Third day in Panama and already I have learned so much. Our focus so far has been on how to be a CHANGE AGENT, especially how being a woman has given me the power to create change. During one of our activities, we discussed areas that we felt needed to change. My pick…Gender Roles in Society!

For years and years, women were thought of to be second class or the property of men and it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that things started to change. First World Countries started giving women equal rights in terms of voting and work place equality. Yet, women are still making less than men do for the same jobs. On average, women are making seventy-five cents to a man’s dollar. There are also stereotypes and gender roles that society still holds. Even in today’s society, young girls are given Barbie dolls while young boys are given things like Legos and cars. The way we treat these children is different as well. Young girls are given pet names like Princess and Baby Doll, while young boys are called Buddy or Champ. The boys are encouraged to run around and play or to build things while the girls are often told to play house.

As these children grow up, even chores within a home are broken into stereotypical gender roles. The males are given outside work such as yard work, fixing the car, or household maintenance while the females are given the “women’s work” which includes inside chores like laundry, cleaning and caring for the family. Society has popularized shows like “Leave it to Beaver”, which portrays a 1950s family with the breadwinner father and stay at home mother who cleans in pearls. However, society has shifted with the surge of women entering the workforce in the 1960s and 1970s. Terms like “second shift” became popular when working mothers would then return home and care for the family after working all day. One show that made this popular was “Rosanne”.

Even in the current job market, there are gender stereotypes. Many helping professions such as nursing, teaching and social work are often considered a woman’s job. While professions like law enforcement, politics, and handy work is consider to be a man’s job. Men are also encouraged to be authoritative in the workplace while women are expected to be submissive. In fact, if a woman appears dominant, she is often considered to be hostile. However, even with the awareness of societal changes, there is still equality for women everywhere. So much so that women belong not to a group with power and privilege, but of a part of an oppressed group.  In many parts of the world, women are still thought of as a man’s property and second class.

I believe that enough is enough. It is time for young women to take a stand and speak out against this form of oppression. For if young women don’t love themselves, then how can they help others love themselves?