The American Society

GROUP MEMBERS: Melisa Yeo, Joleen Goh, Lee Puay Ling, Nur Amirah
Chosen country: United States Of America


Despite being a democratic society, it is undeniable that there are and always have been very distinct divisions in the roles of men and women in America. These divisions are deep-rooted in economic, social and religious beliefs throughout history. Women have played many roles in societies throughout history. Throughout the centuries, almost every society has developed very distinct ideas of what activities are proper for women. In some societies, there is no greater honor than to be a woman and in turn a mother. Yet, as in some Asian cultures, the lives of women are of such less value than those of men that the practice of female infanticide has become a widely used device for population control. Over time, many reasons have been given for the gender inequality that exists in society. Women are supposed to be weaker, less aggressive and more caring and nurturing than men. However, the most applied barrier of equality, especially in the workplace, has been woman's ability to bear children. Because only women have the ability to bear children, it has often been viewed that it is thus a woman's ultimate obligation to do so. There has been no scientific evidence though that women have what is called maternal instinct, that is, a natural desire to bear and care for children. From the earliest of times, motherhood has helped to divide men and women in terms of career and family role. However, it is certain that the role of women in workplace and family did experience a clear change, especially after the American Revolution. The change in the role of women throughout these years results in the change in the role of men.

The American Revolution had a deep effect on the philosophical underpinnings of American society. One aspect that was drastically changed by the democratic ideals of the Revolution was the roles of women. Women in the era of the Revolution were responsible for managing the domain of the household. Connected to these activities, women worked in the Homespun Movement. Instead of wearing or purchasing clothing made of imported British materials, Patriot women continued a long tradition of weaving, and spun their own cloth to make into clothing for their families. The context of the years preceding the American Revolution charged this action politically. Just as the spinning and weaving of American cloth became a mechanism of resistance, so did many acts of consumption. Non-importation and non-consumption became major weapons in the arsenal of the American resistance movement against British taxation without representation. Women played a major role in this method of defiance by denouncing silks, satins, and other luxuries in favor of homespun clothing generally made in spinning and quilting bees, sending a strong message of unity against supposed British oppression. As a result of non-importation, many rural communities who were previously unincorporated in the political movements of the day were brought "into the growing community of resistance" because of the appeal "to the traditional values" of rural life. While male suppliers of such services were exempted from military service in exchange for their goods, there was no such recompense for women who did the same thing. Spinning, weaving, and sewing were seen as part of the female province; as patriots they utilized their skills to assist the revolutionary cause. Hence, the idea of republican motherhood was born in this period. The mainstream political philosophy of the day assumed that a republic rested upon the virtue of its citizens. Thus, women had the essential role of instilling their children with values conducive to a healthy republic. During this period, the wife's relationship with her husband also became more liberal, as love and affection instead of obedience and subservience began to characterize the ideal marital relationship. In addition, many women contributed to the war effort through fundraising and running family businesses in the absence of husbands.Whatever gains they had made, women still found themselves subordinated, legally and socially, to their husbands, disenfranchised and with only the role of mother open to them. However, The Declaration of Independence still remained indifferent, stating, "all men are created equal". Nevertheless there was little interest in suffrage, for the most common call for 'women’s rights' involved claims of women’s intellectual equality with men and their right to an adequate education.

