Value education

How to prepare children for the unprecedented shift in gender roles

It makes better sense to discuss this question with parents. The discussion that follows could be shared with parents, without any need to edit.

It took men eternity to let women exercise their political choice. It is hard to believe that women suffrage is a 20th century change and the leading lights of the developed world are far from celebrating 100 years of its enjoyment by women!

Indeed, one of the gravest inequalities in history is gender-based and the 20th century heralded a new beginning. Happily, the world was quick to respond and gifted four peerless iron-ladies – of course, M. Thatcher, but no less in Indira Gandhi, S Bandaranaike and Golda Meir.

It is only natural that the 21st century may be able to put the last nail in the coffin of gender inequality. Fortunately, the wind is already blowing that way.

Winds of change
Over the past decades, remarkable progress has been made in reducing the gender gap in education and jobs.

This has led to the emergence of new gender roles that are affecting relationship, status, marriage and family around the world.

Women are much more likely than men to have jobs today than 50 years ago, a great development. In the emerging markets such as East Asia, two-thirds of women have jobs. In South Korea, the employment rate of women in their 20s (59.2%) recently overtook that of men in their 20s (58.5%).

However, to their disadvantage, it makes the pool of potential match for marriage smaller. In 1960’s USA, women were spoilt for choice. For every 100, never married women, aged 25-34, there were 139 young, never-married men as a potential match. In 2012, there were just 91.

Even relatively traditional Asian societies have not remained immune, and the share of educated unmarried women in their 30’s is rapidly rising and divorce rates spiralling upwards. In Hong Kong and Japan, the general divorce rate was about 2.5 in the mid-2000s, and South Korea tops the Asian charts with 3.5, which is comparable with 3.7 in America, 3.4 in Britain, 3.1 in France and 2.8 in Germany.

The Economist cites reasons why higher education and employment leave women with fewer potential partners. In most Asian countries, women have been indoctrinated to “marry up”, i.e. marry a man of higher income or education.

Obviously, the collapse of the lifetime-employment systems, which used to ensure that a single (male) worker’s income could support a middle-class family, has made double income a necessity. Most families need wife’s earnings to supplement the family income.

A report titled ‘Relationships – Sad Dads!’ in Times of India, 7th December 2014, talked about how men are also susceptible to post-partum depression; first-time fathers are facing stress similar to the one faced by mothers. Modern father faces panic attacks and depression that are crippling his life and in extreme cases the bouts of withdrawal have been so severe that continuing in job became an impossibility. It reported a 68% increase in depression symptoms over the first five years of being dad among those who become fathers at the age of 25. Parenting is undergoing mutative changes!

Time to sit up and notice
Of course, boys are going to be ‘battered’ more than girls; yes, girls will also not be spared. Why would girls be battered at all? It is not all great news for the fairer sex; many parents are bringing up girls much the way they bring up boys. For instance, we all know women who, much like men, measure success in life and career by the size of their car, bank balance and the diverse investments in ‘secure assets’ (land, house); career and money at the cost of everything else, just the way men do and at times end up losing valued relationships!

Expectedly, both boys and girls must be sensitised for cross gender roles and responsibilities. Here is a brief listing of such roles for both (we claim no professional rights to write more in this discussion):

  1. Personal management – make your own bed, tidy your room
  2. Household management – cook at least a few of your favourite dishes, wash and iron cloths, shop for daily household necessities
  3. Family management – being sensitive and taking care of elders, children and pets, being a responsible partner
  4. Financial management – all about saving, banking, investing and related paper work and informative analysis
  5. Management of miscellaneous items like car, electrical and electronic goods, computers, laptops, phones

The changing gender roles are hardly appreciated in most societies and it is going to be the biggest cause of social and personal stress!

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