Progression of Gender Roles in Television Pt. 1: Leave it to Beaver

Gender roles have been present in television as long as sitcoms have been aired. Starting in the late 40’s and 50’s, it seemed that every series or sitcom incorporated gender roles. In 1957, a show called “Leave it to Beaver” aired its first episode. Within the first few minutes of this show, it was very clear that gender roles were going to be a big focus. The opening credits show an ideally pictured family with a mother, father, and two sons during their morning routine. The mother and father stand together to send their children off to school, the father in work attire and the mother with two lunches in hand. Throughout the numerous seasons of this show, there is a common theme or pattern among their gender roles. In the 50’s and 60’s, a woman’s role in the family was to simply stay home, clean, cook, and tend to her family. This is portrayed by “June Cleaver”, the mother, doing things such as cleaning and cooking all day, and having her husbands supper on the table and slippers ready when he got home. She was taking on the socially accepted role of “house wife”.

The father, “Ward Cleaver” would say goodbye to his loving wife and children, and go out to work for the day. His sole role in the family was to support them. Financially, he was the main support for the family, and only source of income. In the late 40’s to the 60’s, this was the socially accepted role of a man in the family. It was an unspoken understanding that what was seen as an “average” family was a happily married woman who was a homemaker and man who had a career to support the family, who together had about two children.

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3 comments

  1. I think it’s important to note that although this accepted role has changed that there are still people who prefer it.
    Although, I wonder if we should call certain roles gener roles anymore. There are stay at home Dads who do all of this today, but we wouldn’t call him a house wife. Maybe we need to move from the idea of gender as a whole and think about the roles of society. We are a much more diverse population today.

  2. I think it’s such a horrible thing that people still think we as women should be doing exactly what is displayed in these early sitcoms. I know I don’t want to be seen as the stay at home mom or one who does nothing but clean all day. And it’s sad to say I have a friend who wants to be a stay at home mom,but to me I would feel like I’m useless and everything that I’ve worked for or towards just goes right down the drain.

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