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Chapter 4

Chapter 4 notes of Social Problems book.

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Chapter 4 Gender Relations
Sex the biological distinction between male and female is a universal and ancient battle of social
This social demarcation has some basis in biology and the fact that women alone can bear and nurse
Women, on average, are physically smaller and weaker than men -> less suited for hunting and combat and
certain types of work
These biological realities led to the widespread social practices of mens roles as protectors/breadwinners and
womens roles as procreators/caregivers
However, this varies from one society to another
History and anthropology tells us that women can be breadwinners and protectors; men can be caregivers
In societies with low fertility, this distinction fades in importance because women spent more time as
Societies differ in the extent and ways they dramatize this sex-based difference
oSome enlarge these differences, while others diminish them
There is also much variation in how the rationalize their enactment of these differences
oSome invoke religious edicts (bibles), others draw on secular principles (moral commitment to
equality), scientific or pseudo-scientific theories (evolutionary selection)
Before 1900, gender and gender roles were assumed
Middle Ages and Renaissance, a few women were as well-educated as the best-educated men: nun and
abbess, QEI, Hildegard of Bingen, Sir Thomas Mores 4 daughters
Gouges and Wollstonecraft outstanding women who supported equality for women, including education
Women were generally not admitted to university until the late nineteenth century
Until recently, women have enjoyed little social standing and almost no institutional support for their
intellectual ambition
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, women became more visible as thinkers about social matters,
especially poverty
oEspecially obvious among the Fabians in England, where Beatrice worked along with her husband,
Sydney Webb
oIn the US, where church-promoted and social service research delved into problems in the growing
cities, led by women like Jane Addams
oThe growing feminist movement continued to press for gender equality and related social concerns
oEarly feminist movement was mainly concerned with womens suffrage
oRight to vote was achieved in Canada and US in the early decades of the 20th century
Until the early 70s, housework was not considered as work of economical value but an outpouring of family
oWas only in 1974, Oakley published her seminal book which drew needed attention to domestic
inequality and its relation to other forms of gender inequality
oThis coincided with and promoted by, the large-scale entry of women into higher education
The third feminist wave embraced racial and class diversity and accommodated differences in nationality
and cultural background
The failure by major male sociologists and theorists to contribute to gender issues tells us something about
the connection between social structure and the propagation of knowledge: only the powerful get noticed,
studied, and discussed

