The struggle for gender equality is a continuous process. The focus had shifted from industrialized nations to emerging economies because inequality had been linked to poverty and illiteracy. But studies made in the last few decades will show that gender inequality is still evident in the Western world, even in progressive societies like the United States. Thus, it is prudent to reconsider the root cause of gender inequality.
It can be argued that gender inequality is not the byproduct of poverty, ignorance, and non-democratic societies. The United States is a perfect example of a nation where women can become rich on their own effort. They have access to education.
They have the right to participate in a political process. But gender inequality is still existent in American universities, American offices, and American homes. Thus, inequality is not only due to social institutions but deeper social factors.
Wealth is not enough
Poverty is the most common culprit associated with gender inequality. There is a evidence to support this view especially if one will look at poor countries in Asia, Africa and South America. In poor societies women have limited opportunities and therefore they are desperately dependent on men for sustenance and support.
But this framework is defective when used to examine gender inequality in wealthy societies like the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and the United States. In rich countries women can have access to high-paying jobs and can build their own wealth but still struggle with the impact of gender inequality.
Western societies have resources that can be utilized to change the outlook of people. Nevertheless, a team of researchers discovered that there is “bias favoring men in performance evaluation and candidate selection” (Foschi & Valenzuela 1025). The bias against women is not rooted in an abstract concept. In fact, in most cases it is easy to understand why organizations prefer men over women.
According to one report “women continue to experience barriers and women who seek to combine childcare and paid work face many challenges” (Demaiter & Adams 50). It is therefore more cost-efficient to hire male workers than female workers. Consider the annual cost to the firm if the company is compelled to provide facilities for nursing mothers and to support other maternity needs.
In a heterosexual marriage where the wife earns more than the husband there is still gender inequality. The higher income does not provide her the ability to enjoy gender equality in that particular relationship. The results of a study aimed at heterosexual marriages wherein the wife earned significantly more than the husband provided interesting results.
In this study the researchers found out that “spouses work together to support the institutional-level expectation of men’s dominance in order to preserve marital harmony, and gendered expectations, such as men’s imperative to provide and women’s imperative to care, are re-worked at the interactional and individual levels to allow each spouse to construct a comfortable, conventional identity” (Tichenor 204).
In other words women are supposed to make adjustments to cater to the psychological needs of men. This is a blatant example of bias, but at the same time it reinforces the argument made earlier that those who fight for gender equality must go beyond the usual feminist rhetoric when it comes to the creation of an effective solution to inequality issues.
Education is not enough
The second major reason for inequality is lack of access to public schools and universities (Andres & Adamuti-Trache 94). The logic of this argument is based on the idea that knowledge is power (Kane & Kyyro 710). Once again this argument is flawed when utilized in the analysis of Western societies wherein women are highly educated and yet victimized by men who believe that they have the right to dominate women.
The basic framework of the principle that male dominance is part of social institutions can be seen in the study of university students. In this particular study, researchers examined the sexual behavior of male and female students in a pre-sexual intercourse ritual. In this study researchers discovered that “the interactional dynamic is one in which men directly initiate, while women indirectly cool out unwanted approaches” (Ronen 373).
It is important to point out that these women are highly educated as evidenced by their access to top universities. But in this study it was made clear that they follow the dictates of men. Women enrolled in college campuses are intelligent and yet they cannot seem to break free from an invisible power that forces them to behave in a certain way.
In the study of fraternities in college campuses researchers were able to prove that “brothers treated women as subordinates and kept them at a distance” (Boswell & Spade 341). These women were enrolled in an institution for higher education and yet they are powerless when placed in an environment where men are leaders and they are followers.
These women are not only educated they also have access to pertinent literature with regards to gender inequality. Nevertheless, they are powerless to challenge the oppressive atmosphere found in fraternities and other social settings.
Democracy is not enough
It has been argued in the past that a democratic society provides the atmosphere needed for women to break from the stranglehold of inequality. But it has been shown that even in democratic societies like the United States, Great Britain and Canada, inequality still persists. In these countries women are free to do what they want. For example they do not need to marry because they can own properties even without a husband.
