The over 60s are the women who have fought all of their lives for equality, to be recognised as worthy of the jobs, lifestyles and roles that equal the male stereotypes. And until this week, I believed that we were just about there.
And then I turned on the television. On a popular family television program, the host asked contestants to “name something people think is a women’s job” before asking the same question about a “man’s job”.
The answers that were correct for each question astounded me. For the women, the answers included cooking, cleaning, nursing, hairdressing, domestic duties, dishes, receptionist and washing clothes. And for the man’s job? The top answers were builder, plumber, mechanic, carpenter and tradesman.
When did we allow the stereotypes we fought so hard to break down, become accepted in society today? The answers were deemed correct as they were based on survey results of the Australian population. I’m sorry – was the survey conducted in 1956?
Two years ago, we had a pool built in our back yard and one of the concreters was a woman. Last week, I read about a woman in the paper who is working as a tradesperson in central Queensland mines – she isn’t a hairdresser or receptionist and has no desire to be. Last week I did go to the doctor for a check up and the medical centre receptionist was a young man. I also read a newspaper article recently about the rise in stay at home fathers in Australian homes.
So why are we still letting stereotypes from five decades ago play a role in our lives now? If these answers were the result of a survey conducted in Australia recently, why haven’t we changed our intrinsic beliefs about gender roles?
Because even though we’ve fought for gender equality for years and have been loud and proud about our cause, if we still can tick a box that says “hairdresser” or write down “cleaning” as roles that we think are woman’s jobs, aren’t we just undoing all of our hard work of the last 50 years? Do we even believe in the cause anymore?
The Sydney Morning Herald quoted RMIT University’s deputy dean of media and communication as saying that sexism is “alive and well” in Australia today.
“When the answer that the most popular women’s jobs are “washing, cooking and cleaning” arises, it makes it clear that sexism is alive and well, and it highlights that women are still being demeaned. It oppresses men as much as it does women for jobs to be typecast according to gender… What we want is freedom of choice, and for those choices to be respected”.
Are we all guilty of wanting gender equality, but not living, breathing and believing in the cause? If you were asked that question, what would you write down? Do you think we haven’t come as far as we would like to believe? Tell us in the comments below…