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Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century Term Paper

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Introduction

Women have never enjoyed their freedoms in society due to barriers put in place by men. Feminist theorists consider ways in which physical differences between men and women are used to show that women should be allocated inferior and degrading activities such as motherhood and secretary.

Moreover, women are subjected to stereotypes, which portray them as weak. Women are often excluded from public activities and are relegated to the private domain of the home. In society, women are ascribed feminine qualities and identities through the process of socialization. Women grow up knowing that their existence in society depends on the decisions made by men.

Therefore, women live in a state of false consciousness. Feminists observe that the subjection of women to the power of men originated from the rise of private property, the family, and the state. Engels proved that women’s subjection began with the rise of private property. In other words, the emergence of private property subordinated women to men because the law required men to declare their property, including women (Williams, 2000).

Using Marx and Engel class analysis, feminist scholars view women subjection as a product of overall exploitation and injustices that are found in the capitalistic societies. In the modern society, women have equal rights as those of men. The rights of women are well documented in the constitutions of various countries.

However, it is noted in this article that certain historical developments have presented new opportunities to women. These historical developments will be discussed in detail. Furthermore, the paper will discuss some of the achievements of feminist organizations. Before discussing the achievements of women and historical developments, it is crucial that the grievances of women be discussed.

Grievances of Women

Some women view oppression as inevitable in all male dominated societies. Political and economic power is concentrated in the hands of men. Radical feminists observe that there is a substantial social differentiation between sexes. Functionalist feminists agree that it is impossible to change gender roles in society without revising the social structure.

In this regard, the main aim of functionalist scholars is to revise the social structure. The main concern of the radical feminists is to incorporate women into the economy. For functionalists, if change in the social structure is enhanced, social disorder will be inevitable. Therefore, gender equality should be approached cautiously. Conflict theorists on their part observe that no social structure is safe if it is maintained by oppressing a majority of its citizens.

For such feminists, women should be allowed to participate in societal activities without discrimination. In this case, women must be allowed to own land, participate in political processes such as voting for their preferred candidate, and present their candidature during elections. In society, women are never allowed to engage in activities that are perceived to belong to men.

From the pre-industrial period, men were powerful because of their physical strength and freedom from childbearing duties. Feminists observe that these factors allowed men to dominate women physically. In this regard, the aim of women is to ensure that physical differences are not used to assign responsibilities to individuals in society (Oaxaca, 2004).

Cultural beliefs in society support a social structure that puts men in dominant positions. From early childhood, children are socialized to accept traditional gender roles as natural and just. Women are against this perception because capability is not dictated by gender.

In many societies, some academic courses are reserved for boys while girls are advised to take inferior courses. The prestigious courses are believed to be pursued by men while women pursue the less prestigious ones. Feminists demand that the society must appreciate the fact that women have the same capabilities as those of men.

Using Marx class analysis, feminists observe that men are like the bourgeoisie while women are the proletariat because they depend on men for survival. Men control most of society’s wealth, prestige, and power. Women are compared to the proletariat because they are like the workers who work under the directives of the bourgeoisie. Women are exploited, and their culture is always devalued while that of men is valued. Most of the women’s work is devalued, particularly that of the home.

Feminist scholars have challenged the stereotyping of women and argued for a gender-balanced study of society in which women experiences and contributions are visible just like those of men.

In a study of positions of men and women in paid labor, feminists conclude that most workers are found in sex-segregated jobs implying that certain jobs are exclusively reserved for men while others belong to women. This form of segregation is not natural according to feminists, but society is structured to channel people into occupations based on gender and also to reserve positions of authority to men.

Each feminist group has its own grievances. For instance, the main concerns of white women include equal pay, equal education and opportunities, free contraception, and free abortion. There is no uniting position among feminists. Feminism has been associated with the culture of white women. Radical feminism is characterized by the belief that patriarchy is the leading cause of women’s oppression. A way could be found in academic feminism, which has an impact on teaching and research in academic institutions.

Consequently, feminist courses are currently taught in the institutions of higher learning. Feminist courses are concerned with revising and challenging a wide variety of academic disciplines. Academic feminists are concerned with criticizing the sex-blind nature of academic knowledge. Most disciplines have ignored the writings of women. In the academic field, we only have founding fathers, but not mothers.

Historical Developments

All women agree that subordination of women to men is a result of socio-economic factors, but not biological factors. Women are present in most social situations, but their presence is not appreciated. Where they are not present, it is not because of inequality or lack of interest, but because there have been deliberate efforts to exclude them.

Where women are present, they perform less prestigious roles such as wife, secretary, and passenger. However, historical developments have presented enormous opportunities to women. Developments in the law have helped women to reassert their position in society. In England, the law prohibited unmarried women from owning property and entering into the contract with other members of society.

The law allowed married women to inherit properties from their husbands. However, things have changed due to historical developments. The modern law identifies the legal status of women, both married and unmarried. A woman in the modern society can own land legally, and the law protects her rights. In 1960, the US came up with a number of laws aimed at improving the economic status of women. For instance, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed to empower women economically.

