Family Dynamics Leading to The Gender Pay Gap

According to BBC Audience and Social Attitudes, “Women were allowed to marry from the age of 12 in Shakespeare’s time” (BBC Bitesize). To most people this might come as a shock considering in 2019 it would be rather absurd for someone so young to be responsible for another life. The play Romeo & Juliet written by William Shakespeare takes places in Verona, Italy around the 1300s. In this play, royal families who have a bitter hatred for each other, the Montagues and the Capulets, have children who ironically fall in love at first sight. Throughout the play Romeo of the Montagues and Juliet of the Capulets are often mischievous due to the shame that would come from both families if the “star-crossed lovers” we ever discovered. This later resulted in a plan that was poorly executed; consequently, bringing great tragedy to both parties.

Romeo & Juliet being written in the Elizabethan Era (the 16th and 17th centuries) often leaves the reader in shock of how different times are from then to now in 2019. One of the ways the Elizabethan Era and the 21st century drastically differ is the societal expectation of men and women in each time period. Societal expectations from the time Romeo & Juliet was written in differs from now in 2019 strictly because during the 16th and 17th century women weren’t seen as equals to men in any way resulting in an often time unfair and lesser portrayal of women from reasons ranging from financial, to physical, and to even emotional.

Generally speaking, the 16th and 17th century had societal expectations that women are lesser to a man and that a women’s sole purpose is to have children. BBC Audience and Social Attitudes states, “In Elizabethan times women belonged to their fathers (or their brothers if their father died), and then to their husbands” (BBC Bitesize). This further emphasizes how controlled women were during this time in history. The biggest role during this time women were constantly pushed to fulfill was to have children which was immense honor to the family name. This resulted in many women having lots of children; however, disease was very widespread. This widespread disease (mostly commonly referred to as “The French Pox”), unfortunately caused many families to significantly shrink in size.

“Women in Tudor History” states, “On average, a woman gave birth to a child every two years, but as a lot of babies and children died from sickness, families were not always large” ( Throughout Romeo & Juliet there are many times were women are talked as being the weaker sex. In Act 1, scene 1 of Romeo & Juliet Sampson states, “Tis true, and therefore women, being therefore the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the wall” (Shakespeare). In this scene, Gregory and Sampson were conversing about what they would do to Montagues soldiers. Sampson then later insults Gregory by referring to him as a woman meaning during this time that he is weak. Women were treated very insultingly and limiting during the Elizabethan Era.

In direct contrast, men during the Elizabethan Era also had societal expectations to be perfectly tough and powerful leaders. This time period in which Romeo & Juliet was written in further explains why these concepts are continuously reflected throughout the entire play. One of the biggest ways men were leaders was in their family. “Women in Tudor History” states, “A man was considered to be the head of a marriage, and he had the legal right to chastise his wife” ( This emphasizes the full control men had over their family and the almost little control women had. Another societal expectation had about men was that they were all “perfect”. In Act 1, scene 3 of Romeo & Juliet Nurse state, “Lady, such a man As all the whole world, Why he’s a man of wax” (Shakespeare). In this scene the Nurse and Lady Capulet were talking to Juliet about the importance of marriage in a women’s life.

The Nurse then generally tells Juliet that any man is a perfect man just simply because they are male. This emphasizes the strong expectation forced upon women that they should get married because it would majorly improve life and reputation. Men had opposing societal expectations to women: full control, overall perfection, and toughness. Societal expectations for women have changed significantly from the Elizabethan Era to modern-day most prominently due to the contrasting family dynamic resulting in a gender pay gap. According to Strong Bonds Family dynamics is defined as, “the patterns of relating, or interactions between family members” (Jesuit Social Services). One way in which societal expectations has changed significantly is with women being expected to work outside of the home. In Romeo & Juliet women expected to only work in the home while raising the children simultaneously.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of 2016, “61.1 percent had both parents employed.” Society has gone from having only men be in the workplace to a now strong trend of both men and women. However, this has introduced a controversial topic of the pay gap between men and women. As of 2019 men and women aren’t paid the same with men making a considerable amount more than men and women. According to The State of the Gender Pay Gap 2019, “Women still make only $0.79 for every dollar men make in 2019”. This 21-cent difference in every dollar made by women can add up at quiet an exponential rate over time: creating a large push for gender pay equality. Women generally make less money promoting an unfair advantage over men.

Elizabethan Era societal expectations of a man are extremely different from societal expectations of a man in 2019. The Elizabethan Era had many societal expectations of men over women: powerful, aggressive, controlling, and perfect. These expectations are common examples of toxic masculinity. Colleen Clemens, author of What We Mean When We Say, “Toxic Masculinity” defines toxic masculinity as, “A narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression” (Clemens). In 2019 toxic masculinity still exists but is not as impactful on society as it once was. Most men now have the societal expectations to be more respectful and candid to the individuals around them.

According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, “When asked in an open-ended format to name the traits or characteristics that society values most in men, honesty and morality tops the list, with 33% saying this” (Parker, Horowitz and Stepler). This reinforces the idea that toxic masculinity isn’t a popular trait and that most people expect a man to be empathetic and is honest rather than controlling or manipulative. Another completely different societal expectation in 2019 from the Elizabethan Era is that all men are “perfect”. In 2019 nobody is considered “perfect” because society as a whole believes that everyone is flawed in some way, whether that be because of something like and individual’s poor choice or an occasional bad attitude. Men in 2019 have the societal expectations to be more expressive of emotions in addition to lack of perfection.

Some may argue, that the major unfair advantage women have always had over men (especially in 2019) is the choice to stay at home with the children or to provide for the family outside of the home. For example, if a husband and wife have three children it is up to the women to decide if she wants to work outside the home or to raise the kids at home. However, this argument presumes that it has always been a women’s discretion to work at or outside the home. According to Two incomes, no time: The struggle is real for many working parents, survey finds, “The survey found that two-parent, double-income families have more money than all others.

The choice for a woman to work outside of the home is strictly based on finances for the entire family. Families who require more money to get by on a daily basis tend to have both parents in the workforce thus not making it the women’s choice. In conclusion, the societal expectations of men and women from the Elizabethan Era to now majorly differ in the often inferior view of men to women due to emotional, physical, and emotional reasoning. In the Elizabethan Era men were viewed as weak and only mothers to now in 2019 where women had majorly different expectations due to family dynamics and gender pay gap. Women in society deserve the same rights as men as they rightfully should have had since the beginning of time.

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