After the revolution, women's employment status was not guaranteed, and much of the industrial economy rushed to rehire men. However, in many white collar sectors, such as banking and clerical work, the glass ceiling was moved significantly upward. Both during and after the war, women rarely earned as much in the occupations that became female-dominated (such as cashiers, tellers, and low-level loan officers) as their male colleagues had before. Government investments, such as the GI Bill, fueled suburbanization, and the reuniting of separated spouses fostered the baby boom. With radical political activity suppressed by McCarthyism, consumerism being fostered by the retooling of wartime factories for domestic use, and the nuclear family at one of its historic peaks, women were home bound, as wives and mothers. Eventually a major backlash and reconsideration of women's roles occurred, in Betty Friedan's 1963 exposé The Feminine Mystique, which critiqued contemporary educated American women's socialization and restrictions and judged them to be intolerable. In addition, the Great Depression occurred and highlighted the change in the role of men and women in workplace and family. In 1934, the American Woman’s Association declared that working women were “the employment casualties of the Depression.” Many working women had come from a generation of women that “stressed and exulted in the importance of jobs for women.” They had aspired to better jobs for better wages. The Association reported that “during the Depression years they have had to meet doubt and distrust and fear, loss of morale and disturbance of established ways of living.” As employment opportunities dwindled, everyone seemed to agree that men should hold the few remaining jobs. Men gladly stepped into occupations that women had increasingly held—as social workers, teachers, bookkeepers, and insurance agents. The Economy Act, passed by Congress in 1932, prohibited more than one family member from working for the government. This caused many women to lose their office positions. Most school districts refused to hire married women and fired those who got married. Unemployed men, however, shunned the more menial jobs that were considered “women’s work” and showed little interest in becoming laundresses, domestics, telephone operators, store clerks, typists, or secretaries. As one commentator put it, “Approximately 3,100,000 women are employed as domestics. Which men want to take their places?” Men’s disinterest in the lowest rungs of female employment allowed at least some women to retain their jobs. It was no longer popular for a woman to aspire to independence and a career. Striving for a career was condemned as an antisocial act that deprived another family of income. In 1936, 82 percent of those polled opposed women working. Working women became easy targets for public disdain. Public officials referred to married working women as “undeserving parasites.” One man wrote to his congressman, “Woman’s true place is her home . . . and I do not believe we are again going to have normal and prosperous times until women do return to their homes.” This hostility put women into a double bind, because their labors were often necessary for their family’s survival.

Today, however, Americans have made great strides in accepting and adjusting to new definitions of gender roles. Part of the cause is the increased number of women in the workplace. With the increased presence of women in the workplace, old attitudes and behaviors have had to change. Men and women are more aware of sexual harassment than previously; whereas 20 years ago a woman who refused to have an affair with her boss may have had to quit, she now has other options. Companies are now experimenting with policies that are family-friendly, such as flex time, job sharing, and on-site child care-policies that benefit both men and women. In the egalitarian workplace, some men are concerned about being accused of sexual harassment, and they feel they must be extremely cautious in their everyday dealings with the women they work with; this caution may stifle creativity, some experts say. In addition, women still earn far less money than men do for the same work, even though their salaries are vital to maintaining their families' economic health. Just as women's gender roles have changed, men's gender roles have changed in the last few years. The old model of the "macho man" is less acceptable in today's world than it was even three decades ago, and men are struggling to reinvent themselves. Some men are so dependent on the old roles for their identity that they find themselves at a loss when confronted with new expectations. For example, some men cannot adjust when they discover that their wives or girlfriends earn more money than they do, and end the relationship. It may seem silly but for such men the new options they have regarding gender roles are limited and limiting. Despite great changes in the workplace, life at home is still much the same as it was in past generations. Women do most of the work. Men earn most of the money. And this is not sitting well with women: researchers report that 38 percent have a problem with how much their husbands do. It's a dilemma for women to feel they have the right to choose their own career paths, an opportunity few of their mothers and grandmothers had, and then realize that they are still ruled by many of the same old gender role expectations.

The shifting of gender roles in the past 30 years has been huge. It has happened so quickly that men and women are still trying to sort out what the new roles and rules mean to them. Although women are no longer expected to be the keepers of the house, in reality, they are in most families. Although men are generally open to the successes enjoyed by the women they share their lives with, some still find it hard to celebrate a woman's triumphs because they feel it diminishes their own. However, rather than blaming each other for the situation, men and women are increasingly willing to work together to learn about their new roles. Successful marriage partners learn to negotiate and share tasks. Managers take employees aside and tell them when comments are inappropriate. It will take time to sort out all the implications of the changing gender roles of Americans, but new expectations should result in better workplaces, better relationships,better schools, and better lives.


In early America, all of a woman’s work comes under the general heading of housewife and it varied from region to region. Despite variations, the activities were much the same throughout the different regions. First came supervision of the house. Women swept, scrubbed, polished, made their own brooms, soap and polish. They carried water, made starch, ironed, carried firewood, built fires, and made candles. They sewed and made everything and they were usually in charge of the family bookkeeping. Politics were out of women's reach and voting rights were also not granted to women.