In 1964, The Civil Rights Act was passed in the US, which demanded that a company respects the views of women. In 1967, A Presidential Executive Order was approved, which illegalized all state contractors that neglected the views of women. In the UK, Equity Law was developed to allow a woman to sue her husband over misconduct. Similarly, a law was developed in the US in 1839, which allowed women to own property without necessarily holding marriage certificates.

In the nineteenth century, Britain and the US passed laws that allowed women to work in companies and other organizations operating outside their towns. When the law was first passed, textile companies employed women and children who worked under poor conditions. Moreover, women were supposed to work for over twelve hours a day. In 1847, the British government passed a law that required companies to adjust working hours from twelve hours to ten hours.

In the labor market, historical developments have presented a number of opportunities to women. In the twentieth century, the colonial government in the US passed a law allowing women to take courses that were previously reserved for men. This was a breakthrough because women were able to work as lawyers, doctors, preachers, and technicians.

Before the nineteenth century, women were never allowed to undertake medical courses. In 1890, an approximated five percent of women practiced medicine in the US. In 1980, the percentage of female doctors increased to seventeen percent. In Germany, the percentage of female doctors was nineteen percent in 1980.

The percentage of doctors was highest in Israel, with a percentage of thirty-two. In 1930, the percentage of women in the legal profession was two percent. The percentage increased to twenty-two percent in 1989. The trend shows that governments have been enacting laws aimed at boosting the employability of women.

Countries have come up with affirmative action policies aimed at safeguarding the interests of women in the labor market. For instance, it is illegal for a company to recruit individuals based on gender. In fact, each company must have a substantial number of women in all sections and departments. In the managerial board, women must be given enough positions for a company to be registered as a public company.

Moreover, the government cannot award its tenders to a company that does not recruit enough women. Before the First World War, women could not be recruited into the military and other security forces. The military belonged to men because women were considered weak and helpless. However, this has so far changed due to historical developments that have taken place in the military (Paci, 2001).

After the Second World War, the US president declared that the government would be cracking down on all those who were against democracy. Women interpreted this to mean that the government supported all forms of equality, including gender equality. The US president had no option but to support the activities women. He ensured that measures are put in place to guarantee women positions in government. The US president ensured that women enjoy their political rights.

The president declared that the political rights of women had been provided for in the 1920 reforms. In 1984, women supported the presidential candidate with a woman as a running mate. This was a milestone to the struggles of women. In 1917, the first woman was elected to represent the people of Montana in parliament. In 1933, the first woman was elected the senator in the US. This proved that the society appreciated the leadership roles of women.

Even in the local politics, women were actively involved because Patience was elected the first mayor of Oklahoma City. In other parts of the world, political reforms allowed Ceylon to become the first female prime minister of Sri Lanka from 1960 to 1965. In India, Indira was the first female premier, who transformed the lives of many. In 1980, Vigdis became the first female president in the world.

Another historical development that favored women was the creation of international organizations. For instance, the first women convention in the US declared that women were equal to men. The convention proved that the inequalities existing in society are creations of men since people are equal.

Therefore, the international organizations have been advocating that laws should be applied uniformly in society. After the American Civil War, women believed that constitution amendments would give them suffrage rights. However, the constitution granted blacks their suffrage rights. Even though women did not benefit directly, it was a milestone because the society had appreciated the existence of minorities in society (Manning, 2004).

Achievements of Feminist Organizations

It can be concluded that women have achieved a lot in society due to their unrelenting struggles. In education, women have pursued courses of their choice without interference from government. The education system does not favor any group. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women had no rights to pursue courses reserved for men. For instance, the study of medicine, law, and engineering was reserved for men. A woman was supposed to pursue courses that were less superior such as secretary.

For instance, a woman was expected to take a course in the field of education, but not medicine. In the modern world, we have female professors and doctors specializing in various fields. In the labor market, women are also doing well. Employers recruit workers based on their skills and abilities. Gender is not part of the recruitment requirements. In fact, an employer found discriminating workers based on gender should be arrested and prosecuted.

This has seen the rise of women in society to take up leadership positions in organizations. In each country, the government must balance its civil service by ensuring that women take up a sizeable percentage of government positions. Some of the cultural practices that interfered with the achievement of women are no more. For instance, those found engaging in injustices are severely punished by the law. Rape is one of the felonies that are punishable by life imprisonment (Lyonette, 2010).

However, feminist organizations must come up with additional strategies to strengthen the position of women in society. For instance, the major determiner of salaries in both the public and the private sector has been the gender of the employee. The employers in both the private and the public sector have continuously looked out for gender when offering their salaries.

Various individuals and organizations have condemned this, claiming that some women in the job markets are well equipped with enough experience as compared to men in the same job market. Considering gender while offering salaries would not only be unfair to women, but also unrealistic basis of determining salaries. Women should continue fighting for their rights if they are to achieve their objectives in society. The achievements realized so far are not enough to bring them at par with men.

References

Lyonette, C. (2010). Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Manning, A. (2004). Something in the Way She Moves: A Fresh Look at an Old Gap. Oxford Economic Papers, 53(3), 169-188.

Oaxaca, R. (2004). Discrimination and the Decomposition of Wage Differentials. Journal of Econometrics, 61(3), 5-24.

Paci, P. (2001). Unequal Pay for Women and Men. London: Oxford University Press.

Williams, J. (2000). Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do about It. New York: Oxford University Press.

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