Chapter 5 – Gender Relations
Biological differences between male and female probably the basis for social
differentiation of the sexes.
Sexism The perceived superiority of one sex (most often men) over the
other (usually women)
Gender The expectations of behaviour or appearance that we describe as
masculine or feminine; a set of social expectations.
Ways of looking at gender through sociological lenses:
Note: all these explanations are compatible with one another. Each focuses
on a different aspect of the rise, maintenance, and decline of gender
inequality. Feminist approach most influential, though.
Functionalists ask of every social arrangement: what function does it
perform for society as a whole?
Here, how does gender inequality contribute to the wellbeing of society as a
o Gendered divisions of labour are the most effective and efficient way
to carry out society’s tasks of reproduction and socialization.
o Maybe even evolutionary survival value for the human race.
Always ask: who holds power and benefits from a particular social
Here, who is best served by gender inequality?
o Marx: families are the best and cheapest way to raise new workers,
and women provide the cheapest family labour, as mothers. Beneficial
o Feminist: women have a different experience from men and may be
exploited by men of their own class, as well as by capitalists. Thus,
gender inequality mainly serves the interests of men who have
someone as subservient to them as they are to their own bosses.
Patriarchy – men are the main and universal cause of women’s oppression
Ask: How is a social arrangement symbolized?
E.g. How is gender inequality negotiated, symbolized, and communicated in
Presumption is that inequalities arise where social differences have been
symbolized, communicated, and negotiated (i.e. made into something that is
taken for granted by the population at large). o Thus, concerned with the ways that gender differences become stable
Sexual double standard The expectation that women will feel or behave
differently from men in sexual matters.
Social Constructionist Approach
Ask: When and how did the arrangement emerge?
Here, when did gender inequality emerge in a particular society, what events
preceded this emergence, and what individuals or groups were especially
instrumental in this process of moral entrepreneurship? By what steps has
gender equality begun to emerge?
Types of Feminist Sociology
Feminist theory usually viewed as a branch of critical theory. Different types.
Postulates that most gender differences are socially constructed. Should be
abolished for moral reasons.
One of the most important contributions of feminist sociology has been to
forefront the importance of taken-for-granted everyday life as a window on
important social facts about the distribution of power.
Liberal Marxist Radical Socialist Anti-racist/
General Believes men and Believes women Believes men and Combines Marxist Criticizes essentialism
women are are the first women are and radical in other feminisms (not
essentially the same. exploited class. different. feminisms all women are the
Concerned primarily Subordination of Patriarchy is not same, no single source
with equal rights. women comes specific to of inequality). Some
with the advent of capitalism; rather, men and women share
private property. it is universal. oppression in complex
Why does Discriminatory Capitalism and Patriarchy Capitalism and Multiple inequalities:
gender legislation bars private ownership patriarchy race, class, gender,
inequality women from entering sexuality, ability, etc.
exist? public life These inequalities
overlap in unique ways
for different women.
Key issues Right to vote, access Male control of Inequality as a Post colonial
to education and paid female sexuality. result of the exploitation of women
employment, pay Women’s intersection of of colour
equity reproductive race, class, and
capacity. gender. Inequality
in paid and unpaid
work, in the home
How are we Do not change the Need to change Need direct action, Attack both No single solution for
to fix structure of society, the social political patriarchy and all women. Need to
inequalities just remove structure: for opposition, radical capitalism. address differences
? legislation barring example abolish social change. among women in a
women from public capitalism. non-universalizing,
life. The best women, non-essentialist way.
like the best men, will
rise to the top. Classic Studies: The Sociology of Housework (Ann Oakley)
Addresses the misconception that housework is not just unskilled labour, and
thus worthy of little attention.
RESULT: housework began to emerge as a type of legitimate, difficult, and
worthwhile work, not just the labour of love.
Drew attention to domestic inequality and its relation to other forms of
Studied a small sample of middle and working class homemakers. All hated
housework but viewed homemaking as central to their identity.
Oakley concluded that women are disempowered and imprisoned by their
beliefs about the proper role of women, especially of mothers, in modern
society. Despite their unhappiness, many housewives feel obliged by their
culture to play a basically alienating and frustrating role. They have been
socialized by a patriarchal gender ideology into accepting slavery in marriage
o Housework is the visible symbol of this submission.
Sex the biological characteristics that make a person male or female; a
biological fact at birth.
Kids learn about what being a boy or girl means through their families,
through a process called socialization.
o Kids are also socialized into gender roles by learning to cooperate
with family members of the opposite sex.
o Kids are also socialized at school. E.g. splitting a class into boys vs.
girls for an activity leads to a belief that gender is a basis for
distinction among people.
