Primarily, gender identity is the term people use to describe themselves as a male or a female, and it is the way society identifies individuals based on knowledge of biology and the human body. Along with those come to these understandings, society has certain expectations regarding behaviors, roles, and norms during everyone’s everyday lives (Juergensmeyer & Anheier, 2012). An area in which people can have mixed emotions because of the nature of the topic is gender identity and prejudice. During the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s gender identity displayed in the media was more traditional than what it is today.
The show that I have chosen to reflect on is “All in the Family” which was a sitcom that aired from 1975 to 1985 and had a few episodes that discussed controversial topics. The main characters on the show were Archie Bunker played by Carroll O’Connor, a hardworking blue-collar man who was assertive, Edith Bunker played by Jean Stapleton, George’s bubbly and sometimes ditzy wife, their daughter Gloria Stivic played by Sally Struthers, and their Polish-American son-in-law Michael Stivic played by Rob Reiner. During Season 3 Episode 24, “The Battle of the Month” displayed a great example of the topic on gender identity. While Archie was discussing the topic of men vs. women with his daughter Gloria, there was a distinct quote that perfectly described a male’s mindset during that period. During the conversation, Gloria was explaining to her father, Archie, that she was feeling under the weather because of her menstrual cycle.
Every time a person who was in the room tried discussing this topic with Gloria, Archie would object. Gloria then called attention to her father’s views on the subject and said that he was like every other man who viewed it and it’s the reason why so many women feel guilty about themselves. Gloria tried to explain to Archie that women want to be treated equal to men, but Archie interrupted and said, “You can’t be treated as equals because you ain’t, you are the weakest sex, and we [men] gotta protect and learns ya’s things” (Paraone, 2013). In layman’s terms, Archie claimed that men were put on this earth to protect women and teach them because females are the weaker of the sexes that cannot do basic things for themselves. Gloria said that her father’s mindset and comment were stupid and then her mother attempted to diffuse the situation by requesting her in the kitchen to help cook dinner.
In the time era that this show aired, if I were to wake up one morning as a different gender, I would be okay with it because at this time there were gender prejudices. The content of the show “All in the Family” is extremely accurate on how society treated men and women back then. Men were seen as the superior sex because they were typically the breadwinners in the household. They went to work to make money for the bills and groceries while the women stayed home and took care of the household chores, children. It was uncommon and frowned upon for women to be independent at this time. If they did, it was viewed as “disrupting traditional family values.”
I now know that men had a sense of entitlement forty plus years ago and that has changed my opinions towards men during that time. During this time, men, typically Caucasian, were identified as being wealthier, smarter, and the ones who held higher positions around the community and in society as a whole. Even if females were a part of the working class, men were still placed into more senior positions whether they qualified or not because a lady couldn’t hold a higher rank than a male in any aspect of life. The second way in which my attitude was enlightened was by learning that women accepted their roles in society. They agreed that their purpose was to be a housewife and that was the goal that they would instill in their daughters when they became old enough to understand. They took care of a man who would go to work and provide money for the family and the children that they would raise together. The final way that my attitude toward men is that I can respect that they take their role as provider very seriously. You hardly heard of a man staying home with the kids and the woman working, or a man being unemployed and not searching for a job.
There is one thing that I as a woman believe I take for granted and that is the power that women have in a relationship, a family, and in society. If I were a male in a family setting, I would only be viewed as the person who goes to work every day to provide money for the family. Being a woman, I am seen as the chef, the housekeeper, the nurturer, doctor, and counselor because these are the things that a woman does to support her family. If something were to happen where I couldn’t do these things, I can almost guarantee they would not get done, and the entire household would become disheveled.
This episode of “All in the Family” did not display any form of racism; however, another episode in this sitcom did. That episode was of an African American family that had moved a few houses down, and Archie did not approve of this situation. Not only was gender prejudice an issue at this time, so was racism. Minorities were viewed as inferior to Caucasian men just like women were; however, these thoughts have changed over the years. Today, women and minorities are equal to others. Employment is an example of equality because today an individual cannot be turned away from a job due to race, gender, or religious views. At this time I do not believe that society has reached a full sense of equality for everyone, but we had come a long way from when women and minorities were discriminated against for physical attributes that they did not ask for and cannot change.
- Juergensmeyer, M. & Anheier, H. K. (2012). Encyclopedia of global studies: Gender identity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Retrieved from ProQuest database.
- Paraone, T. (2013, Aug 29). All in the Family S3 E24- The battle of the month. [Video File].
- Retrieved from https://youtu.be/DZHQwE9UkHY