No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior

By Joshua Meyrowitz | Go to book overview

12

The Merging of
Masculinity and Femininity
A Case Study in Changing Group Identities

Today we are experiencing what may be the final feminist revolution. In the past, there have been fights for certain specific rights and freedoms for women—the right to own property, to vote, to practice birth control, to enter certain professions, and so forth. But now the movement is toward full equality with men, indeed, for a minimization or elimination of the dividing line between masculinity and femininity. In language, dress, education, and professions, women have demanded the simple status of "people," rather than that of a separate group—"females."

The battles against traditional sex stereotyping based on supposed differences in emotionality, stability, intelligence, rationality, and aggressiveness have been fought on many fronts. 1 Current arguments and research strongly suggest that while obvious biological differences exist, many of the traditional behavioral distinctions between men and women have been arbitrary and due more to socialization than to physiological determinants. What the arguments and research often obscure, however, is that the revolution concerning male and female roles is just that, a battle over social roles, not necessarily a movement toward the "natural."

Biology is never as neat as social conventions. There is no clear change in our physiology on the day of our eighteenth birthdays, though that day may signal the beginning of our "adult" lives. All men vary in height, weight, strength, agility, and natural intelligence, yet our Declaration of Independence declares that "all men are created equal." Social conventions often lead us to ignore and to enhance various similarities and differences among people. In this sense, the new drive toward the social equality of all men and women is just as arbitrary (and as plausible) as the old system of dividing all men from all women. Both are simple social conventions overlaid on complex realities.

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