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Introduction to Sociology

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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
VU
Lesson 32
EXPLANATIONS OF GENDER INEQUALITY
Each of sociology's major theoretical paradigms addresses the significance of gender in social organization.
Functionalist, conflict, inter-actionist, and feminist theories offer alternative explanations for gender
inequalities.
Functionalist Explanations
Functionalists view inequality as a product of the traditional division in human societies. Men tend to attend
to more instrumental (objectively rewarded) tasks such as wage earning and women attend to more
expressive (subjectively rewarded) tasks such as those involved in child rearing. While both types of labor
are functional (indeed vital) for society's survival, the instrumental tasks, looked after by men, always have
been more highly rewarded than the expressive tasks looked after by women. Men and women are taught
these traditional roles and have tended to conform to their requirements. Functionalists point out that,
while gender roles and their accompanying inequalities have changed somewhat in industrialized societies,
traditional arrangement remains in force in most societies. The persistence of the traditional division of
labor, according to functionalist view, testifies to the usefulness for human societies.
Conflict Explanations
Conflict theories deny the historically inevitability and necessity of the traditional division of labor between
men and women. The arrangement may have been more functional in non-industrialized societies, where
physical strength was required by many tasks. However, industrialization has changed the situation. The
continuance of the traditional gendered division of labor and the social inequality that it produces merely
contributes to unnecessary social conflict and therefore is dysfunctional.
Capitalism intensifies male domination because:
 Capitalism creates more wealth, which confers greater power on men as owners of property and as
primary wage earners.
 An expanding capitalist economy depends on turning people ­ especially women ­ into consumers
and encouraging them to seek personal fulfillment through buying and using products.
 To support men in the factories, society assigns women the task of maintaining the home.
 The double exploitation of capitalism lies in paying low wages to male labor and no wages at all for
female work.
Inter-actionist Explanations
Inter-actionist theories of gender inequality focus on how inequality is perpetuated by the transmission of
traditional cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity from generation to generation. For example,
learning these definitions influences people's expectations about the types of statuses that women and men
are capable of occupying and the types of roles they are capable of performing. Compared with functionalist
and conflict theories, inter-actionist theories are optimistic as to the prospects of reducing if not eliminating
such inequalities. Since gender roles and division of labor that they support are the products of what each
generation teaches the next generation, we can change them by teaching different gender roles and different
ideas about division of labor. Greater gender equality can be achieved; therefore, without having to wait for
the massive restructuring of society implied by functionalist theories, which process might take several
generations. Neither is it necessary to resort to revolutionary strategy to achieve gender equality as proposed
by such conflict theorists as Marx and Engels.
Feminism
Feminism is the advocacy of social equality for men and women, in opposition to patriarchy and sexism. In
this perspective there is a general emphasis on the crucial contribution of patriarchy (male domination) to
gendered inequalities. For example they challenge the functionalist idea that men are rewarded more than
women simply because men have traditionally performed the more highly rewarded instrumental tasks while
women have performed less highly rewarded expressive tasks. But why are women paid less than men for
performing the same instrumental tasks? The proposed answer is patriarchy.
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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
VU
Feminism views the personal experiences of women and men through the lens of gender. How we think of
ourselves (gender identity), how we act (gender roles), and how our sex's social standing (gender
stratification) are all rooted in the operation of our society.
Basic feminist ideas
Although people who consider themselves feminist disagree about many things, most support five general
principles:
1.
The importance of change. Feminist thinking is decidedly political, linking ideas to action.
Feminism is critical of the status quo, advocating change toward social equality for women and
men.
2.
Expanding human choice. Feminists maintain that cultural conceptions of gender divide the
full range of human qualities into two opposing and limited spheres: the female world of
emotions and cooperation and the male world of rationality and competition. As an alternative,
feminists propose a "reintegration of humanity" by which each human can develop all human
traits.
3.
Eliminating gender stratification. Feminism opposes laws and cultural norms that limit the
education, income, and job opportunities of women. For this reason feminists advocate
passage of the Equal Rights Laws.
4.
Existing sexual violence. Today's women's movement seeks to eliminate sexual violence.
Feminists argue that patriarchy distorts the relationships between women and men,
encouraging violence against women in the form of rape, domestic abuse, sexual harassment,
and pornography.
5.
Promoting sexual autonomy. Feminists advocate women's control of their sexuality and
reproduction. Feminists support the free availability of birth control information. Most
feminists also support a women's right to choose whether to bear children or terminate
pregnancy, rather than allowing men ­ as husbands, physicians, and legislators ­ to control
women's sexuality. Many feminists support the gay people's efforts to overcome the many
barriers they face in a predominantly heterosexual culture.
Opposition to Feminism
Feminism provokes criticism and resistance from both men and women who hold conventional ideas about
gender. Some men oppose feminism for the same reasons that may white people have historically opposed
social equality for the people of color. They want to preserve their women privileges. Other men and
women, including those who are neither rich nor powerful, distrust social movement (especially its radical
expressions) that attacks the family and rejects time-honored patterns that have guided male-female
relationship for centuries.
