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SOC102H1 Chapter Notes -Intersectionality, Discourse Analysis, Role Theory

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Week 3
Starting Points
Chapter 5 Gender Relations
Chapter Outline
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.
Critical Theories
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
to capitalists.
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
Symbolic Interactionism
Ask: How is a social arrangement symbolized?
E.g. How is gender inequality negotiated, symbolized, and communicated in
our society?
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).

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o Thus, concerned with the ways that gender differences become stable
gender inequalities
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.
Believes men and
women are
essentially the same.
Concerned primarily
with equal rights.
Believes women
are the first
exploited class.
Subordination of
women comes
with the advent of
private property.
Believes men and
women are
Patriarchy is not
specific to
capitalism; rather,
it is universal.
Combines Marxist
and radical
Criticizes essentialism
in other feminisms (not
all women are the
same, no single source
of inequality). Some
men and women share
oppression in complex
Why does
legislation bars
women from entering
public life
Capitalism and
private ownership
Capitalism and
Multiple inequalities:
race, class, gender,
sexuality, ability, etc.
These inequalities
overlap in unique ways
for different women.
Key issues
Right to vote, access
to education and paid
employment, pay
Male control of
female sexuality.
Inequality as a
result of the
intersection of
race, class, and
gender. Inequality
in paid and unpaid
work, in the home
and outside.
Post colonial
exploitation of women
of colour
How are we
to fix
Do not change the
structure of society,
just remove
legislation barring
women from public
life. The best women,
like the best men, will
rise to the top.
Need to change
the social
structure: for
example abolish
Need direct action,
opposition, radical
social change.
Attack both
patriarchy and
No single solution for
all women. Need to
address differences
among women in a
non-essentialist way.

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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
gender inequality.
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
and motherhood.
o Housework is the visible symbol of this submission.
Gendered Socialization
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
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
other people.
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).
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