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The subject matter of sociology itself is a measure of a societys equality, openness, self-awareness and social
Changes in sociology reflect changes in the distribution of power and are achieved largely through changes in
the intellectual class and the institutionalization of knowledge, of peer review, research funding and journal
The Battle over Gender Today
Historically, women have suffered more disadvantages than men at school, in the workplace, and in the
public realm
To a large degree, Canadian women have overcome these disadvantages in the past two decades
oCanadians support rules that make it illegal for employers to limit or separate their employers by sex
oHowever, many Canadians still discriminate against women
Sociologists deny claims of essentialism and enforce the assertion that only social constructionism and
socialization can account for the observed differences associated with men and women in a given society
Yet, social critic Naomi Wolf recently reviewed the evidence of biologists, evolutionary psychologists and
anthropologists to reach the conclusion that this war may be about to end
Wolf notes that:
oMen’s brains can feel invaded and overwhelmed by too much verbal processing of emotion, so that men’s need to zone out or do something
mechanical rather than emote is often not a rejection of their spouses, but a neural need. [Gurian] even posits that the male brain can’t see
dust or laundry piling up as the female brain can - which explains why men and women tend to perform household tasks in different ways.
Men often can’t hear women’s lower tones, and their brains, unlike women’s, have a ‘rest state (sometimes, he IS thinking about nothing’).
oAccording to Dr Gurian, men are inclined to socialize children differently from women also for hardwired reasons
oMen encourage more risk-taking and independence than women
oHe believes that if women accept and work around these biological differences, men in relationship are likely to respond positively
Wolf asserts that research does not imply that men are superior, much less justify invidious discrimination
but suggest that a more pluralistic society, open to all kinds of differences, can learn, work, and love better
Defining Sexism and Gender Inequality
Sexism: discrimination and derogatory attitudes and beliefs that promote stereotyping of people because of
their gender. Sexism and gender stereotyping are two problems for both men and women, and are most often
experienced in institutions and social relationships; has harmed women more than men
Gender inequality: the differential success of men and women in gaining access to valued rewards. This
tends to stem from structural arrangements, interpersonal discrimination and cultural beliefs
Sex and Gender
Sex: a biological concept that differentiates female and male; most people are male or female from the
moment of conception, with biological differences between the sexes that are anatomic, genetic and hormonal
However, research has not revealed any simple split between the sexes or any direct link between genetics
and the behaviour of each sex
Current thinking would be more accurate to view male and female as opposite poles along a continuum of
sexual variation
oUseful for unusual cases: rare condition known as adrenogenital syndrome in which an XX
chromosome individual is exposed in the womb to abnormally high levels of androgens -> intersexed
appearance, with normal internal genitalia and an external phallus that is intermediate in size
between a clitoris and a penis -> socially answered
There is no scientific proof there are biologically based psychological differences (maternal instinct)
Gender: a social division referring to the social and psychosocial attributes by which humans are categorized
as male or female. Biology is deemed somewhat irrelevant to understanding social distinctions between
males and females. Gender encompasses the shared understandings of how women and men, girls and boys,
should look and act. It is a label that subsumes a large assortment of traits, beliefs, values, and mannerisms,
and defines how we should practise social interactions

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The precise distinctions made between men and women, and the resulting divisions of labour, have varied
through time and across cultures
Males are treated as men because they play masculine roles, and females are treated as women because they
play feminine roles
Gender distinctions are socially constructed
Views of inherent difference between males and females are captured in a neat dichotomy that
distinguished masculinity and femininity
Gender roles: the patterns of behaviour that a society expects of males and females and that all members
of the society learn, to a greater or lesser extent, as part of the socialization process
Masculinity: a socially constructed idea of how boys and men should act; qualities that people in our
society expect to find in a typical man
Femininity: a socially constructed idea of how girls and women should act, or the various qualities that
people expect to find in a typical female
Gender socialization: the process by which people learn their gender-based behaviour. The socialization
process links gender to personal identity in the form of gender identity and to distinctive activities in the
form of gender roles. The major agents of socialization all serve to reinforce cultural definitions of
masculinity and femininity
Stereotyping can have serious effects for mental health and social relations
Canadian men suffer more severe chronic health conditions, have higher death rates for all leading
causes of death, and die, on average, nearly 5 years younger than women
Women more often develop symptoms of depression and anxiety, while men more often develop symptoms
of alcoholism, drug abuse, and social withdrawal
Factors that Reinforce Gender Inequality
Sociologically, the most important difference between the sexes is the fact that women can bear children
Chodorow believes that if women and men shared equally in parenting, gender inequality would diminish
At Home
Reproduction and child-rearing continue to be mainly female activities in Canadian society
However, effective birth control has made the outcome of sexual intercourse more predictable and
controllable than at any other time in history -> women and men can lead more similar lives
However, the family household remains a workplace for women more than for men
Before industrialization, the workplace was mainly for men
Domestic labour is gendered labour: still expect adult women to carry out more of the work; also persists
in caregiving
Women do more even if they engage in paid employment and are parenting infants, caring for sick or
disabled family members
Of course, families do vary,
oremarried couples report a less complete or weaker version of gendered inequality
oCouples who become parents in their 20s are more traditional than those who make the
transition in their 30s
oWomen who cohabit do much less household work than women who are legally married
oDual-career couples often renegotiate their domestic division of labour as outside work duties
The Arrival of Children
Families rely on babysitters, small-scale child-care operations, or family members’ voluntary care who
are mostly females
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