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Inequality, Stratification and Gender

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1 Inequality, Stratification and Gender

2 Gender and Stratification Traditionally gender and stratification was a neglected area of sociology. Feminist sociologists however have identified it as an important area which should be studied in its own right

3 Sociologists say that sex and gender are different things Sex refers to the physical and biological differences between men and women whereas gender refers to the socially constructed roles of what is considered ‘masculine’ and what is considered ‘feminine’ in society. Gender roles are not seen as either fixed or inevitable. Instead they are created by society (socially constructed) and the reasons for their construction can be understood. Gender roles can therefore change through time and can be very different in different cultures.

4 Evidence of Gender Inequality Women earn less and are less likely to be in top jobs The ‘glass ceiling’ The Job Market is ‘vertically’ segregated – men at high level – women at low level e.g. NHS The Jobs market is ‘horizontally segregated’ – some jobs seen as ‘female’ e.g. Nurse/primary teacher, service sector clerical other male – some male. ‘Female’ jobs relatively lower paid, worse conditions, less unionised, less secure (part time/temporary)

5 Feminists suggest that women as a group experience inequality in the stratification system There are three ‘types’ or ‘schools’ or feminism offering explanations for gender stratification; Liberal Radical Marxist

6 Liberal Feminism The first liberal feminists e.g. JS Mill and Harriet Taylor were heavily influenced by the ideas of political liberalism, specifically equal rights, individualism and liberty. Liberal feminists suggest that once genuine equal rights have been established ‘accidents of birth’ like sex will become irrelevant in society. Liberal feminism has therefore been concerned with changing laws and reforms from votes for women to the more modern anti discrimination legislation such as the Sex Discrimination Act. Liberal Feminism has successfully resulted in measures which have raised expectations, narrowed (but not closed) the pay gap, and enshrined women’s rights in law

7 Radical Feminism Patriarchy Theory is favoured by radical feminists. Radical feminists suggest that that power in every society resides in men. Men are the Ruling Class and women are oppressed. Sexual oppression is seen as the most fundamental form of inequality with all others such as class and ethnicity being seen as secondary. Radical feminists call on women to unite globally against male power.

8 Radical feminists say the cause of gender inequality can be culture and/or biology Sherry B Ortner in ‘Is female to male as nature is to culture’ (1974) says that because women give birth they are seen as closer to nature and further from culture than men and are therefore seen as inferior and treated thus in society. Shulamith Firestone in ‘The Dialectic of Sex’ (1970) asserts that gender inequalities are the direct result of biology. A woman’s biology (pregnancy, childbirth etc.) leads to physical, psychological and social disadvantages and is the source of gender inequality. Firestone claims that gender inequality can only be righted when women break free from the biology which oppresses them by seizing control of the reproduction process. She advocates therefore the extension of abortion and contraception and ultimately calls for ‘engineered’ human reproduction in laboratories. Shulamith Firestone famously described pregnancy as ‘barbaric’ and likened childbirth to ‘shitting a pumpkin’ – a lady not happy with her biology!

9 Dual Systems theory favoured by Marxist feminists says there are two sources of gender inequality – capitalism and patriarchy Marxist Feminism says that patriarchy and gender inequality can only be understood in a social and economic context. It suits capitalism that women are exploited by men on many levels. Engels even went as far to suggest that the emergence of capitalism had resulted in ‘the world historical defeat of the female sex’. (The Origins of the Family, private property and the State). The bourgeois family (the product of capitalism) is patriachical and unequal because with the emergence of private property men wished to ensure that their property was passed onto to their sons. Men therefore restricted women’s sexuality in monogamous unequal marriages. The logic of this argument suggests that without private property there would be no need to do this. Capitalism is therefore seen as the main source of women’s oppression. Oppressed women also carry out a number of other important functions for capitalism. They provide unpaid domestic labour, nurture and socialise future generations of workers and provide a ‘reserve army’ of cheap labour should the need arise. For Marxist feminists the solution to gender inequalities is therefore the ending of capitalism through socialist revolution Three systems theory (Black feminism) say ethnicity should be ended to dual systems theory to recognize the inequality of black women in a racist society

10 Rally Coach 1.What is the difference between sex and gender? 2.What evidence is there of gender inequality in society today? 3.Outline the similarities and differences between Liberal, Marxist and Radical feminism 4. Using page 452 of your textbook outline a functionalist view of gender stratification

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