The evolution of women’s roles in the sixty years between I Love Lucy and Desperate Housewives is startling.  Gone is the stark division of labour between the working man and the happy housewife.  Even more startling is that the way men’s roles have barely changed at all.  The reluctance of men to transcend from the public into the private is as strong in Ricky’s distain of doing household chores in I Love Lucy as it is in Tom’s reluctance to be a stay at home father in Desperate Housewives. 


Although there were men working to deconstruct masculinity as early as the 1970s and 80s, they seemed to become caught up in a stumbling block that stems from feminist discourse and the way it constructs hegemonic masculinity as inherently privileged. [1] Much like the work of third wave activists has re-thought second wave analysis to incorporate an analysis of class, race and sexuality, anti-sexism activists must learn to re-think patriarchy as constructing and constricting men and women without losing sight of the main goal: gender equality.  In the same way that white activists who work as anti-racists activists must overcome their white guilt, men who seek to be anti-sexist activists will need to overcome feelings of guilt at being complicit in the larger system of oppression before beginning to work within the larger feminist framework. However, feminism must also move beyond this same quandary before being able help remove the stigma from men who step into stereotypically feminine social roles. [2] Third wave feminists need to recognize that just as patriarchy does not oppress all women to the same degree, the same is true of men. As the “Hierarchies of Masculinity” section argues, the hegemonic construction of masculinity is extremely racist, classist and heterosexist. Feminism must open up to incorporate critiques by men that are productive to the greater goal of equality. 


An analysis of gender oppression that looks at the whole picture allows for patriarchal systems to be subverted both from the outside, through deconstructing “women’s work” as a gender neutral set of responsibilities, and from within through critiques of hierarchical structures in the workplace by those who have the ability to change them. There are two possible models of gender equality that could achieve the same end. Either housework and childcare could become a contract negotiated between partners, with neither partner unwillingly burdened, but remain unpaid and undervalued, or (ideally) social values could shift to equally value both work and childcare. What is most important is that this be a mutually beneficial shift, so both men and women can choose, and negotiate how they want to share the joint responsibilities of earning a living and making a home. 


It is my hope that this project has shown that it is imperative that masculinity be an area of inquiry for feminist thought if feminism is going to be successful in achieving equality between men and women. While this project has only looked at one aspect of gender inequality, it is part of a larger critique of masculinity that I hope feminist analysis will examine in the future in order to also question the construction of men as emotionally stoic, physically aggressive, and dominant over women and other men. It is also my hope that incorporating a critique of masculinity might help to lend legitimacy to the feminist movement, and help to reconstruct feminism within the public eye to revive a public urgency towards gender equality that has been lacking since the 80s. I can only hope that this will be part of the the fourth wave, and that the surge will begin soon. 


[1] Tolson, Andrew. 2004. “The Limits of Masculinity.” Pp. 69-79 in Feminism & Masculnities, edited by Peter F. Murphy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

[2] Pleck, Joseph H. 1980. “Men’s Power with Women, Other Men, and Society: a Men’s Movement Analysis.” Pp. 57- 68 in Feminism & Masculnities, edited by Peter F. Murphy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


One response to “Conclusion

  1. This project is amazing, I’m thrilled to have found it.

    Adele Nieves
    Contemporary Writer & Journalist, focusing on politics and women’s issues

    NEW BOOK COMING SOON! … What We Think: Gender Roles, Women’s Issues and Feminism in the 21st Century (accepting submissions)

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