"Pants" - A Symbol of Gender


We have all heard people say, “The man wears the pants in the family”. Pants are a good symbol of both gender and social class in the conservative community. This well known phrase comes from a time when men were superior to women, a time where men could do things that women could not and visa versa. Men wore pants and women wore skirts. Also, it was easy to establish social class by the type of pants that a person was wearing. Whether a person was wearing suit pants, blue jeans, work pants, scrubs or no pants at all, said a lot about that person and what their role was in society. However, that is no longer the case. Times have changed. For a woman who has grown up in this new era, it is hard to believe that there was a time when women

spent their day in the kitchen and men spent their day at work. It is hard for the people in my generation to understand how the social class that you grew up in could have any effect on how your life would turn out. How can this be? I can not imagine a world that could predict your future from your anatomy or parents’ social class. Back then, if you were a girl you were a house maid, mother and cook. If you were a boy born of a doctor, you became a doctor. Also, if you were a boy born of a mechanic, you became a mechanic. This is a crazy, completely unfair way of life. How can people be so close-minded?

Do you wear pants or a skirt? Nowadays, it doesn’t matter. The “roles” of men and women have almost become extinct in what has been a relatively short period of time. For instance, my great grandparents are eighty years old. For three generations, my grandmother has washed clothes, made dinner, cleaned up messes and kept the kids in line. My grandfather has done the oil changing, toy fixing and butt beating. Everyday, ever since I was a young child, and probably decades before that, my grandmother spent her morning in the kitchen while my grandfather and dad spent their time in the garage. Both would do there duties as a man or as a woman. The only time that our day would intersect was at meal time. When it was time to eat lunch, my grandmother cooked the meal, the men came and ate the meal, and then they went to take a nap while we were left to clean up the mess. Then, once their nap was over, they would go back out to the garage and my grandmother and I would clean up the mess from their nap. Then at dinner time, my grandmother would cook dinner, and the men would come eat and then go out to meet their other man friends while we cleaned up the mess again. My grandmother was content in her role as the house maid-mother-cook. I thought that the whole process was mind boggling. Why couldn’t they pick up their own mess? Why couldn’t grandma ever take a nap or go out for the evening? This life that my grandparents lived was completely gender bias. My grandfather never did anything to help my grandmother around the house.

My grandmother never assisted in the birth of a new motor. Why? They did not do these things because it was not their job. However, my life at home with my dad was very different. My dad still went to work everyday and still built engines and raced racecars, which were guy jobs. However, he also came home and did laundry, cleaned the house and made dinner. While most of my pap’s friends were business owners, plumbers and doctors, a lot of my dad’s friends are nurses, bank tellers and flight attendants. All of my grandma’s friends were seamstresses and stay at home moms, but most of my friends are going to school to be teachers and CEOs. It is amazing that in two generations, a mere forty years later, we have almost completely thrown the gender role philosophy out the window.

What kind of pants do you wear? As Paul Fussell says the subject of social class “has remained murky” (478). During the Industrial Revolution, the beginning of the system, social classes were much different. In the beginning, people were assigned social class by their job and income. The upper class consisted of doctors, business owners and teachers. The middle class included plumbers, mechanics and mill workers. Finally, the lower class consisted of farmers and trash collectors. Today, the incomes of these same professions do not match up to the classes that a person was put in for having them. In today’s society, there are many circumstances that prove trash collectors to have a better income then some school teachers. Farmers and plumbers are today’s business owners and there are very few mill workers at all. Also, in the early 1800s, once you were born into a social class it was almost impossible to escape it. Today, it doesn’t matter where or into what life you were born, you can always better, or worsen, your situation. The most important fact about social class in today’s world is that it barely exists. Class doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to. There is only a small amount of people left that pay attention to social class in everyday situations. I don’t think that the class structures today are that complicated because for the most part people are no longer judged by their or their parents’ careers. From Bill Gates to my mom the laundry aide, we all have the same opportunities and responsibilities. Thankfully, the people of this country have realized the injustice of these terrible labels.

Who knew that an article of clothing could mean so much? Pants, skirts, Dickies, khakis, sweats, at one point in time people were judged by such immaterial things. Well guess what people, times have changed. This is a time of transformation and equality. People are no longer judged by their anatomy or other irrelevant things. No one, in this new time period, is limited to what their “roles” are in society. We can do whatever we are willing to work for. Men, women, blacks, whites, rich or poor, this is America. Finally, we are in the process of making this country truly free. Though we still have a long road ahead of us, I am proud to be part of the change.

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