USM talks evolution of gender roles

Women’s role in our society has changed a lot in the past century, but some women and men on campus at The University of Southern Mississippi believe that our perception of gender roles may still need to evolve before equality is achieved.

“Women today have more opportunities, but still face many of the same obstacles once in their careers that their mothers and grandmothers did,” said Kate Greene, an associate professor of political science at USM. Greene teaches a class entitled Women in Politics, among other classes. “There is even more pressure on women to have the perfect body, perfect skin and hair, be the perfect mother and wife and have a career.”

Greene has hope that younger generations will continue to change the way that society views gender. “I want to note that more and more students are fighting for justice and equality in this world and that is a great thing,” Greene said. “My fear is that they will burn out too quickly because of all the other demands this world puts on them and because fighting for these things can be difficult and disheartening.”

Erin Curley, a senior graphic design major, presented her research poster at the Undergraduate Research Symposium this semester about the sexist way that advertisers appeal to males and females. She won second place in creative and performance art research. “Women still need to be on the same playing field as men,” Curley said.

For Curley, portraying gender in media and language is very important. “The concept of being female is still an insult for males, whereas being ‘like one of the boys’ is generally a compliment for females,” Curley said. “We need to change the mindset of what it means to be man and what it means to be a woman.”

Our perceptions of gender roles do not just affect the women on campus. Nicholas Powers, a senior music major, faces similar issues as a gay male. “I’m not out to most of my family,” Powers said. “They’re very classic southern. Like old school. It’s unacceptable (to them.)”

Powers said the problem is a combination of our regional culture in Mississippi and the result of a generation gap. “College-aged men and women are generally just more accepting. But the South in general is raised on (the idea that) homosexuality is sin and an abomination.”

Powers said that it is important to remain authentic, even if society disapproves. “Live life the way it makes you happy. Don’t settle for what society thinks is the norm.”

Angelique Shumacher, a sophomore paralegal studies major, wants to become a judge advocate general (JAG) and practice law as an army officer. “I will constantly have to prove myself,” Shumacher said. “In some ways, I have to prove myself more than the males.” Although she may face extra challenges, Shumacher is confident in her future as a JAG. “I think society is changing for females,” she said. “It is not uncommon to see females taking fields such as law and the military,   which are very male-dominated careers.”

As our society and economy change, women are graduating and entering the workforce in greater numbers than their grandmothers did. Some changes may still need to be made in order to achieve gender equality, but USM students seem ready for
the challenge.