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Social power has to be constructed in order to shed light on the differences and similarities of active suppression that has been a major product of gender inequality. When the latter procedure is duly undertaken, gender theory is found to be largely defined by the aspect of dominance.
The variations brought about by the male-female constructs have formed and dictated the opinions of most researchers in sociology bearing in mind that even these researchers are just human beings who think and act like others. This has been explained in a better way using the theory of functionalism.
When the traditional psychoanalysis model is used to explore gender inequality in society, there are vast differences in terms of behavioral characteristics that are detected between men and women. For example, it is traditionally believed that the male gender is characterized by rationality, the ability of being creative, desire to achieve, the spirit of competition, determination, aggressiveness, and being active (Aby 36).
On the other hand, the female gender is characterized by social balance, emotional balance, low desire to achieve, diminished logical thinking skills, conformity, dependant behavior, indecision and passivity. This paper explores various sociological perspectives on gender inequality as evident in the contemporary society.
Horney observes that when addressing gender inequality, the basic psychoanalytic paradigm can be used. This paradigm has put a mentality among young growing women that a heavy price has to be paid by men in society due to their masculine nature. This applies to both physical and spiritual terms. Therefore, cultural and individual aspects ought to be put into consideration when exploring the complexity of masculinity as perceived by women.
In the social identity theory as put forward by Guinchi, both genders have unique social status in society in spite of the fact that they belong to the same social group (Goldberg par.4). Economic success and competence are used to evaluate individuals who are considered to be of higher status in society. However, humanity, kindness, and goodness have been used to define people who are of low status in society.
According to the author, the ‘power positions’ can be used to explain both the positive and negative attributes associated with female stereotypes. For instance, readiness to comply, emotional support and warmth are some of the positive attributes of the female gender that can only be best understood using the ‘power positions’ perspective in sociology. These differences have also been used to explain why gender inequality is largely a natural phenomenon that cannot be altered easily (Aby 82).
A sense of identification is poorly developed when both men and women who belong in the low status groups are analyzed and compared in a scientific study. In other words, the achievements of men have been over exaggerated by women. Even though men have certain unique strengths that outmatch those of women, the female gender have overestimated this factor bearing in mind that it is only the traditional assumptions and belief systems that are used in such cases.
When social science principles are applied in such cases, surprising results are obtained. It is also vital to mention that gender inequality is widened by the fact that the same women tend to underestimate their strengths and abilities in society. Ever since sociology was invented, women are known to have generally permitted men to belong to the high status groups at their expense (UNDP par. 2).
There are quite a number of studies that can be used to confirm such assertions. For instance, in a research study conducted by Goldberg, it was concluded that the worst form of segregation and downgrading among the female gender emanates from women. They were found to possess the highest level of prejudice among themselves compared to the magnitude of prejudice originating from men.
The events taking place in the modern world and the occurrence of the feminist movements during the past few decades can be used to offer a deeper understanding on the subject of gender inequality and why it has been hotly contested in different societies.
When the arguments put forward by feminists are closely reviewed, one outstanding conclusion can be drawn: the male gender is more worthy than the female one. In spite of the fact that there are institutions where equal human rights are closely pursued, the male gender is still more favored than the female one.
This implies that gender equality in some societies may not be a reality at all due to the application of double standards. The double standards and lack of upright morals cut across the board. In other words, the aspect of gender inequality has been jeopardized by both the male and female perpetrators. A woman’s perception in society and current occurrences in various societies across the globe can be used to create a close and coherent link between gender inequality and feminist movements.
Joyce Stevens reiterates the statement that was put forward by the radical feminism manifesto: “…because women’s work never ends and it is not paid or paid less, or it is boring and monotonous, and we are first to be fired, and how we look is more important than what we’re doing, and if we are raped, it’s our fault, and if we beat, we are provoked…” (Goldberg par. 8)
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It is obvious that the impacts of gender inequality are visible across the world. For instance, out of the two hundred nations across the world, the female heads of states or governments are less than twenty. Let us take a closer look at the current senate of the United States. Out of a population of 100 senators, women senators are less than 20.
