Women and Society 2011-12
Follow up: Fall Lecture #1
1. Introduction to the course
2. Main course themes:
• Gender is socially & historically constructed.
• Gender is a differentiated category – concept of intersectionality (that other
significant social categories such as class, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation
intersect with & affect gender & our overall status, power & privileges).
• Gender roles are not static & relations between the sexes are not always the same.
• Talking about gender means talking about power, authority & control.
• However, it is important to distinguish between formal & informal power, & that
women may have access to informal power (although often via men) even when
they don’t have formal power or authority.
• Think critically, challenge naturalism or common sense assumptions & ‘that’s just
the way it is’ arguments
• Identify & critically assess the differences & their origins, significance & function
• Pay attention to within-gender differences
• Understand that what is important is how differences, whether actual or perceived,
are valued & given meaning in terms of social status, power, privileges
• Avoid talking a simple micro level villain/victim approach
• Instead, develop a macro level, systemic analysis – need to be historically,
culturally, geographically specific &consider other significant social categories
• Identify & address gender & other forms of inequality, & consider initiatives re
social justice & making change
• Develop critical, analytical skills
3. A course on women….how/why is gender so important?
a) Gender as a major organizing tool of social life; affects power, status, access to
resources, privileges and opportunities
b) Importance of gender stereotypes, dominant ideology
- is a folk or every day belief characterizing a social category or group
which become conventional & often fixed; represents a widely held or
popular consensus which is assumed to be correct & based on fact - in reality, stereotypes are non-scientific, non-objective & consensual
beliefs about groups of people
- we tend to assume that all members of a particular group share certain
key characteristics & that these define the individual & determine
behaviour, etc. As a result, a strongly held stereotype tells us who the
individual is & what they can do, determines our expectations of them.
- strong stereotypes are often internalized or accepted by individuals
themselves, even when negative.
• dominant ideology
- a set of ideas about how the world works or ought to work, which are
both descriptive & proscriptive, generally accepted & reproduced
- helps to maintain the status quo & to keep/reproduce a particular set of
power & status relations; tends to be resistant to change.
c) Global overview of how gender affects us
NOTE: I didn’t have to time in lecture to provide you with a brief global overview, so
here is some information from various sources. See what you can find yourself.
• UN Conference on Women in Copenhagen in 1980 presented stats from the
International Labour Organization:
- women produce 2/3 of the world’s work hours or about 66%
- women produce 44% of the world’s food supply
- women receive 10% of the world’s income
- women own 1% of the world’s property (much of this is on paper only
for tax purposes)
• Women make up about 50% of the world’s population but account for 70% of
the world’s poor.
• While women are primary contributors of food and contribute significantly to
economic life everywhere, they are largely excluded from economic & political
decision marking. Worldwide women hold only 12% of parliamentary seats.
• Approximately 854 million women, about 32% of the global labour force, were
estimated to be active in waged work by 1990. But the percentage of women in
top decision making positions (managerial or higher) continues to be relatively
low: 6.2% in all management positions and only an estimated 3.6 in economic
management. In 144 countries, there are no women at all in these areas and
levels. At the corporate level, US companies have 8 women for every 100 men.
Most female managers are concentrated at lower levels. In the 1, 000 largest
corporations outside the US only 1 of 100 executives is a woman.
• Women still, on average, make less than men. Where women do the same work
as men, they are paid 30 – 40% less then men. There is no country in the world where women’s wages are equal to men’s.