Friday, April 2, 2010

Switching Roles

Certain jobs have historically and culturally been filled by only one of the sexes. When the gender division lines are crossed, sometimes it does not seem natural, not organic. What thoughts cross your mind when you see a male nurse, or a female construction worker, or a stay-at-home dad, or a female miner? Unlike me, perhaps, you don't give these folks a second thought. A job is a job. A good worker is a good worker. I try not judge these people when I encounter them, however, I do observe and make mental notes. Maybe I'm just thinking as an amateur sociologist. Hopefully I am not overcome by sexist or hurtful thoughts, but I do find it interesting to consider those who do not follow our culture's traditional male/female roles and "rules".

In my observations, some of the stereotypes seem to be applicable. I have seen that there is a tendency for females in traditionally male positions to be less feminine and more like "one of the guys" and for males in traditionally female roles to be a bit less masculine. This is certainly not a universal trait, just something that I have tended to notice. Two of my case studies at my work are a male secretary and a female construction technician. He is very neat and tidy in his appearence, somewhat fastidious, with a very feminine manner. He is married with children, but he does not come across as a man's man. She dresses like all of her male co-workers. No jewelry, no make up. She carries herself like a man and talks shop like all of her male co-workers. She is married with children.

I think about how Hollywood approaches folks crossing the gender lines, characters like Mrs. Doubtfire and Victor Victoria. Of course these are folks who are pretending to be someone of the opposite sex to fit in and get what they want, and obviously these are humorous caricatures. However, I wonder how much of my "real world" observations of people's demeanor and appearance are based on how they believe they need to act in their roles in order to fit in and be successful. Perhaps some of the choices are conscious, perhaps some are subconscious. Maybe there is some crazy hormonal osmosis at work here. Folks take on the coat that others in their position are wearing. They begin to take on the mantel of the stereotype. What have you observed?