Gender Identities in the Home and Family
Probably the core of the issues concerning community today begins with the relationships that are fostered in home life and family. It is a common belief that the home or family is the seed of social engagement and life. With that understanding, a healthy and functioning home life supports a greater culture and community.
Traditionally, the nuclear family with father, mother and children has been the sustaining social unit for home and family life. But if we look at statistics today, the marriage rate has decreased from 8.2/1000 in 2000 to 6.8/1000 in 2010 (the National Center for Health Statistics). The divorce rate for the same period of time has decreased from 4.0/1000 to 3.6/1000. If we compare these statistics, we know that the marriage rate has diminished 25% and the divorce rate has diminished only 10%. This may suggest that the seed of community life is showing signs of unsettling. Whether children are involved or not, there is concern for a disruption in the basic institutions of life.
On the other hand, 27% of the adult populace has never married. Almost half the adult populace carries an unmarried status (widowed/divorced/separated/never married). This indicates that half the adult population is living outside of a traditional family arrangement. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that home life is unhealthy or that family life is diminished. In fact, the reality that half of the adult populace of the US is unmarried could indicate that change is in hand and that modern living arrangements are being developed that support our future and new family structures.
Modern living arrangements could include untraditional families (whether homo gender, religio-spiritual, corporate, etc.) that keep to traditional values of love and respect in the home. These new arrangements tend to focus less on the genders involved and more essentially on relations that engender love and respect.
In the development of essential relations, gender identity plays a role but it does not necessarily lead the expression of goodness in the home. Rather, it acts as a reality to appreciate and work with in developing good and lasting relationships.
For instance, the need to play to a gender role can interfere in the stability of the home if the importance of upholding the gender role becomes too significant to the relationship. On the other hand, to recognize one’s gender identity and to work with that identity to secure the home and relations makes good sense. Developing this further, let’s study these identities as an example of a healthy social construct in the home that balances the climate and creates a sustaining and nurturing atmosphere.
In the male gender identity the traditional role for male typically includes the role of provider (secure and provide resources) and protector (defend others and territory). These two functions of male identity are good and well balanced by a female identity that nurtures (sustains with love and care) and pacifies (keeps the peace).
The concern that surfaces with gender identities occurs when the gender role is not constructive yet still espoused. For instance, a male role that restricts emotions, needs to be tough and aggressive, or sexually assertive is not well balanced by a female identity that expresses emotions effusively, subdues or coerces. These characteristics may be as common as the more constructive roles previously mentioned but with less promise and sustainable purpose.
In the education of the male identity it is important that the focus stay on the noble characteristics of the male identity with value placed on constructive purpose and the ability to accommodate. To be a provider and protector of the family may naturally develop strength and a more assertive nature, but it need not demand these qualities. When qualities such as power and aggression are demanded, then the purpose in the home can become distorted from the inherent value needed. Aggression can lead to arguments and conflict if aggression has the authoritative purpose. Staying true to provider and protector in a constructive and accommodating way makes better sense.
In the female identity, to nurture and keep the peace may naturally develop a more compassionate and passive nature, but again this need not be a prerequisite of the role. But when it is a prerequisite then coercion, vulnerability and insecurity become more apparent and defeat the purpose and inherent value of the home. The female character can become more dependent and fragile rather than a powerful force in the home.
Overall, the male and female identities make home and family life enjoyable. To learn one’s gender identity in the most constructive way upholds the home and family life. Whether in a traditional living arrangement, or in a modern living arrangement, a natural course to keep the home and family healthy and functioning well is essential.
Some factual information on gender identities for this article: www.psychologyofmen.org/