training.

Admittedly some people, notably older generations and fundamentalists, are more comfortable with clear cut traditional gender roles. I can't say I relate but for the most part I wasn't raised with expectations based largely on my gender. And unless one's view moves to the ballot box to block equality, I'm not threatened by traditionalists.

Still, we shouldn't criticize men and women who want opportunities once not afforded or expected of them even if blurring gender roles make us question our own identity.

"I find it rather sad that a woman is content to be admired because she is masculine. To what purpose?"

Admired for being masculine? Lady, she's-----wearing-----her----uniform.

The she-soldier's job isn't to turn on her fellow soldiers with her feminine charm. Perhaps pink fatigues would suit this woman's delicate sensibilities. Perhaps add some pretty little lace to dot the collar so male soldiers know that underneath those boyish boob-flattening fatigues sits a girl?

See also: Women in Combat: Pros and Cons

Stay-at-home dad
Stay-at-home dad | Source

Non-traditional roles don't destroy families

As well we shouldn't criticize men and women who prefer non-traditional arrangements inside their own family.

For instance, in my little tribe of three I do nearly all the grocery shopping and nighttime cooking. My husband Andy generally makes his own breakfast (I make his if I'm making mine) his own lunch and when needed, his own dinner. Same deal goes for my teenage daughter.

When our child was young Andy shared in diapers, bottles and every other non-breast feeding child care task he could manage. Without any prodding he does his own laundry which even to my most liberated friends, seems like a radical arrangement. When we met, Andy did his own laundry and frankly, he's a messy clothes-strewn kind of guy who piles clean and dirty clothes into an unsortable heap in our closet so I saw no reason to take over that cluster.

Both of us carpooled our daughter to school and to outside activities. After maternity leave I worked for six months, left the workforce and in 2007, started a writing career from home. Since 1992 Andy has also worked from home and is available on the spot in our child's life. We both take well to grilling but he takes out the garbage and walks our dog. I feed our pooch and handle his hygiene (cleaning our pug's wrinkle and other bodily necessities) and take him to the vet. All of us straighten up (sort of, their standards aren't mine), empty the dishwasher and rotate kitchen duty.

Traditional family? Meh. Traditional-ish.

Beyond biology (my parts and hormones vs his), gender roles don't make much difference in our family, instead we divide labor by common sense, messy fairness and by what needs to get done in the moment.

Our nation's "natural" gender roles have faded in favor of the necessity of two-income parent households, expanding opportunities for women and the respectable and equitable practicality of sharing labor.


Are women "unnatural" if they don't want marriage or babies?

The only "natural role" left for women today is the one where they have no control, the biological imperative to bear children.

Although, not all women want babies, so are they unnatural?

If say, your friend Charlotte can't make babies or doesn't want them, is she unnatural? Am I unnatural because I stopped at one child by choice? Seems rather cruel to insist the value of a human being among our many traits, be tied to one's ability or even interest in reproducing.

To the letter writer's point, yes, women and men's brains are different. (Although, I just read this study that found that women and men's brains are indeed, not so different).

And yet, by no means am I suggesting we strive to homogenize the sexes.

Obviously our bodies aren't built the same. Men grow whiskers. By and large males have more muscle mass and stronger upper body strength (although I've seen some kick ass yet wholly feminine-looking women in my workout class who haul bigger dumb bells than some of the men).

I happily embrace my femininity, my breasts, bras, spiked heels, almost all that comes with being uniquely woman. It also goes without saying if you know how much I love my daughter that I embrace my role as mother (minus meltdowns and exhaustion and childbirth and post-partum depression. I'd give up those horrors in a heartbeat). I also love men being men (their muscles and other parts that differentiate) but that's where my gap with the XY chromosome ends, in the biology, not the opportunity.

The letter writer suggests that "Society flounders and becomes coarse and nonproductive when men and women do not accept and assume their natural roles."

Course? Unproductive? Floundering society?

