SOC 362 – SEX, GENDER, &WORK Session #4
EXPLAINING GENDER DISCRIMINATION
Existence and Variation
The Two Root Causes
Four Biological Explanations
Gender Role Socialization
Demand and Supply-Side
Readings: Reeves, ch. 2:23-35
Optional Reading: Jared Diamond, Collapse
• Why does occupational segregation exist?
• Why it varies over time and place?
• What is it about being female that leads to inequality?
Existence, Variation, and Remedies
1. Why do we have a variation?
2. How do we fix it? (remedies)
o How do we eliminate gender discrimination?
THE TWO ROOT CAUSES
Biology Women’s Human
Er labour practices segregation
Focuses on two grouped causes
1. Biological explanations
o Cannot be caused by other factors
o Chromosome, genetic
o How does this lead to gender discrimination?
o What does biology has an effect on gender discrimination?
2. Social causes
Biological ??? Gender
1. How valid is it to link biological to gender differences
2 why do we have more discrimination and sometimes less. (Can it explain
2. Does that theory explain remedies? Can we get a remedy for gender
discrimination (does not give us a remedy)
1. Physical Attributes
• Inequality exists because men are bigger and stronger
• Males dominated because they have more physical strength. This domination
became a natural accepted part of tribal life. (i.e. males hunt)
Competition with scarce resources (if you are bigger then you will get access to more
Problem #1: we can find matriarchal cultures (society in which women dominate even
if they are physically smaller) 4
Problem #2: does not explain variations over time. During post-industrialism, women
has been doing better, but they are not larger than in middle ages and pre-industrial
what is the remedy?. How do we fix it? It will take centuries for women to grow as much
Maybe physical strength does not matter as much because of technology.
Physically, men still dominate women.
It cannot just be physical size.
Essentialism: the view that human behaviour has biological, physiological, and
Our behavior differences reflect our basic essence (basic
essence as male or female and drives who you are/ what you
1. Women are different (b/c of chromosome, hormonal and genetic differences)
2. This in turn leads to behavior/attitudinal differences. Women make choices and
behave in that life according to their essential natures. Women’s natural
(i.e. women prefer to raise a family, also includes the kind of paid work they tend to do
– usually less technical, more nurturing and helping. It also involves jobs that
incorporate cooperation. Men are more aggressive and women are more competitive)
Notion of women are more reluctant to talk about their achievements while men it is
easier (presentation today refer)
3. When women make those choices, this leads to activities where society does not
value. Society does not reward women as higher. Women usually have low-paid
Women’s essential nature leads to nature where society does not value as
Problem #1: why are female choices are valued less? (i.e. when women is a teacher,
why are they not valued?
How do we get from differences from discrimination?
Men are worth more than women
What we define as women’s work can change from one culture to another.
(i.e. sex segregation in specific types of jobs is not necessarily linked to biology)
What’s the remedy?
We cannot change biology to try to solve this
Chromosomal, genetic differences play a role but….
Women do different things, but why are they treated less?
3. Psychoanalytic Theory
• 1. Most children are raised by women (their mothers)
• This results in all children starting out feminine identification. The child’s initial
personality internalizes the mother’s equalities. If the mother easily expresses
emotions, so will the child, regardless of the child’s sex.
• Around the age 3, boys are encouraged to be more masculine by fathers,
• Boys are being encouraged to give up the person who is so close to them (i.e.
• “Do not be a mother’s boy!!!!”
1. Boys define masculinity as a negative way. (w/e that is non-feminine) (being
different from women – it’s not going to be w/e mom is)
2. Boy’s invent rituals that condemn anything men inferior. (absence of any role
models, boys develop these two strategies)
To be “masculine” means:
1. Your different from women 6
2. Your better than women
This helps boys overcome the ritual that they boys go through.
The child’s identification (as either male or female)
• How do we explain broad culture differences?
• (I.e. Sweden is different from Italy)
• What does social culture have to do with this?
• What’s the remedy?
• It is hard to fix
• Get men involved in child rearing just like women are
• It can explain individual level sex differences.
• It does not extend to broad culture differences in gender equality
4. Functional Explanation
• Biologically, only women that have the children have the ability to take care of
the child, but we need men to provide protections against enemies
• How do we keep men around? By giving them higher status.
• Men get status and power in exchange for protecting women the survival in the
• It may not be good to let men have this status influence?
• If you give men status influence then you get wars, wastes,
• It can threaten the survival of a society
• It may not be a good thing that having men around can be a good thing
• Women have the ultimate power
• They can reward men for sticking around
• Will women give up so much that they will suffer mentally, physically and
• What’s the remedy? 7
• Get women to provide the protection
There is something valid about this explanation
It is related to other things happening in society.
It is the only biological explanation that gives women equal status in the longer run
It seems implicitly to say that women have the ultimate power, but there is some
evidence that this is not true.
Summary: Biological Explanations for Gender Inequality
• Looked at 4
• Appear to explain some gender inequalities, but something else is the cause
(not biologically as a remedy/solution)
1. Gender Ideology