Cultures and societies are born out of a collective adherence to similar traditions, values, and beliefs. Gender, in this context, has long endured stereotyping and expectations, depending on the ideologies of particular societies and their cultures. The role of women in many of these worldwide has been subject to argument and debate, and its evolution has caused various changes in a society’s set of demographics and psychographics. While women have been enjoying superior status in many tribal and ethnic communities, their function and perceived value in many modern societies have been disparate and inconsistent. Developed countries such as the UK and the United
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States have spearheaded the recognition of the woman’s role, and is evidenced by the significant contributions of women in these societies. From business owners to educators, from popular culture icons to heads of state—women have continuously and consistently influenced society, which exemplifies the existence of gender equality. And this is the true mark of modernity, one that allows full participation of all its members.
II. Women and Education
In a letter written in 1820 by writer and activist Frances Wright (in Rossi, 1973), she stated that “in America much is certainly done to ameliorate the condition of women, and as their education shall become, more and more, the concern of the state, their character may aspire in each succeeding generation to a higher standard”. Clearly, America—as well as other countries of the same level—had long seen the value of women, and intended for them to contribute significantly in the country’s future. Education is a prime instrument for effecting transformation, and the opportunity made available for women to claim it was the veritable trigger for greater achievements. The less constrained views of modern cultures find validity in providing women with the means to function at par with men, and this has resulted in definite milestones in history. Maria Montessori, M. Carey Thomas, Anne Sullivan Macy, and Inez Beverly Prosser are just some of the women who are acknowledged as pioneers in education (About.com, 2008).
III, Women and Economics
The contribution of women to a society’s economy is no longer deemed insignificant or mundane; this contrasts to early historical regard of the economic status of the human race, which was primarily attributed to males, with the participation of women fully dependent on whatever men dictate (Gilman, 1898). At present, women are placed in important positions that affect world economy, many of them holding power much greater than their male counterparts. This is so because “women are striving for a greater share of better jobs, trying to break out of the ghetto of traditional women’s occupations” (Bergmann, 1986). Some of the greatest and popular women in business are legendary in their own right, such as Oprah Winfrey and Gina Rinehart, who have broken the barriers of male-dominated fields to become business leaders with visions different from men. The undeniable contributions of these women to society are as iconic as their sources, and were done through styles and strategies that transcend gender.
IV. Women and Politics
Women have come along way from when government and politics, as well as the right to vote were solely in the hands of men, and considered improper for women (Addams, 1907). The traditional male role of decision-maker, ruler, and king, has mostly been essayed by those assigned to the task in similar manner; the occurrence of wars and the obsessive guarding of territory are arguably results of the typical male psyche. On the other hand, the reign of female heads have produced a different set of circumstances, as proven by the achievements of Margaret Thatcher, Condoleeza Rice, Hillary Clinton, and, quite possibly, Sarah Palin. Whether ideal or critical, the changes effected by these women, brought upon by their pronounced differences from men with regard to style, have forever changed the landscape of global politics and government.
However arguable the cases of these women may be, these form the fact that women can excel in politics and governance is already accepted in today’s society. The potential for women to measure up to not just men, but to those who had come before them, is now given the attention it deserves; institutions such as the Women & Politics Institute are proof of this claim. This establishment carries the profound mission to provide scholarly training to young women that will prompt them to be involved in a country or community’s political process, as well as facilitate research to enhance the understanding of specific challenges women face in politics and government (Women & Politics Institute, 2008).
V. Women and Family
A society’s basic unit is the family, which, in turn, functions as an integral part of a community or society. However, its origins still come from a male-centric ideology that define “family” as the collective property of persons—including the wife, children, and slaves—belonging to one man (Engels, 1942). Despite these definitions, it is of general knowledge that while the man may be the head of a family, the woman is the heart of each. Indeed, the role of women as the tie that binds families together has remained unchanged by progress and technology. Even as the woman is given more significant places in areas that used to be helmed by men, she generally still fulfills the functions she has within the family. Partly expectation and partly by nature, the reality of a woman as mother keeps bringing her back to the basics of caring and nurturing.
Family and motherhood are probably the fields where the woman’s role has not evolved as much as in others—only in nature and intent, and not in the patriarchal way of keeping family—because the goals of rearing children and maintaining a home are still on the to-do lists of the most successful women leaders. Such is the case since the formation and development of children as responsible citizens of a country are set within the realm of a mother’s responsibilities.
The question regarding the extent to which one agrees to the negative effects of women’s increasing rank in society had been introduced at the beginning, and the most logical answer had also been given straightaway. This is because the query had seemed more like a topic for debate, rather than an actual pondering that needed a real solution—for who would not be aware of the contributions put forth by women? To even entertain thoughts of negativity or harm in this context is to be considered preposterous.
But to comply with the rules of argument, several evidences had been named to prove the thesis of women’s past and present influences on society, and how the latter clearly credits much of its growth to women. The presence of women in education, business, and government, as well as their classic role in the family, are but a few of the evidences that point to the benefits a society enjoys because of the female power. However, the truth is not to be denied: to this day, though at a much smaller rate, men still significantly control much of society’s comings and goings. But they have never experienced competition as staunch as the women of today, whose efforts at seeing the world differently should guarantee them a place in history.
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