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Changing gender roles in a changing world

To say that family is a dynamic entity which changes based on the landscape of the current economic and social realities would not be far from the truth.

The family structure showed significant departure from the expected societal norms, especially in Britain, during and after the Second World War when women stepped out to work and earn. This was a seismic shift – the well-defined territory of women as homemakers and men as breadwinners was now suddenly blurred.  

From then on, the change has continued in myriad ways – higher education levels for women, women working full-time, falling fertility levels, late childbearing, late or no marriages and couple relationships – both marital and non-marital have become more amorphous and fragile. It’s no surprise then that these changes have bought about complex family compositions and a diverse range of family forms. Let’s just say that the standard nuclear family is no longer standard.

As tremulous as the changes have been for women, men have not been left untouched. In fact, it would be safe to say that men’s roles, both in the public and private sphere, have been transformed beyond compare. And the change has neither been smooth not straightforward. The societal expectation of men as the traditional breadwinners, providers, protectors is being challenged. At the same time, a more nurturing aspect of caregiving, traditionally associated only with women, is now falling more and more on men, as women go out to work, and in some cases take on the mantle of the main breadwinner. The psychological, societal and cultural dilemmas faced by men in trying to navigate their position and male identity in rapidly changing public and private spheres are significant. There is no ‘standard’ male identity that they can look towards.

Coupled with the chipping away of the ‘traditional male identity’, while the acceptance of gay rights is to be celebrated, it is not a smooth path for gay men. Orthodox masculinity involves the stratification of men against an ideal by which they can be measured to determine the extent of their manliness – what is life like for ‘othered’ men, including gay and trans men? This has been covered in-depth by nscience UK. (

With the security of marriage and getting old together now gone, life is more complex and complicated as men and women navigate divorces, second marriages and offsprings from different relationships while trying to keep it as a cohesive whole both within their family structures as well as publicly. In addition, job insecurity brings the added challenge of working with loss of identity through unemployment and redundancy for men, whose societal identity is still tied in a large part to their role as the provider and breadwinner

These are not easy predicaments to navigate, especially for men, as they grapple with a loss of traditional identity while trying to find their feet and a clear reflection in these very fluid times. To learn more about the changing gender roles and the dilemmas faced by men in their public and private lives, you may want to check out  (

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