Gender Roles

16 Nov


Since Ward is the breadwinner in the Cleaver family, he represents the professional man who possesses a white collared job.  It is mentioned that he is an engineer and thus, it can be assumed that he received a higher education as a younger man.  Even though he represents that professional man who is economically in charge of the household, he also held an important role as a parenting figure.  While it could be assumed that he would be the type of father that got back home and read and went to bed while June was completely in charge of the kids, this is untrue.  This is because Ward played an important role in teaching lessons to his children in a fair and reasonable manner, for he is never seen spanking his children or losing control while yelling at them.  However, when he is on the verge of losing his temper, his wife always manages to calm him down. His rational sense of parenting can be seen in the clip below.  In the video, it appears that the maximum authority in the house is held by Ward, for Beaver speaks to him while getting reprimanded while his back is given to his mother.  This shows that while June participates and is part of the conversation, she does not have enough power to make a decision as to what the punishment should be for Beaver.

While Ward is the decision maker in the house, the role June plays goes accordingly with stereotypical woman.  She is a homemaker who stays at home and does the regular activities of a housewife; she cleans but most importantly cooks.  Leave it to Beaver clearly emphasizes the fact that a woman belongs to the kitchen, as can be seen through through the clip below.  In Ward’s own words, “a woman’s place is in the home” and ultimately in the kitchen.  This implies the fact that during the 1950’s, women were expected stay at home and not work or pursue a higher education.  In addition, they portray women as fragile, weak beings, for June is able to cook well in the kitchen but for barbecues or doing tougher cooking, Ward needed to aid her.

The gender roles of Wally and Beaver are portrayed very differently in the series.  While Wally represents the handsome, athletic young man that gets good grades, Beaver shows less masculine distinctiveness.  For example, he takes dance lessons and even accepts the role of the female while his friend leads the dance.  As soon was Wally walks into the house, he tells them to “knock it off” thus showing how it is not acceptable for two young boys to be dancing together to soft, romantic music.  Clearly, Wally and Beaver show completely different portrayals of the gender role for one is more sensitive while the other one is tougher, more manly.  However, it could be said that Beaver’s sensitivity is not due to the fact that he is less of a man but more so because he is younger and does not understand the perfect role that a male should play in the idealistic 1950’s.


Modern family is a mockumentary television show that has adapted its family views to the society in which we now live in. if this sitcom was on the air in the 1950s people would be shocked by its content. A homosexual couple living together with an adopted child & an older man married to a much younger woman are only a few yet dramatic changes depicted in our society. Our society is not just simply leaving it to beaver when it comes to the transformation of family life. The standard male & female parent template has changed since the 1950s and so has the way certain media depicts such changes. Modern Family is a great example of this change.

It seems that within each family there is at least one partner who stays home and assumes the role of domestic caretaker/homemaker. This is similar to the family structure of the 1950s depicted in the sitcom Leave it to Beaver.  The father/head of household was the primary breadwinner but in today’s society this standard has changed. however, this change is not depicted in the modern sitcom Modern Family. The two wives and more feminine partner in the homosexual couple stay home to care for their children and take care of household chores. The two husbands and more masculine partner work outside of the home in order to support their families. Though Modern Family has adapted some aspects of today’s society, for example portraying a homosexual couple, it has not fully conformed to the typical family structure that is now an acceptable norm.

There are many differences between the families of Modern Family and Leave it to Beaver. For instance, in the case of Phil and Claire, Claire is more assertive when it comes to parenting styles. Phil is not taken seriously by his children which creates a problem for him when he does try to be assertive. Claire stays at home while Phil works outside of the home which may explain why Claire is more involved in setting ground rules for her children. She is often depicted as shrill and always angry at Phil. In terms of gender roles, though Phil is the primary breadwinner, Claire is seen as the head of the household.

The family that depicts the most drastic change is that of the homosexual pair Cam and Mitchell. Though the two are both male it is evident that Cam is much more feminine than his counterpart Mitchell. It seems ironic that even in a homosexual relationship gender roles must be defined in terms of femininity and masculinity. Gender is socially constructed and within this relationship the construction is evident.

This clip portrays Cam as being overly sensitive which is quite common among women. Cam is also the primary caregiver of their adoptive child. Mitchell, the more masculine of the two, works outside of the home and provides for his family while Cam stays home and cares for Lily, their daughter. Cam’s position of staying home and caring for the child associates him with the stereotypical role of the mother even though biologically, he is a male.

To conclude, the relationship of Gloria and Jay appears to be that of a young gold digger after a sugar daddy but that is not so. Gloria and Jay seem to be genuinely happy with each other despite their age difference and cultural background. Gloria is a proud Columbian and Jay is an American. Gloria is also the mother of Manny, a young boy, who Jay takes under his wing as his own child even though he is not the biological father. This family structure was not evident in the 1950s during the Leave it to Beaver era. Once again, Jay, the male, is the primary breadwinner but by no means is he the head of the household when it comes to the family. Gloria, much like Claire, is a no nonsense mom who stands up for what she believes in and answers to nobody but herself. She appears to be Jay’s equal instead of his subordinate.


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