Firefighters should be men. Secretaries should be women (if women work at all). These sound like the gender stereotypes of a bygone era, right? Not quite. It seems that a good portion of young people today still accept fairly traditional ideas about gender roles, according to a study of 12- to 34-year-olds conducted for MTV Knowing Youth.
Nearly one-third of those surveyed believe men are better breadwinners, while women are better staying at home. Half agree jobs like firefighting and car repair should be held by men, while at least a fifth believe that flight attendants, nurses and homemakers are best held by women.
In a way, the Millennials generation is caught in the middle of a rapidly changing gender landscape. While they are hesitant to shake the gender stereotypes of their parents’ generation, they also cheer when those stereotypes are broken down. Most of those surveyed believe that gender roles are largely formed by society, not set at birth, and that the roles have improved for both men and women in recent decades.
However, young men and women differ in how egalitarian things are, and ought to be. Three quarters of female respondents said women are more independent than in the past, versus just over half of male respondents. At the same time, 70 percent of women feel they don’t have the same career opportunities available to them as men.
The same split carries into the home. Young men and women agree childcare and household responsibilities should be split equally. But when it comes to how those tasks are actually being divided, Millennial men believe they are doing more than the women think they’re doing—men are twice as likely as women to believe that they share childcare and household tasks equally.
In the media, young people are once again of two minds about how men and women are portrayed. On the one hand, they believe that the media reinforce gender roles, often negatively (half believe that women are portrayed as sex symbols). On the other hand, they accept that men and women have different preferences and lifestyles, so they don’t mind gender-specific messages.