Reference groups – groups from which we gain ideas about proper
Hidden curriculum – the types of courses and subjects that girls and boys are
subconsciously encouraged to pursue. In this way, schools develop gender
regimes, which produce masculinity and femininity and attach certain
practices to these labels. This also varies between social classes.
Mass media reinforces gender stereotypes. Also, objectifies women. Men are
expected to be successful and career-driven.
o Move towards less macho men in ads and such – some argue this is
the sexualisation of men (i.e. portraying metrosexual men)
The Beauty Standard
Appearance issues and conformation to beauty norms interest sociologists
because they shed so much light on the boundaries between deviant and
conforming behaviour and the measures people take to control and shame
o This forces women to take a stand on “natural aging”
Appearance norms – ideal features that our society values. Often measurable
(e.g. dress size). o We look at deviations from the norm as signs of rebellion,
carelessness, or ignorance. May lead to mistrust, stigmatization, and
o Since the 1950s, there’s been a growing inconsistency between real
and ideal bodies in North America.
o Women have gotten thinner and more toned; men have gotten more
muscular. Reality: opposite. Both men and women have gotten fatter.
o Mass media doesn’t show us reality; fantasies about the ideal male
and female are different fantasies. Not unisex.
Conflict between the sexes
Divorce and break-up rates have risen since the 1960s.
Family provides no more guarantee of stable bonding across the sexes than it
does of bonding between husbands and wives.
Glass ceiling any sex-based barrier to equal opportunity for hiring and
The Gendering of crime
Men (esp young men) are far more likely than anyone else to commit crimes.
Also, to take dangerous risks. More likely than women to commit every kind
Women are less likely to break society’s rules in an obvious way (like crime),
and are more likely to internalize their disappointment and frustration in a
variety of forms, esp depression, physical illness, or addiction.
Classic Studies – Men and Women of the Corporation (Rosabeth Kanter)
Argued that the barriers women meet and roles they play in large
corporations today are mainly a result of their numerical minority, not their
o Book challenged many assumptions about the traditional system of
merit and reward within large organizations.
o Showed that when women are denied authority in organizations, they
behave in “womanly ways”; when they have authority, they behave in
o Argued that structural and situational aspects, not individual
characteristics, limit people’s careers.
o Weak, unproductive behaviour is the result of holding a weak
position, not a natural difference of sexes.
o A woman’s sense of self reflects her real opportunities.
Basis of the work
o Survey of male managers, female secretaries, and wives of managers.
o Found women’s (secretaries’ and wives’) fortunes depended on the
fortunes of their male boss/husband. They were powerless.
o “Tokenism theory” – predicts that members of a social group who are
outnumbered by members of another group will suffer adverse
effects, including greater stress at work. The more outnumbered, the
more pressure the person feels. The more equal the social groups’ numbers, the more communication between the groups and better
Gender influences in the workplace
People usually learn workplace etiquette in combination with gender
Women still earning less than men, etc.
The Earnings Gap
Though more Canadian women are gaining a higher education, they’re still
being educated largely for female-oriented disciplines and will likely work in
domains that traditionally pay lower wages.
o Wage gap between men and women still remains.
o RESULT: women have to support themselves and other for longer and
with less money (women live longer and are more likely to support
On average, women amass 2/3 of the wealth men do throughout their lives.
Because they’re most likely to have dependent children with them, women
under 40 years of age are at the highest risk of falling into poverty, and once
they do, there is considerable risk they’ll remain poor for a prolonged period.
Any profession traditionally dominated by men that women enter in large
numbers sees a rapid decline in the profession’s prestige and income.
Conversely, when large numbers of men enter a profession traditionally
dominated by women, on opposite trend is evident.
Gender and immigration
Today, scholars are more likely to examine female migration as a complex
and gender-specific experience based on several factors.
Classic Studies – The Double Ghetto (Pat and Hugh Armstrong)
Modern Canadian women lead captive, segregated, ghettoized lives.
Women occupy two ghettos: the ghetto at work and the one at home.
This book documents first the fact that average Canadian women are
segregated in paid jobs that are less secure and less well-paid than those of
average Canadian men, and this gender gap is narrowing only slowly. Second,
seeks to explain gendered segregation theoretically by comparing three
explanatory models: biological determinism, idealism, and materialism.
o Explain gender segregation is socially constructed, not biologically
o Argue that capitalist relations of production must account for the
gendered segregation in paid work.
o By its nature, capitalism needs insecure, poorly paid workers and a
reserve army of unemployed people.
o Thus, women are important because they reproduce and nurture the
next generation of workers. Also, provide unpaid care and support for
the paid workforce in the form of housework, preserving a healthy,
profit-making workforce at no cost to the capitalist. Third, women
move in and out of the wor