However in 1756, Lydia Taftwas was the first woman legally allowed to vote in colonial America. She was granted this right by the town meeting of Uxbridge, Massachusetts because of the death of her wealthy husband and eldest son left the family without an adult heir.
Following the American Revolution, women were allowed to vote in New Jersey, but no other state, from 1790 until 1807, provided they met property requirements then in place. In 1807, women were again forbidden from voting in the state.

In June 1848, Gerrit Smith was nominated as the Liberty Party's presidential candidate. At the National Liberty Convention held during June, Smith gave a major address, including in his speech a demand for "universal suffrage in its broadest sense, females as well as males being entitled to vote." The delegates approved a passage in their party platform addressing votes for women: "Neither here, nor in any other part of th world, is the right of suffrage allowed to extend beyond one of the sexes. This universal exclusion of woman... argues, conclusively, that, not as yet, is there one nation so far emerged from barbarism, and so far practically Christian, as to permit woman to rise up to the one level of the human family." At this convention, five votes were placed calling for Lucretia Mott, an activist, to be Smith's vice-president. For the first time in the United States, a woman was nominated for federal executive office. In July, at the Seneca Falls Convention in Upstate New York, activists including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott began a seventy-year struggle by women to secure the right to vote. In 1850, Lucy Stone organized a larger assembly with a wider focus, the National Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. Susan B. Anthony, a native of Rochester, New York, joined the cause in 1852 after reading Stone's 1850 speech. Women's suffrage activists pointed out that blacks had been granted the franchise and had not been included in the language of the United States Constitution's Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments (which gave people equal protection under the law and the right to vote regardless of their race, respectively). This, they contended, had been unjust. Early victories were won in the territories of Wyoming (1869) and Utah (1870), although Utah women were disenfranchised by provisions of the federal Edmunds–Tucker Act enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1887. The push to grant Utah women's suffrage was at least partially fueled by the belief that, given the right to vote, Utah women would dispose of polygamy. It was only after Utah women exercised their suffrage rights in favor of polygamy that the U.S. Congress disenfranchised Utah women. By the end of the nineteenth century, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming had enfranchised women after effort by the suffrage associations at the state level. During the beginning of the twentieth century, as women's suffrage gained in popularity, suffragists were subject to arrests and many were jailed. Finally, President Woodrow Wilson urged Congress to pass what became, when it was ratified in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting. But by the end of the first decade after suffrage,the anticipated “women’s vote” had not appeared, nor had a transformation in women’s political roles emerged. By 1930, only 13 women had gained seats in Congress, seven of them filling mid-term vacancies. In the state legislatures, the showing waslittle better: In 1925, women won almost 150 seats out of approximately 7,500. Democratic national committee woman, Emily Newell Blair, observed, “I know of no politician who is afraid of the woman vote on any question under the sun.” The women’s reform community in the 1920s had not united around a common agenda after suffrage. Post-war conservatism and a split over the question of whether women most needed legal equality or legal protection thwarted unified action. During the 1930s, the economic emergency worked against a renewed interest in women’s rights — unemployment and poverty took precedence over any other problem.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a new wave of feminism arrived. With ties to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the new women's movement took on a wider agenda than the women's suffrage movement had focused on. All these have led to increasing concern over the voting rights of women. Thus over the years, women whose life tended to center around farm and family changed to center around politics.

C) Treatment of the Aged and Disabled

Treatment of the Aged:

Reinforced by the image that is being portrayed by the mass media, present-day Americans hold little respect for the old people. Movies and television have greatly influenced the teenagers and from 1950 onwards, a great culture of youth, influenced by teen heroes like James Dean, emerged and strengthened. This left the old people out of the entire picture and they are no longer seen as a productive member of the family but rather as a burden that drain on the family’s resources. This is evident in the break-up of large extended families after the World War Two period.

This move of breaking up the family into smaller units has led to the shrinking of families and this has affected the older people as they lose their support. Previously, the older people in the family depended on the younger working ones to support them after their retirement or during their “declining years”. However, now that the family has shrunk, they are not enough people to work and support these elderly. Although the government have been coming up with programs to provide the older people with more incentives but it is never enough. For instance, the U.S government spends an average of US$100 a day on an elderly and this sum up 10 percent of the country’s annual budget. Even so, providing elderly healthcare is insufficient to replace for a caring, loving family. Hence, living pass seventy has become a rather bleak prospect, a time of loneliness, poverty and illness to many of the Americans nowadays.

