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Robert Brym

CHAPTER 7: GENDER INEQUALITY Introduction Near 1920s, womens rights were limited to household work (in extreme cases, women were merely considered property of men). Social Roles: Behaviours that are expected of people occupying particular social positions. In 1950s, womens social roles were those of wives and mothers. Rapid change has occurred over time that as led to blurring the line between the powers of men and women. Divorce laws revised in 1968 Allowed women to divorce unfair husbands and led to increased freedom Feminist groups rise and consisting mainly of educated professional women, make strong impact in making females realize their right to equality with men However a changed world does not mean an equal world: gender inequality still exists and the revolutions have not completely finished. Understanding Gender Inequality Social scientists refer to inequalities between women and men as gender inequalities rather than sex inequalities. Gender refers to the social meaning and is found in social roles, daily interactions and in institutions, whereas sex refers to the biological meaning. Gender Stereotypes: oversimplified beliefs about how men and women, by virtue of their physical sex, possess different personality traits and, as a result, may behave differently and experience the world in different ways However, gender stereotypes are largely constructed in the social realm of individuals lives where they are enforced in families, friends, schools, and workplace (i.e. boys get to grow up with toys like monster trucks, and toolkits whereas girls grow with toys like tea sets, and dolls) Gender is largely learned through interactions and hence its content is constantly renewed and altered through social interaction; this has three implications Gender identities are not stable and fixed. What people take to be masculine or feminine varies from one society to other; it also varies in a society over time Gender identities (the internal sense of being a man/woman) and gender-specific behaviour does not have to be congruent with the sex assigned to individuals at birth Just like sexuality and sex, gender identities and behaviours are not polar opposites; the images of masculinity and femininity often emphasize opposites but there are in fact degrees of masculinity and femininity (although male and female can be considered as polar opposite, masculinity and femininity are not) Contemporary studies show that people often still view women and men as having different and opposite personality traits (and this does not have to be necessarily true) The persistence of stereotypical thinking about feminine and masculine behaviours as being opposites has two implications The idea of difference in very powerful and it is extremely difficult to eradicate this idea In these polarized depictions, feminine traits are viewed as less desirable than masculine traits Gender inequalities: Hierarchical asymmetries between men and women with respect to the distribution of power, material well-being, and prestige. Does not imply that men always have higher prestige, wealth, and power than do women but it implies that on average men tend to have higher wealth, power, and prestige than women Dimensions of Inequality 1. Power: Capacity to impose your will on others regardless of any resistance. This involves your capacity to influence, manipulate and control others 2. Material Wellbeing: Involves access to economic resources required to pay for necessities of life and other possessions and advantages 3. Prestige: the average evaluation of occupational activities and positions that are arranged in a hierarchy Prestige reflects the degree of respect, honour, or deference generally accorded to a person occupying a given position Explaining Gender Inequality Feminism: Theory developed by women to explain gender inequality and its persistence. Feminism refers to the body of thought that speculates about causes and nature of womens disadvantages and subordinate position in society. It also refers to efforts made (often involving political action) to minimize or eliminate that subordination. There are many feminist theories, this is very popular: Liberal Feminism: -> Assumes that human beings are rational and will correct inequalities when they know about them -> Gender inequalities are caused and perpetuated by gender stereotyping and the division of work into womens and mens jobs. Two main ways to achieve gender inequality are: 1. Removing gender stereotyping and discrimination in education and paid work 2. Changing laws to allow for equal opportunities for men and women in paid labour force and politics Marxist Feminism Womens unpaid work in the home maintains and reproduces the labour force Women benefit the Capitalists through their social role of being wives/mothers They ensure that male workers are refreshed and ready to work each day They raise children to become future labourers They act as secondary or reserve labour that can be hired and fired if not enough males are available Gender inequality can only be achieved when socialism replaces this capitalist approach Socialist Feminism Agree with Marxist feminism in their belief that gender inequality is caused by the gendered division of labour and its exploitation by capitalism However classes constitute only one set of social relations that oppress women There is a second set of oppressive social relations, namely patriarchy Patriarchy is the system of male dominance over women Generally, childbearing and the sexual activities of women are the foundation of gender inequality (because they are done for free) To decrease gender inequality State-subsidies need to be provided for maternal benefits and child care Equal pay must be provided for equal work Removing inequality altogether requires the eradication of male dominance EXERCISING POWER The ability to control and influence others, or in other words, using power on others implies domination of one and subordination of another Power relations between men and women are hence described as male domination and female subordination (this means that males tend to have the greater ability in being able to control and influences females) This male influence and control over women does not have to only mean the predominance of men rather than women in politics and the military, but it can include other examples, such as women being denied the right to vote, and workplace regulations that encourage women to quit work upon marriage Examples even include todays situation where women are sometimes looked at sexually by males of our modern society and such behaviour is claimed normal by society Sexual harassment is the result of the general belief that men are superior to women and may impose their will on them Gender inequalities in power also combine with racial inequalities and as a result, minority women experience the most harassment because they are both women and members of a minority group SEPARATE SPHERES Historically, women have been excluded from certain types of activities that create opportunities for acquiring power, prestige, and wealth (such as denial of voting rights for women and existence of laws that prevented women from working) These exclusions, that women were denied, separated them from the public sphere, which became increasingly viewed as the domain of men who were the breadwinners and heads of household Women increasingly became a part of the private sphere which held Consequences of this separation on women: Women assigned to be domestic (at home) labourers Devaluation of the work in the home because it is unpaid Tendency to view nurturing and care-giving as biologically-determined traits rather than acquired skills Financial dependence of women on men Reduced access to power, prestige, and material well being The recognition of these two disadvantages has elicited two main responses People have tried to eliminate the devaluation of domestic labour by having womens unpaid work recognized officially and having a dollar value assigned to it Emphasis on the entry of women into the public sphere Increased participation of women in the public sphere today however does not mean that gender equality exists Womens labour-force participation rate is still lower than mens FEMALE LABOUR-FORCE PARTICIPATION Since the beginning of 20th century, there has been a substantial increase in female labour participation. This includes increase in rates of employed married women and women with young children Factors in increase of womens labour-force participation rate Increased demand of service workers Early 1900s, most jobs included agriculture of manufacturing But around 1920s, more and more jobs became available in firms that provided services Hiring women in these firms was more suitable because of seemingly less work requirements and the ability to pay lower wages Decrease in number of children born Female labour-force participation rates increased rapidly in the postwar years The fertility rates dropped substantially because of the Great Depression (and hence less capability in supporting more children) Hence the availability of young females workers declined, which led industries to become more open in allowing married women to work
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