The Role of Gender Development in Society
Humanity has come a long way since the beginning of its existence. People have figured out a way to define their roles in the society in which they live, and it was common knowledge that both men and women had specific roles to play in their respective capacities. This included things like hunting and gathering of food, building up the shelter, and providing security for the house as far as the men were concerned. Women on the other hand, were supposed to look after their homes, wash the house, clean the dishes, wash and feed the children, simply put it, take care of their homes and raise the children (Afonja 11). Gender development in society is such as to portray the differences between men and women.
Human evolution has led to a redefining and reestablishment of societal roles. It led many to turn towards the constitution, which stated clearly that everyone had their right to be whatever it is that they wanted to be (CGSPS 1). This led to a free society, one that in its cultural setting was free to explore niches gender bound roles. Here lies the source of the problem, that an individual did not have the freedom of choice and also choosing their place in the society (Afonja 13). In most communities, it was culturally accepted that each gender had preassigned roles to play, guidelines on what to and what not to do and a concrete path they were to follow right from the moment they are born until the day they die. The main idea behind Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl.” Is just that.
In the short story “Girl” by Kincaid, we are told of a girl who has been given her own set of guidelines to follow, what to do and what not to do. On Monday, she is told to wash the white clothes and have them put on the stone heap. On Tuesday, she has been told to wash the colored clothes and put them on the clothesline to dry. She has been told not to walk bare head in the hot sun, to cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil and to soak her little cloths right after she has taken them off. In another short story, we are told of a woman who had to go through a shaming process caused by a man she had been dealing with, being given her own set of guidelines to follow; what to do and what not to do. This is in Maxine Hong Kingstone’s “No Name Woman” whereby the writer’s aunt is made pregnant by someone other than her husband and proceeds to tell her what to do and what not to do, essentially robbing her of her freedom of choice (Kingstone, 2). In the end, the woman is forced to feel shameful for her act and shamed for her sexuality.
While some may say that these guidelines existed for a specific reason, for example, dos and don’ts on this short story created to guide the female gender on what was expected of them and a base for their behavior. Historically, the religious norms of their certain cultural community had much effect in what was expected for each woman in that given community (CGSPS 3). These religious beliefs outlined what was expected of each person, given that each had a specific role to play in his or her community (Kabeer 3). It was clear what was expected of each man, woman, and child in that society. It did not leave much room to wiggle, to explore one’s talents, dreams or ambitions besides the defined set of standards that were to be followed (Cornia et al. 2).
We are left to wonder that these societies were so much alike so due to lack of formal education and empowerment (Afonja 15). In Kincaid’s short story, we don’t see at any point a reference to education. This could be another reason why there was no freedom of choice as it pertains to what one wanted to do or wanted to become. Over the years, education has been a means of freeing the mind, to excite one’s mind and to show an individual that there lies more beyond the normal scope of what to do and what not to do (Cornia et al. 4). While it can be argued that these guidelines served as the means of educating women; it was an education that barely challenged an them to push beyond their capabilities (Kabeer 9). In most cultures, it was traditionally known that the women were the home carers and any education that pertained to the world outside their homes was a waste of time because it would have been useless in that regard (CGSPS 5). Instead they were educated on how to sew clothes, iron them and how to wash them. However as far as their responsibilities were concerned, this kind of traditional education sought to preserve the image of a “traditional” woman. In his short story, we learn that the girl has been told of how to dress, how to walk on Sundays, who to talk to and who not to talk to. All this has been done to ensure the girl does not become a disgrace to the family.
However, evolution has been the constant in every given society and all the cultural settings. Education has expanded to include every individual, both boys, and girls to explore and push beyond their boundaries, to develop their communities and generally improve their own lives and the lives of the people from the communities from where they come from (Cornia et al. 6). Technological advancements have ensured that the world has become a global class room. It is now possible to go from one area to another in a matter of hours, if not minutes (Kabeer 13). This has led to intercultural interactions, merging of cultures, expansion, and exchange of ideas, diversification and a world where anyone is free to be anything that they so desired to be. In essence, this has made the world a global community wherein everyone can co-exist and pursue whatever they desire that will lead to towards happiness (Melling 7).
The social inclusivity movement, along with the me too movement has showed us that there has been more that can be done. Exchange of cultural practices has ensured that everyone gets to learn from the other, irrespective of their gender (Afonja 19). For example, in Kincaid’s “Girl”, we learn that the girl was taught the important part of preparing bread pudding, of how to make a doukona, a pepper pot and how to prepare a good traditional medication for the child. It is expected that this girl would pass these educational teachings to her daughter, and her daughter to her daughter, and so on to every generation, thus preserving this knowledge (CGSPS 7).
Fortunately, for humanity, this knowledge gets to be preserved because cultural practices can now be exchanged and preserved through time. This also pushes for a refinement in the way things are done. It can be noted that the girl has been told of taught the act of abortion as a way to do away with a child way before they become one. The societies today have been made aware that actions such as abortions have a moral bearing, depending on the religious beliefs that one religion to another. It is, therefore, possible to assume that the world has become a better place for accommodating different opinions in regards to different subjects or aspects of life.
In the excerpt from Ryunusuke Akutanagawa’s “In A Grove”, we are told of a story of a woman that had to end the life of her husband because of the shame brought upon to her by the robber that raped her. The husband had been tied down and was utterly distraught with what had taken place. After realizing the fact that there had been clear sets of guidelines to follow in such a scenario, she decided to end his life (Akutanagawa 23). This is because she had been culturally responding in a particular manner as it pertained to her shame, the very act of having known two men. Such as it was, it was an unacceptable sin in her own opinion. In the same excerpt, we are told about Tajomoru’s confession. A woman who follows her sociocultural norms and expectations, causes the death of one man by another. Despite one of the men being her husband, she cannot bring herself to be with more than one man, and thus offers herself to be the wife of whoever won the duel. This causes the robber to kill the husband just so to have the woman (Akutanagawa 27).
Therefore, it can be said that a world, which involved following a set of rules of the individual follows in any given society had more bad values than it had the good. Men were expected to do things differently from women, which led to narrow minded ways of doing things (Kabeer 17). In the age of modernization and the spread of formal education, it is now possible for an individual to choose what he or she wants to do for his or her society. Become whomever they so wished to become and find their passion in where they belong, essentially finding contentment and peace in being in which position that one has chosen to be (Synder 5).
The inclusion of everyone in the has brought forth ideas regarding, better leadership, and diversification of ways of doing things. While we can admit that the set of rules or preferably, the “education” offered from the given to an individual preserved certain cultural identities All in all, it comes back to what was or is considered to be right from wrong.
In conclusion, due to the current laws governing many countries, there have been constitutional rights established for each of the individuals relating to deciding what is right from what is wrong. To simplify the whole process, it has been outlined that while each individual person has their rights, they were and are free to exercise those rights as long as they did not infringe on the rights of another individual. It is in my opinion that in so far as sociocultural expectations were outlined for the different individuals in that community or society, they were self-limiting. Therefore, it is certain to say that for the sake of progress and development, the good from the different cultural backgrounds should be preserved, while the oppressive and offensive ideas should be eliminated. Therefore, this bounds all individuals get to enjoy gender role equality; by looking at the subject from the same point of view.