Gender and Division of Labor


There are a great many assumptions about the role of men and women in today’s society, and there are a great number of reasons for these assumptions. For example, in the world of work, it is often assumed, and has historically been the case, that men are the ‘breadwinners’ and women stay at home and raise the children. In this essay, I will explore the background to this, the change that has recently occurred, and some existing divisions.

Men are, in most cases, stronger than women. This is not universally true, but has historically been the case. Given this, it has seemed to make sense that men go out into the world to accomplish work that has largely been physical. What I mean is, it the early human societies, before office work and machinery, heavy work was heavy work. Women, the physically smaller sex, would traditionally stay inside, gather berries, and raise children. This model, with all of its faults and bad assumptions about gender, remained until around the first and second world war.

In a modern society, when much work involves the mind and not the body, and when physical exertion is mostly taken on by machines, there is no justifiable reason to divide labor into the old method, men earning money, women raising children. This fact came to be realised in the two world wars, because, with men on the front line, all of the regular work, and the production of munitions, needed to be completed by women. This led to a revolution, with women, and some men, recognising that division of labor need not be made on outdated gender lines. So, when men returned from the front line, it was to a female population that wanted its share of rights that come with earning money.

Now, although there are still some positions that are largely male, like construction work and the armed forces, women are much more integrated into the labor force, and gender is no longer assumed to determine strength or earning ability.

So, although things are by no means perfect now and women are still, on average underpaid in relation to men, labor is now shared among the genders. And this resulted from a situation that forced a change in society. There is, undoubtedly, more gender equality as a result.

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