The old people are the U.S are also stereotype as chronically ill, unable to work and provide for themselves, behind the times, slow-thinking and useless financial burdens on the society, by the younger Americans. The idea that old people are engaging in sexual activities or even fall in love are being seen as embarrassing and inappropriate.

However, the above stereotypes are not true and certainly not the poverty notion. Americans over 50 own 75 percent of all American assets and spend half the money. Out of these, a full 70 percent of them actually own their own homes and they are also given the rights to vote and are active in the community to a greater extent than young people.

To assist the ageing population, there are several organization which aims to provide the elderly with a better environment to live in, help them maintain their independence and also to maintain their social status. A good example of such organization is the Administration of Aging (AoA). AoA has been providing for older people through the funding by the Older Americans Act. They provides home and community long-term care, protection of the elder rights and also the health and wellness of the elderly.

Treatment of the Disabled:

Discrimination in employment

In the US, there is a Rehabilitation Act which was established in 1973 that requires every single organizations that receive government’s funding to provide the disabled with accessibility programs and services. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have been established but it only came into effect in 1992. This law prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against employees with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, or in the terms, conditions and privileges of employment. This is also applicable to organizations like retail businesses, movie theatres and restaurants. These organizations are to make “reasonable accommodation” to individuals with different needs. This policy is used to protect anyone with either a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits him/her to one or more of the major life activites, a record of such an impairment or those regarded having such an impairment.

African Americans and disability

As reflected by the 2000 U.S. Census, African Americans have the highest rate of disability of 20.8 percent and that is slightly higher than the overall disability rate of 19.4 percent. Despite the fact that people have come to understand and accept different types of disability, there still remains a mark attached to the disabled community. For instance, disabled African American women have to face “triple jeopardy” syndrome, a term used by Doctor Eddie Glenn of Howard University to describe the situation. They have to face tremendous discrimination due to their disability, their race and their gender.

Social administration

The US Social Security Administration defines disability in terms of inability to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA), by which it means “work paying minimum wage or better”. The agency pairs SGA with a "listing" of medical conditions that qualify individuals for benefits.The Social Security Administration provides monthly incentives to the disabled and retired, their spouse and children, and also to the survivors of insured workers. In the year 2004, more than 47 million Americans have received approximately US$492 billion in Social Security benefit. These programs are being financed by mandatory contributions paid by the employers, employees and self-insured individuals. These revenues are placed into a trust fund which is also known as the Retirement, Survivors, Disability Insurance (RSDI). Another program, the Social Security Income (SSI) helps to meet the needs of the elderly, blind and disabled americans. Recipients of this program are being paid out of the general revenue of the U.S and an estimated figure of 7 million people benefit from this program.


The American government has come up with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which aims to address the educational needs of the children who have disabilities in learning from birth to age 21. However, not all children with disabilities are qualified to benefit under this program. Only children with mental retardation, hearing impairments, speech or language impairments, visual impairments, serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury or other specific learning disabilities are entitled to benefit. Under this act, public schools are to provide disabled children with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) they meets the needs of the child. It specifies the services to be provided and how often, describes the student's present levels of performance in school and how the student's disabilities affect his or her academic progression, and specifies accommodations and modifications to be provided for the student. However, if the parents are not satisfied with the IEP provided by the school, they have all rights to come up with their own IEP, should it be unfair to the child.


To ensure that there is no discrimination against disabled drivers, there is a law in California which states that it is illegal for insurers to refuse an individual of a car insurance if he or she is a properly licensed driver. It is also illegal to refuse insuring a car driver even if he is blind. However, the insurance company is allowed to exclude coverages for injuries or damages which are incurred while a blind driver is operating behind the wheels of the vehicle. This law is actually set up to allow blind people to buy and insure a car which allows their family members, caretakers or friends to drive them around and not to allow them to drive the car.


In the year 2006, it is said that 12.9 million families in the U.S were headed by a single parents, 80% of which were headed by a female. Since 1994, single parenthood in US REMAIND AT 9% ALTHOUGH IT NEARLY DOUBLED IN 1970.