For some men, feminism threatens the basis of their status and self respect: their masculinity. Men who
have been socialized to value strength and dominance feel uneasy about feminist ideas of men as gentle and
warm. Similarly women whose lives center on their husbands and children may see feminism as trying to
deprive them their cherished roles that give meaning to their lives.
Resistance to feminism also comes from academic circles. Some Sociologists charge that feminism willfully
ignores a growing body of evidence that men and women do think and act in somewhat different ways
(which may make gender equality impossible). Also feminism downgrades the crucial and unique
contribution women make to the development of children ­ especially during the first years of life.
Finally, there is the question of how women should go about improving their social standing. The idea is that
women should have equal rights, but women should advance individually, according to their abilities.
Women should expect to get ahead on the basis of their own training and qualifications.
Observations about the likely state of gender
Movement toward gender equality has progressed ahead. Industrialization has both broadened the range of
human activity and shifted the nature of work from physically demanding tasks that favored male strength
to jobs that require human thought and imagination, putting the talents of women and men on equal
footing. Additionally, medical technology has given control over reproduction, so women's lives are less
constrained by unwanted pregnancies.
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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
VU
Many women and men have also deliberately pursued social equality. Sexual harassment complaints now are
taken much more seriously in the workplace. And as more women assume positions of power in the
corporate and political worlds, social changes in the 21st century may be as great as those we have already
witnessed.
Gender is an important part of personal identity and family life, and it is deeply woven into the moral fabric
of the society. Therefore, efforts at change will continue to provoke opposition. On balance, however, while
changes may be incremental, the movement toward a society in which men and women enjoy equal rights
and opportunities seems certain to gain strength.
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Table of Contents:
  1. THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY:Auguste Comte, The Fields of Sociology
  2. THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE:Society affects what we do
  3. THEORETICAL PARADIGMS:Salient Paradigms, Critical Evaluation
  4. SOCIOLOGY AS SCIENCE:Empirical, Verifiable, Cumulative, Self-Correcting
  5. STEPS IN SOCIOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION:Exploration/Consultation
  6. SOCIAL INTERACTION:Social Status, ROLE, The Social Construction of Reality
  7. SOCIAL GROUPS:Primary and Secondary Groups, Reference Group, Networks
  8. ORGANIZATIONS:Utilitarian Organizations, Coercive Organizations
  9. CULTURE:Universality, Components of Culture, Symbols, Language
  10. CULTURE (continued):Beliefs, Norms, Cultural Diversity
  11. CULTURE (continued):Culture by social class, Multiculturalism, Cultural Lag
  12. SOCIALIZATION: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, NATURE, Social Isolation
  13. UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS
  14. AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION:The Family, The School, Peer Groups, The Mass Media
  15. SOCIALIZATION AND THE LIFE COURSE:CHILDHOOD, ADOLESCENCE
  16. SOCIAL CONTROL AND DEVIANCE:Crime, Deviants, Stigma, Labeling
  17. THE SOCIAL FOUNDATIONS OF DEVIANCE:Cultural relativity of deviance
  18. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME:Sociological explanations
  19. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME -- CONTINUED:White-Collar Crime, Conflict Theory
  20. SOCIAL DISTRIBUTION OF CRIME: EXPLANATIONS, Gender and Crime
  21. SOCIAL STRATIFICATION: INTRODUCTION AND SIGNIFICANCE
  22. THEORIES OF CLASS AND STRATIFICATION I:Critical evaluation
  23. THEORIES OF SOCIAL CLASS AND STRATIFICATION II
  24. THEORIES OF CLASS AND SOCIAL STRATIFICATION III
  25. SOCIAL CLASS AS SUBCULTURE
  26. SOCIAL MOBILITY:Structural factors, Individual factors, Costs
  27. THE FAMILY: GLOBAL VARIETY, Marriage Patterns, Patterns of Descent
  28. FUNCTIONS OF FAMILY:Reproduction, Social placement
  29. FAMILY AND MARRIAGE IN TRANSITION:Family is losing functions
  30. GENDER: A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION, Gender socialization
  31. GENDER SOCIALIZATION:Role of family, Gender Stratification
  32. EXPLANATIONS OF GENDER INEQUALITY:Conflict Explanations, Feminism
  33. FUNCTIONS OF SCHOOLING:Cultural Innovation, School Tracking
  34. ISSUES IN EDUCATION:Low Enrollment, High Dropout, Gender Disparity
  35. POPULATION STUDY AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE:Crude Birth Rate
  36. THEORY OF POPULATION GROWTH:Theory of Demographic Transition
  37. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN:World Population Growth
  38. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN (Continued):Age Distribution, Sex Composition
  39. IMPLICAIONS OF POPULATION GOWTH:Additional GDP needed per year
  40. POPULATION POLICY:Goals of Population Policy, Objectives, Strategies
  41. ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY:Global Dimension, Historical Dimension
  42. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:Preserving Clean Water, Clearing the Air
  43. SOCIAL CHANGE:Social change is controversial.
  44. CAUSES OF SOCIAL CHANGE:Culture and Change, Conflict and Change, Modernization
  45. MODERNITY AND POST MODERNITY:Cultural Patterns, Post-modernity