Saturday, May 09, 2009

I Love Lucy Gender Role Commentary

Today I turned on the TV, and "I Love Lucy" happened to be on. It was the episode where Lucy and Ricky switch roles. Ricky (I hope that's his name; I rarely watch the show!) does the housework and Lucy goes to work in a chocolate factory.

As I watched the show, I got kind of irritated. It's funny how much our society has evolved over the last 50 years or so and how that kind of humour would never really fly today. In the relationships between my married friends, housework and cleaning are split equally. Other than friends on maternity leave, I don't know any women who don't work.

When I was doing my undergrad, I took a course called "Perspectives" taught by, what I thought at the time, an overly feminist prof. She talked about how hard it is for women in the workplace, and I thought she was off her rocker. Since taking that class, I've been working in a very male-dominated engineering firm and I must reluctantly admit that I see where she is coming from. Before I go on, I should preface my rant by saying that I get along well with my co-workers and I really appreciate them. BUT, it can be hard sitting in the lunchroom when the guys are ogling the "Sunshine Girl". Since I long stopped caring to memorize the specs of various cars and hockey stats and have never played video games (save for my periodic Sims addiction which I shouldn't even really admit to in public ;-) ), I don't fit in when the conversation drifts in those directions. Though it hasn't been a challenge thus far in my career, since I've still been able to develop tight enough relationships that I can work well with the guys I need to work with, I can see how it would be an issue if I were staying at the company long-term and wanted to, say, fit in with a partnership team that is comprised entirely of males.

Besides the typically addressed "Old Boys Club," I have to admit that there are also biological factors that can hamper a woman's career. Other than the rare (but prominently featured on Oprah) case where a man ends up carrying a baby, the woman is the one whose body is used for 9 months to carry a child. After that time, it is the woman who must breast feed her child until that stage is over. Though there are ways to shorten this process, the reality is that for women to have children, there are career sacrifices which must be made. Men don't face this same kind of trade-off. Whereas a woman must choose between family and career (if not long-term, definitely in the short-term), a man does not have this challenge.

Anyway, I don't know what can be further done about gender equality. I just found it very interesting that the gender-role-switching was so humourous back in the I Love Lucy days.

No comments: