Man's Role: Bridging the Gap Between Expectation and Social Acceptance
The United States is more complicated than it was just two decades ago. The definition of family has changed and, with it, the roles of family members have been redefined. Men and women who were born to baby boomers are now in their twenties and thirties and are attempting to find their place in the American confusion of singe-parent households, multiple marriages, step-siblings, and unmarried parents (Lindsay, 2005). In this confusion, men in particular have emerged as a group with a no longer clear role, as an individual or in a family. Since the mind-eighties, these men have responded by adapting to the equal rights / feminism movement and to the changing times around them. Men are more often found: staying home with children; making less than female counterparts; and sharing financial and social decisions with their wives / girlfriends (Lindsay, 2005). Despite this, many people still hold onto feelings about the roles of men that are outdated. This places extreme pressure on men, as their place in today's America seems to be that of bridging the gap between adaptation to equality and a subconscious desire for traditional roles.
Men and women will always have different roles, due to women's natural ability to reproduce and men's greater average physical prowess (Soroka & Bryjak, 1995). In most societies, the roles of women and men have their roots in these physical differences. Women, for example, are more often found in the childcare role, while men are more often found in military service (Soroka & Bryjak, 1995). In modern time, however, it is obvious that there is no rule as to what women and men are limited to in terms of their social role. The issues, it seems, are not a matter of ability but rather a matter of social acceptance and individual comfort based on stereotypes and personal characteristics.
What most people consider the traditional roles of the American man seem to be rooted in the generations of the two World Wars (Lindsay, 2005). Lindsay (2005) describes the role of the "Great American Alpha Male" as "husband, breadwinner, father and warrior" who "returned from saving the world to two-car garages and suburban malaise" (p. 1). Such men had the identity of male made for them and knew what was expected of them. They completed their education, fought in the wars of their country, settled down with a wife as soon as they could support one, and raised a family. Once married, they stay married. They provided for their family under nearly all circumstances and protected them from harsh societal issues and world events. (Lindsay, 2005). This is clearly not today's man.
The result of the traditional male and female gender roles was a trend toward patriarchy. Soroka and Bryjak (1995) cite that, despite the biological advantages of being female:
in virtually all societies, the period between birth and death is characterized by overwhelming male social advantages in such fundamental realms as educational and occupational opportunities, health care, and legal and political representation... Men dominate major social institutions, and women are subordinated to those structures (p. 230-231).
This all changed in the 1980s and 1990s, as feminists attempted to topple the opposition to women in the workplace and other nontraditional roles (Soroka & Bryjak, 1995).
In response to two decades of feminist-spurred change, men are now taking on traditionally female roles and vice versa. Though it is difficult for individual men to completely let go of their traditional roles, statistics imply that more men are taking on female roles every day (Watts & Borders, 2005). More men are staying at home with their children while their wives pursue a career (Brescoll & Uhlmann, 2005). Men are more prevalent in jobs once considered feminine, including teachers and nurses (Brescoll & Uhlmann, 2005; Lindsay, 2005). Male students are also more likely than they were in previous decades to pursue liberal arts and do not hold school as a priority as they once did (Watts & Borders, 2005).
These new roles and social guidelines may work well and may achieve the closest thing to real equality in families (Soroka & Bryjak, 1995). However, they are problematic because they do not add up to social acceptance for this "new" man in America. Despite the entry of men into traditionally female roles, and…