Well now I do declare! Women are dainty precious unspoiled flowers whose petals wilt under pursuits best left to men.

What a load of irrational archaic crap.

See: "9 Facts that Prove That Prove That Traditional Definitions of Gender Roles are Bullsh*t"

The letter writer also referenced the old 70's sitcom hit "All in the Family" (cue intro music: "Where girls were girls and men were men") to illustrate her point.

And yet ironically what she fails to understand about one of our nation's favorite iconic shows is director Norman Lear used Archie and Edith's characters in "All in the Family" to explicitly highlight what was changing in an era when racism, sexism and traditional gender expectations were being deeply challenged.

Certainly, every woman has the right to define her role in society as she sees fit, but we should allow women to define and pursue roles without reducing her ambitions to "course and unproductive," and worse, as a force that selfishly throws society into a "floundering," unsettled state.

Our only "natural" role as men and women today is to define our role for ourselves. Any lessor expectation is to succumb to the will and dominion of another, which in my view, is to give up the freedom of self-determination, of being human.

Further reading: "Women in Combat: Pros and Cons"

Image credit: By CBS Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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    • Lauragowens profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      dashingscorpio, well said. Thanks for your thought-provoking comment.

      Equality is indeed about the opportunity to succeed or fail. Yes, I had heard that women have been in combat in Israel and other nations for sometime.

      To your point about sexual harassment and rape, absolutely, the concern should be why our female soldiers have to fear men in their own unit, not what might happen if they're captured. When a soldier enlists, he and she takes on the risk an enemy might capture her/him and torture or rape. When women enlist, they should NEVER have to take on the risk of harassment or rape within their own unit. If a man can't control his "impulses" with a female soldier, something is broken inside him, and inside the power system that allows this sickness to go unpunished.

      Yes, my daughter and I are thrilled (me more so as I've witnessed the evolution of female images in the media, she just grew UP with the likes of Catniss et al), with action hero heroines who wield among many strengths, kick-ass abilities :) The Divergent series as well.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      4 years ago from Texas

      Hi Laura, this is a wonderful hub. I have often wondered when I hear the “role” when referring to men/women, who doles/determines the roles. Thank you for pointing out the this is life and not about “role” playing.

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      4 years ago from Chicago

      I believe equality is about having the same opportunities to succeed or fail at something. As you noted not every woman wants to be a Navy Seal or fight on the front line. However for those who do want to they should be able to find out if they can survive the training to earn slot.

      Israel and other countries have utilized female combat troops for a while. There will always be men and women for that matter who feel a woman has no business being in certain occupations. Some fear what may happen to women if they are caught by the enemy. However more women complain about being sexually harassed or raped by their fellow male soldiers.

      We have to do a better job of allowing women the same opportunities as men have without the internal harassment atmosphere and toxic environment.

      You don't need to be 6'2" weighing 225# in order to operate a fighter jet or helicopter. This is one of the things movie goers are raving about in movies like "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Hunger Games"; the women are the action heroes. Sometimes life imitates art.

    • Lauragowens profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      Thank you so much Michaela :)

    • Michaela Osiecki profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Bravo, bravo! Excellent piece of writing you have here. :)

    • Lauragowens profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, HSchneider. Fortunately, our views are evolving.

      Certainly I've run into a few men here and there who seem threatened by woman's changing roles, but I've also run into women, surprisingly (or is it?) who feel this way.Generally older generations or fundamentalists.

      Certainly traditionalism isn't a problem for me as long as one's ballot box vote doesn't block equality (gender, same sex etc). I was so shocked to read this lady's letter, notably that society's role "flounders" when women try to ususurp their "natural roles." What??

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      4 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Very well said, Laura. Some people, though they are usually men, are too stuck in the past. Thankfully views on this subject and others involving equality are steadily changing. No one should be judged and definitely not on one choice in life. All people are are a sum of their choices and views and hopefully these change for all of us as we mature. Great Hub.


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