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Social Problems: Sexism and Gender Inequality

Gender Inequality as a Social Problem

Sexism: the subordination of one sex, female, based on the assumed superiority of the other sex, male Patriarchy: a hierarchical system of social organization in which cultural, political, and economic structures are controlled by men Though women comprise 51% of Canadians, they are called a minority group because they dont have the resources of men. Women Are victims of sexual assault Earn 71 percent of what men earn

Defining Sex and Gender

Sex: biological differences between males and females. Gender: the culturally and socially constructed differences between females and males based on meanings, beliefs, and practices that a group associates with femininity or masculinity Intersexed: having unrecognizable genitalia or both male and female genitalia Transgendered: ones gender not the same as biological sex

Sexism and Gender Inequality

Sexism refers to the range of attitudes, beliefs, policies, laws and behaviors that discriminate on the basis of gender Results in a system of gender inequality Power and Male Hegemony Male hegemony refers to the political and ideological domination of woman in society

Sexism and Gender Inequality

Power and Male Hegemony Males have greater access to:

Cultural prestige Political authority Corporate power Wealth Material comforts

Ideology plays a role in legitimizing male hegemony

Biological and Social Bases for Gender Roles

Gender roles: rights, responsibilities, expectations, and relationships of women and men in a society At birth, males and females are distinguished by primary sex characteristics At puberty, hormonal differences produce secondary sex characteristics

Biological and Social Bases for Gender Roles

To what extent are differences culturally determined? Gender ideology: ideas of masculinity and femininity that are held to be valid in a particular society and time Gendered division of labour: the process whereby productive tasks are separated on the basis of gender

Gender Inequality and Socialization

Agents of socialization: Parents and family: treatment, clothes, toys, or chores Peers: pressure for behaviour and aspirations Religion Media and language Education:

Gender bias: favouritism toward one gender, e.g., aggressive boys and dependent girls get attention

The Family

Traditionally, the role of wife and mother has been a subordinate role in society Increase in working wives and moms and the juggling of work and family See Table 5.1 on Unpaid Housework (p.190) On average, women do 4.3 hours daily while men do 2.8 hours Women also responsible for bulk of senior care

Language and the Media

Language often reinforces traditional sex role stereotypes :

i.e. Policeman vs. police officer, or calling women girls Underrepresent women, and Reinforce stereotypical ideas about women and physical attractiveness

Media portrays men and women in traditional roles

Stereotypes are a source of prejudice and discrimination

Feminine mystique Masculine mystique

Stereotypes place limits on us and on our behaviour

Organized Religion

Religion has reinforced secular traditions and gender roles in many cultures, including our own Religion has been male dominated In the last few decades some religions have begun to ordain women as ministers

Episcopalians Presbyterians Reformed Jews

Sexism in Schools

Today, there is more focus in schools on

Female achievement Girls sports More involvement in school politics

Gender gap in higher education and in certain disciplines is narrowing but still persists today However, research show sexism still a significant factor in schools

Sexism in Schools (cont.)

Research results on sexism in schools shows that generally,

Teachers pay less attention to girls than boys Girls lag behind in math and science scores Girls tend not to choose careers in math and science Textbooks and gender stereotypes still persist Biased tests Minority girls tend to be ignored

School counselors still channeling girls into sex typed occupations


The Gender Gap (2004) text p. 197 Montreal study on gender differences in achievement in school

Boys falling behind especially in language skills More likely to drop out or not continue Have more behavioural, learning and social problems in school

Study notes that girls see educational achievement as key to better life, whereas boys rely on traditional masculinity to get ahead

Contemporary Gender Inequality

Gender inequality is maintained by: Individual sexism: anti-female prejudice by individuals Institutionalized sexism:discrimination engaged in at the organizational level Also, when inequality, prejudice and discrimination exist, the imbalance in power leads to sexual harassment

Gender Inequality and Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment: unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature

Occurs at work and school

Sexual harassment is also a growing problem in schools The results of a recent U.S. survey found that 83 percent of girls and 79 percent of boys have been harassed

Both boys and girls are limited by sexual harassment and stereotypical notions

Gender Inequality and Work

Gendered division of paid work: women have high labour force participation, but are concentrated in different occupations.

Pink-collar ghetto: jobs held by women that are low-paying and semi-skilled. Contingent work: part-time work, temporary work, and subcontracted work that offers advantages to employers, but detrimental to workers. Years of work experience women are more likely to have interruption in their work histories Hiring and promotion practices For minority women, there is even a larger wage gap

Gender Inequality and Work

Wage gap: disparity between womens and mens earnings

Pay equity: equal pay for work of equal or comparable (worth of the job) worth

Sexual harassment: unwelcome sexual attention at work

2004 Census

Approximately 58% of women worked full time vs. 68% of men in Canada 83% of 2 parent families have 2 income earners Women made up 46.8% of workforce 72.5% of women with children under 16 in the home work

2004 Census

Average income

women $36,500 men $51,700

In 2004 women made 70.5 cent for every $1 men earned 3.4% of clout positions (CEOs, presidents, etc.) of Fortune 500 companies held by women At age 40, 90% of working men vs. 35% of working women had at least one child Women still concentrated in teaching, nursing, service and clerical jobs (67% of employed women)

Gender Inequality and Work

Glass Ceiling and Glass Escalator: Glass Ceiling: invisible barrier constructed by male management to prevent women from reaching top positions. Women do advance in the service sector Glass Escalator: upward movement of men in womens occupations disproportionate to their numbers

Gender Inequality and Unpaid Work

Double shift: women are wage earners and also do most of unpaid household work, now recorded in the census

90% of Canadians do unpaid work, but the majority, especially child care, is done by women

Gender Inequality and Unpaid Work

However, roles in homemaking have been changing Women still continue to bear the primary responsibility for homemaking Husbands and fathers with working wives that support non-traditional roles are taking on a larger share of homemaking responsibilities

Perspectives: Symbolic


Focus on socialization and labelling Also note existence of double standard Language is extremely important in defining social realities
Linguistic sexism: communication that ignores, devalues, or makes sex objects of women. Genderlects: mens and womens styles and contents of language differ. Non-verbal communication: men control more space, than women, including sexual harassment

Perspectives: Functionalist
Early thinking (Parsons, Kingsley-Davis): Men are more suited to instrumental (i.e., goaloriented) tasks Women perform expressive tasks This was functional for society More recently: Differences in human capital of men and women (capital diminishes with time off for child-bearing and childcare)

Social life is a continuous struggle in which the powerful seek to control economic and social resources Gender inequality results from capitalism and private ownership of the means of production

A result of structural and historical relations Beneficial to capitalists to have unpaid female workforce

Perspectives: Feminist

Socialist: men gain control over property and women Radical: mens oppression of women is deliberately supported by media and religion Liberal: inequality is rooted in gender-role socialization Black, Indigenous, and other women of colour face inequalities compounded by racialization, class, and gender

Can Gender Inequality be Reduced?

Symbolic Interactionist Perspective: Redefine social realities with language Functionalist Perspective: Redefine gender roles Educate women about how their decisions affect human capital Enforce existing anti-discrimination legislation and use the Canadian Charter of Human Rights

and Freedoms

Can Gender Inequality be Reduced?

Conflict Perspective: Marxist: abolish capitalism Feminist: Socialist Feminists: abolish capitalism and create a new economy Liberal Feminists: change gender socialization Radical Feminists: abolish patriarchy Black and other feminists: treat all women more equitably