They can run for the highest office in the land without a marriage license (Paxton, Kunovich & Hughes 204). But a study on never-married women revealed that “running out of time to marry and have children was an overriding issue in their lives” (Sharp & Ganong 841).
Other studies support this claim because when respondents were asked why they value marriage they remarked that the capability to bear children can strengthen a relationship (Green 399). It is interesting to note that although marriage is not needed to produce children, most women wanted to raise children with the help of a husband (Sharp & Ganong 841).
It is a surprise to find battered women in progressive societies where females have equal protection under the law. Broken ribs, split lip and other serious injuries that require hospitalization are not enough reasons for a woman to leave her husband (Anderson & Umberson 358). The struggle must continue and the fight must go on (Pelak 111).
But it is imperative to reconsider the excuses made in the aftermath of the failure to institute gender equality. The usual suspects are wealth distribution, access to education and the absence of basic human rights. This line of reasoning is only acceptable if gender inequality is limited to poor societies. But this is not a true statement.
There are enough evidence to prove that gender inequality is not the by-product of poverty, illiteracy and non-democratic societies. The simple reason is that gender inequality exists in affluent societies wherein women are free to do what they want, have access to education, and have the capacity to create wealth.
Women who have access to top tier education continue to behave in a passive manner even if intellectually they know that men cannot force them to do anything. Battered women are unable to flee and continue to live in a home with an abusive husband. Women who earn more than their husbands had to continually assure his husband that he is the leader of the family.
Therefore, inequality is rooted in social factors that are beyond the scope of economics, politics, and education. It seems that men are biologically equipped to make them think that they are superior to women. The evidence from numerous sociological studies seems to indicate that women prefer men to lead. Even if this is true, men do not have the right to dominate and abuse women. The struggle for gender equality must continue.
But society in general and women in particular must take a deeper look into the issue because even if they have education, freedom and wealth, the ultimate prize will still elude them. There is a need for a more focused information dissemination campaign so women can fully understand why they behave a certain way.
Anderson, Kristin and Debra Umberson. “Gendering Violence: Masculinity and Power in Men’s Account of Domestic Violence.” Gender & Society 15.3 (2001): 358-380. Print.
Andres, Lesley and Maria Adamuti-Trache. “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby? Persistent Gender Inequality in University Enrolment and Completion in Canada, 1979-2004.” Canadian Public Policy 33.1 (2007): 93-116. Print.
Boswell, Ayres and Joan Spade. “Fraternities and Collegiate Rape Culture: Why are some Fraternities More Dangerous Places for Women?” Gender & Society 10.2 (1996): 133-147. Print.
Demaiter, Erin and Tracey Adams. “I Really Didn’t have any Problems with the Male- Female Thing Until…”: Successful Women’s Experience in IT Organizations.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 34.1 (2009): 31-53. Print.
Foschi, Martha and Jerilee Valenzuela. “Selecting Job Applicants: Effects from Gender, Self-Preservation, and Decision Type.” Social Science Research 37.1 (2007): 1022-1038. Print.
Green, Adam. “Queer Unions: Same-Sex Spouses Marrying Tradition and Innovation.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 35.3 (2010): 399-433. Print.
Kane, Emily and Else Kyyro. “For Whom Does Education Enlighten? Race, Gender, Education, and Beliefs about Social Inequality.” Gender & Society 15.5 (2001): 710-733. Print.
Paxton, Pamela, Sheri Kunovich and Melanie Hughes. “Gender in Politics.” The Annual Review of Sociology. 33.1 (2007): 263: 284. Print.
Pelak, Cynthia. “Women’s Collective Identity in Sports: A Case Study from Women’s Ice Hockey.” Gender & Society 16.1 (2002): 93-114. Print.
Ronen, Shelly. “Grinding on the Dance Floor: Gender Scripts and Sexualized Dancing at College Parties.” Gender & Society 24.3 (2010): 355-377. Print.
Sharp, Elizabeth and Lawrence Ganong. “Living in the Gray: Women’s Experiences of Missing the Marital Transition.” Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2007): 831-844. Print.
Tichenor, Veronica. “Maintaining Men’s Dominance: Negotiating Identity and Power when She Earns More.” Sex Roles 53.4 (2005): 191:204. Print.