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The Gender Blender: Wave of the Future?

June 21, 1985|EDWARD CORNISH

Question: Recently sex roles have taken some surprising new directions. What can we expect in future relationships between men and women?

Answer: Human cultures have made sharp distinctions between the role thought proper for men and that deemed appropriate for women.

Sex roles have blurred considerably in recent years. Many men and women have refused to accept the behavior patterns approved for their sex. Numerous laws and regulations ban discrimination based on a person's sex, and special programs encourage men and women to enter occupations once associated mainly with the opposite sex.

So the question now is: Will society eventually treat people exactly alike, regardless of whether they are male or female? Or will this trend eventually reverse?

Consider these two scenarios:

In the "Gender Abolition" scenario society increasingly accepts the principle that it is unjust to treat anyone differently because of his or her sex. After all, people are of one sex or another through no fault of their own. Complete equality of treatment is considered the only fair approach.

Governments adopt policies that favor women doing so-called men's work and men doing women's work. Businesses and other organizations are encouraged to become "sex neutral." Companies with close to a perfect 50-50 ratio of men and women in all jobs are rewarded with government contracts. Firms in which the ratio is substantially unequal are penalized.

Trucking companies reserve half their drivers' positions for women. Hospitals require that half their nurses be men and half their physicians be women. Schools try to ensure that football teams have plenty of female players. Boys are encouraged to play with dolls and tea sets; girls, to play with trucks and airplanes. History books are revised to emphasize famous women leaders and men who functioned as homemakers for famous women. All literature is purged of gender-related terminology. The Declaration of Independence is revised to read, "All people are created equal," instead of "All men are created equal."

In the push to achieve complete equality, Congress approves the right of every citizen to have a sex change operation at public expense. By this time, medical science has made transsexual operations safe, routine and inexpensive. Men can become women, women can become men, either sex can become totally sexless--neuters. Other people choose to be androgynous, combining male and female characteristics.

Now look at the "Gender Affirmation" scenario.

In it the trend toward identical roles for males and females is reversed in the years ahead. Both sexes are more interested in having a home and children and less interested in glamorous careers.

Government and business begin to re-emphasize family life and the importance of the woman as the homemaker and men as the supporters of families. Men who fail to marry and have children are scorned as worthless playboys and face government-sanctioned discrimination in the workplace. Sexual relations outside marriage become illegal. The women's suffrage amendment is repealed. Boys are given electric shocks if they touch dolls.

Neither the "Gender Abolition" nor the "Gender Affirmation" scenario is likely to be fully realized in the future. But elements of both may not be too far off the mark.

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