However, the gap is closing among American men and women. Studies have concluded that as women and men become more economically cooperative, they also become more domestically cooperative. As such because more American families are becoming two-income households, domestic and caretaking responsibilities are becoming more equally divided, and it can be expected that as women gain even more influence and power in our society, the roles of women and men within the home will become more equal.

Dealing With Difference

How do we deal with the many differences -- such as race, gender, age, and religion -- among people in a given society? And how do we deal with such differences in a just manner?

Historically, Western societies have not dealt well with difference. This is primarily due to its focus on and justification of the white, male norm. Thus, any group of people that has deviated from this norm has been labeled "different" and, historically, subjugated and/or discriminated against in some way.

Social and legal reforms have changed these dynamics to a large degree in American society, but we still have a long way to go.

Ideally, a society would have an inclusive norm, one that included multiple perspectives rather than adopting as the focal point that of a single perspective.

For example, our legal system historically often started with the assumption of the white male, and only later included others, such as Blacks, women, and all other Americans. For instance, only white males had the right to vote for a long period of time, until social reforms eventually gave the right to vote to all Americans.

As another example, many scientific experiments funded by this nation's major laboratories are conducted on males and from the standpoint of male physiology. Therefore, study results often either have no applicability to women's physiology or we must simply assume that the results apply equally to women.

In an ideal society that did not start from one single viewpoint, social and legal norms would incorporate multiple viewpoints at the outset because multiple viewpoints would be considered and respected.

Crime and Deviance

Some theorists have opined that historians can tell the character of a civilization from the manner in which it treated its criminals and deviants.

Historically, those who have deviated from the cultural norms of a society have been treated extremely harshly. Death, torture, and expulsion from a community have been common forms of punishment.

It is important to realize, however, that deviance is merely relative. What is deviant in one community or at one point in history is normal or laudable in another community or at another point in time. For example, many cultures throughout the ages have engaged in slavery, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, witch-hunts, and cannibalism. And as we know all too well, Americans engaged in some of these tragic cultural traditions - such as slavery and witch-hunts -- only a relatively short period of time ago.

Today, of course, an American attempting to enslave a Black American or engage in a witch-hunt would be considered a cultural deviant. But that is merely a function of place and time.

Given this, and without falling down the slippery slope of moral relativism, we must therefore recognize that one group's behaviors, and the meanings attached to those behaviors will always provoke a negative reaction among some other group.

Nevertheless, if we do not fall prey to moral relativism and therefore, do recognize that some behavior - at least according to our belief system - is wrong, we must treat cultural "deviants" as humanely and justly as possible. In an ideal society, we should also act pro-actively and engage in societal reform to reduce the extent of social deviance in the first instance.

Jon Will, "Utopian Philosophy." Utopia Now Studies. July 20, 2002.