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Lecture 3

SOCI 3017 Lecture 3: Gender Inequality

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SOCI 3017

Gender Inequality • Feminist Theory o The extension of feminism into theoretical or philosophical discourse o Asks: What is the nature of gender inequality? o Examines women’s social roles, experience, and feminist politics in a variety of fields–sociology,anthropology,communications,psychologyandpsychoanalysis, history, medicine, education, philosophy and so on. o General themes: discrimination, objectification, sexuality, oppression, patriarchy, stereotyping, media, herstory, aesthetics and representation. o Patriarchy – a social system in which males=> primary authorityfigures,including political leadership, institutional control, and rule over the family (lineage) • Simone de Beauvoir o De Beauvoir (1908 –1986) - French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist. Significant influence on feminist theory. o She wrote novels, essays, biographies, an autobiography, monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues. o In the 1970s, Beauvoir became active in France's women’s liberation movement. She signed the Manifesto of 343 in 1971, a list of famous women who claimed to have hadan abortion,which wasillegalinFrance.Somearguemostof thewomen had not had abortions. o She had a long relationship with Jean Paul Sartre – famous existentialist philosopher.She alsohad some femalepartners.Someone named Olga, who they shared. o Most famous book: The Second Sex (1949) –a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism. o Main thesis of the book: Men occupy the role of the self, or subject; women are the object, the Other. Man is essential, absolute, and transcendent. Woman is inessential, incomplete, and mutilated. He extends out into the world to impose his will on it, whereas woman is doomed to inwardness. He creates, acts, invents; she waits for him to save her. o De Beauvoir argues that it is natural for humans to understand themselves in oppositiontoothers,butthisprocessisflawedwhenappliedtogender.Indefining woman as Other, man is denying her humanity. o Biology, psychoanalysis, and historical materialism – these all reveal indisputable “essential” differences between men and women, but they do not provide justification for woman’s inferiority. o As an existentialist, she believed that existence precedes essence – i.e., one is not born a woman, but becomes one. It is a (social) construction of Woman as the quintessential Other that she identifies as fundamental to women's oppression. o Beauvoir argued that patriarchal society involved “othering” women by applying a false aura of "mystery" around them – exoticism/stereotyping. As a way of controlling them. Colonialism worked similarly. o Beauvoir argued that women have historically been considered deviant, abnormal. “Male” is the standard – the optimal. The normal. Women’s poetry, women’s history, women’s studies. o Says it’s irritating to talk about it, but we have to. To deny women’s oppression means to deny fact of other order categories that serve as bases for oppression (race, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual preference – the variety of “Others” in society) o Why do women not fight back? Why submit to this status? First, women are not a minority. They do not have a shared past, like Pan-Africanists might say about African Americans. There is a lack of common ground. Women do not say “we” – except at feminist conferences. o Second, women do not live separately from males. They feel akin to them, marry them, have close ties. o Third, they rely on men. Master/Slave – mutual relation. There are advantages to being connected to men. Power, Money. o How to stop it? Rid the world of inferiority/superiority in general. “Universal emancipation” (Marx). Not just women’s lib, but liberation from domination. Not about defined roles – women in the boardroom as good – glass ceiling, etc. But rather, the freedom and liberty to decide (self-determination) – to be one’s self. • Barbara Ehrenreich o Born in Butte, Montana, in 1941. Mining town. Father was a miner, women were homemakers. Moved around a lot. Father got a degree and had jobs in various places. o She attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, majoring in chemistry, then switching to physics. Went to grad school at Rockefeller University in theoretical physics. Switched to molecular biology, then to cell biology. o Involved the anti-Vietnam war movement. Joined a nonprofit in NYC that advocated for health care for the city’s poor. Wrote investigative stories for their newsletter. How she became a writer. o Hadherfirstchildin1970–reallystartedthinkingaboutgender-experienced“vile sexism: in hospital clinic during her pregnancy. Started working for the “women’s health movement.” o Nowahighlyinfluentialjournalist,focusingonsocio-culturalissues,withemphasis on feminism, American culture, and the poor. She won the National Magazine Award for Excellence in Reporting in 1980 and received a Ford Foundation Award for Humanistic Perspectives on Contemporary Society in 1982, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1987-88, and a MacArthur Foundation Grant for Research and Writing in 1995. o Tons of books. Most famous, Nickel and Dimed, published in 2001. She has taught at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC, Berkeley, and is primarily a freelance writer. o Prison Abuse: ▪ Sabrina Harman and Lynndie England (26 yrs old) ▪ England – 3 yrs (early parole); husband 10 years. Said it was the media’s fault, also said she was just following orders. ▪ Pics published in New Yorker. “Exposure: The Woman behind the camera at Abu Ghraib," March 24, 2008, ▪ Harman said it was it was her role as a woman in the military. She was not expected to wrestle prisoners into stress positions, but to serve as an instrument of humiliation. ▪ The M.P.s were given a training session on “cultural awareness.” Said that Arab men were sexual prudes, with a particular hangup about being seen naked in public by women. What better way to break an Arab, then, than to strip him, tie him up, and have a woman laugh at him? Taking pictures may have seemed an added dash of mortification. ▪ As a feminist, the photos “broke my heart.” Why? She says: “I had no illusionsabouttheU.S.missioninIraq--whateverexactlyitis--butitturns out that I did have some illusions about women.” ▪ “If you were doing PR for Al Qaeda, you couldn't have st
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