You may have noticed that I haven’t once indicated that men have certain roles and women have other certain roles. That’s not to say that men and women have different roles, but that at the present time life in our society is so “easy” that roles have become nearly non-existent. So, a man or woman can earn a living, buy and own a home with their earnings, go to the grocery store or restaurant to buy food, be in contact with anyone, anywhere, at any time they please, and choose any number of venues to satisfy their need for relationships without getting too close, or too serious with the other. It is in this type of culture where the need for roles has been almost erased. The ‘need’ that is. Roles and their need still remain, but the ability to work around them has improved to the point that society doesn’t see these roles as needed. That wasn’t the case 100 years ago in the early 1900’s.
Now I didn’t live 100 years ago, but my grandfather and grandmother did. They homesteaded to help the country grow. Life was harder back then. Let me take a moment to explain. Keeping oneself alive from one day to the next was harder back then. If you didn’t work hard, you didn’t know when, or if, you would eat today. Back then, they knew that they had to work the land for their food. No one was going to go to the grocery store to buy food and come back and give it to them. They had a sense of responsibility for working the ground and tending the livestock themselves in order to stay alive day by day. Under these circumstances, the role of a man and of a woman falls right into place. They have to in order for their survival. It was hard work to keep things going and to stay alive back then. And when I say hard work, I mean physically demanding labor day in and day out. That’s why my grandparents would wake up long before the sun rose to start the chores. They had no running water, no electricity, no car, no phone (until later), no TV, no WiFi, no email, none of those things. The Amish and Mennonite groups get close to what life was like back then. Men and women get a sense of what is expected of them very quickly in that type of a situation. The “division of labor” becomes the man goes out and works (the field, the mine, the livestock, etc.) and comes back to the home when his body needs refueling. The woman tends to the home and the surrounding yard keeping things in order for the facilitation of providing those things her man and she need in order to survive. This includes hard work like making meals, clothes, churning butter, patching up walls, etc. He does the heavy lifting (because he is able to) in the outer fringes all the while keeping her safety and their future in mind while she keeps the home fires burning to keep them both strong and ready. If he doesn’t keep her safe and do the heavy lifting, or she doesn’t work to keep him healthy in body/mind and keep up the home, then the roles of manhood and womanhood aren’t being satisfied.
That’s right. Manhood and womanhood are what men and women’s roles are based off of, not masculinity and femininity. Roles that are distinctly male or female aren’t really needed when the other isn’t around. For instance, mountain men have been known to live off the land by themselves with no woman around until their dying day. They cover all of the necessary roles needed to survive alone. In order for a society to survive, it needs both male and female roles. Imagine that there is a wild, untamed land. Who will go tame and populate it? A band of women? A band of men? Imagine women building a log cabin, digging a well, fighting off predators, etc. Now imaging a band of men building a log cabin, digging a well, fighting off predators, etc. He can tame that wild and untamed land by himself, but he cannot rule it without a woman. Nowadays, with no new land to tame and with machines and technology accomplishing the heavy lifting, it has become difficult to distinguish male and female roles. Daily living may have changed, but the men and women living it haven’t changed. Because of this, there will always be a need for male and female roles in today’s society regardless of how much our society has changed.