Single parent families are said to have a higher risk of facing poverty than coupled families, and on average single mothers have poorer health than couple mothers. The main provlem that single mothers and their children in the US today face is Poverty and female-geaded single parent families comprise comprise 50% of families living in poverty in US. Statistics show in the U.S. Census Bureau that children raised by both parents grow up with more financial and educational advantages.

There are usually both parents and two children in a typical British family. In most British families both parents work. Very young children go to nursery schools or stay at home with a childminder. Old people usually live in their own homes or a nursing home if they cannot look after themselves. British parents try to spend their free time with their children going to the cinema, museums or parks. During the week they usually have dinner together

For most Americans, family means the infrastructure shaping their life’s journey in one way or another from the cradle to the
grave. Whatever form it takes, family provides the earliest experiences of nurturing, security, and socialization. It provides a
platform, a foundation for entry into the broader community and a roadmap for navigating the vast network of interpersonal and institutional relations comprising society. If a trend is observed in families, it will most likely surface at some other level of the social order.

How parenting skills will have an effect on their children

Parents who communicated and were involved with their children at ages 10 and 11 would set clear expectations for their children’s behavior, practiced good supervision towards them, consistent discipline, and minimized conflict in the family. Their children were more likely to see alcohol use as harmful and less likely to initiate alcohol use early. They were also less likely to misuse alcohol at ages 17 to 18. The lack of parental support, monitoring, and communication and lack of feeling close to their parents have been significantly related to frequency of drinking, heavy drinking, and drunkenness among adolescents. The harshness or any hostility or recjection the parents have towards children have also been found to significantly predict adolescent drinking and alcohol-related problems. Research have been made and it showed that poor parenting practices are associated with early childhood deficits in social skills and self-regulation, particularly with regard to aggressive behavior, which result in early minor delinquency and rejection from mainstream peer groups. Children who feel rejected then affiliate with deviant peers; in turn, participation in deviant peer networks increases the risk for drinking and other forms of substance use.

The Social Influences families have towards teens

Family and peers can influence drinking behavior of teens actively by explicitly discouraging alcohol use or by providing models of drinking behavior. A Columbia University study reports that adolescents whose fathers have more than two drinks a day have a 71 percent greater risk of substance abuse. As adolescents develop, drinking behavior becomes less influenced by parents and more influenced by peers hence parents should play a guiding role to prevent them from taking the wrong path. Perceptions of how much peers drink may exert a stronger influence on an individual’s drinking behavior than the actual level of peer drinking. Parents can exert a moderating influence on the drinking behavior of their adolescent children by actively monitoring their alcohol use. They can be a role model and kick of the drinking habit if they have one.

Importance of families

Dr. Vern Bengtson, professor of gerontology and sociology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles once said that "Families through time have changed, but they have not declined in importance to Americans. Multi-generational bonds represent a valuable resource for families in the 21st century and are becoming more important than nuclear family ties for well-being and support over the course of our lives."

Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal life insurance organization dedicated to helping people achieve quality family life, sponsored a survey based on 1,001 random telephone interviews and poll results indicated that most Americans aged 25 to 65 believe it is good for children to know their relatives and family history. Americans connect with their families through a variety of gathering activities, such as holiday meals, weddings, birthday parties, reunions, family vacations and less formal get-togethers. The reasons are simple on which why do Americans see the importance of their family is that Americans cite everything from the noble desire to provide their children with the opportunity to know their relatives and to learn about their family heritage to participating just because family events are fun. Historically, family relationships have played the most basic role of all -- ensuring survival. Today, most people rely on family interactions to provide an affirming, positive experience. They provide a sense of support and an identity of who we are and what's unique about us."

"Intergenerational and extended family relationships not only create a sense of identity but, even today, are a valuable resource for exchanging information, services and goods," says Dr. Bengtson. Close extended family relationships can have educational, economic and professional implications. People with extended family contacts tend to be more literate and reach out to get more education and better jobs. People who cultivate extended family relationships are at an advantage emotionally and are often more successful in their personal lives. Both children and adults benefit from these relationships during times of great stress, such as tragedy, death or divorce. They also reap the rewards when joyous events enter their lives, whether it is a new job, a new child or a milestone birthday. It is even suspected that interaction with extended family can have a positive effect on your lifespan and physical health. Even though technology allows families to keep in touch and share personal milestones more easily, nothing replaces the experience of actually gathering in the same room with family.

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