There are seventy five women in the House of Representatives even though the total number of representatives in this house is four hundred and thirty five. In addition, only thirty five females qualified for the Nobel Prize even though there were close to eight hundred awardees. When it comes to corporate cycles, it is clear that the Fortune 500 companies have 15 slots only for top women leaders (Aby 107). Why are women poorly represented in such senior positions in society? How can this disparity be explained?
Differences in preferences and acts in discrimination can perhaps be used to offer an explanation why gender inequality exists even in the corporate scene. In a bid to offer a more convincing and subtle explanation, a collaborative research work was carried out Muriel Niederle from Stanford University.
These were a series of research works that sought to explain the gap in gender disparity in almost all societies across the globe. In one of the research activities completed in 2003 by Muriel, the academic performance index of boys and girls were compared under different circumstances. When boys and girls were put together to perform simple tasks in large volumes, girls were found to perform poorer than boys.
However, the performance index of both boys and girls were found to be the same when they were allowed to sit for the same test but grouped in terms of gender (boys and girls separately). From these findings, it has been concluded that women tend not to compete with men when put together since they believe that they are of lower ability than men. This perception was found to override the ability of women even in instances where they could perform or do better than their counterparts in the opposite gender (UNDP par. 2).
In yet another study conducted by Muriel in 2006, both boys and girls were presented with options in an examination. If any student (be it male or female) would score the highest grade among those sitting for the examination, he/she was to be offered a large sum or receive a payment for each assignment completed. Form the research results, it was evident that about two-thirds of the boys preferred to be paid a large amount while the remaining one-third were girls who preferred to be given payment for every assignment accomplished.
These responses were obtained in spite of the fact that the operation was quite simple and required only five minutes to be completed. In this case, most of the girls demonstrated that they were not comfortable to compete with boys in the same environment. On the other hand, boys confirmed the hypothesis that male characters often prefer a competitive environment when seeking to achieve a particular goal. Can these results lead us into any solid conclusions?
To begin with, it is imperative to underscore the fact that the past research methodologies that have been used to study man and society have been relatively accurate since they all confirm to each other or give results that are in agreement with other studies. Both the empirical and theoretical techniques that have been used to explore various sociological perspectives on gender inequality conform with each albeit slight and insignificant differences in terms of statistics.
Secondly, when the traditional paradigms in sociology are used to explain the economic and gender inequality between males and females, very complex and varied conclusions are given. Hence, it is quite cumbersome to harmonize the varied ideas and thought processes that are given outside scientific experimentations.
This explains why a scientific sociological research of any magnitude can withstand the test of time if it is conducted using the approved scientific tools and principles (UNDP par. 2). Most importantly, it is prudent to acknowledge that when scientific research is carried out in the most proper way, it is highly likely to yield fewer answers and more questions. Muriel does not close the research process on the same subject. He instead calls for need to conduct research in the same field in future.
Gender inequality and social stratification
From the above deliberations, it has been observed that gender inequality exists as a real life situation (Aby 73). This cannot be denied by either the traditional or scientific perspectives. On the same note, it is evident that gender inequality has led to social stratification between men and women.
Even though social stratification has been viewed as a global aspect that does not rely on gender characteristics of groups or individuals, recent developments and debates by feminist movements have highlighted that gender inequality has led to gross social stratification especially in some societies across the world.
At this point, it is vital to reaffirm that the thinking processes of either individuals or groups in society are affected by the nature of social stratification that exists within the immediate environment. This is the same case with gender inequality (UNDP par. 2).
The disparity between men and women in society has been widened by the female factor itself. The female gender largely does take pleasure in competing with men in the same environment. As a result, women have less tendencies towards succeeding in an environment dominated with men. Therefore, gender inequality has indeed accelerated the creation of systems that support social stratification. In other words, gendered grouped have undergone the layering process for a long time.
One of the profound effects of gender inequality is that women have been sidelined according to their relative prestige, power and wealth. Even though gender biasness and disparities are experienced from all corners of the globe, it is definite that social stratification based on gender has been executed in various degrees by different societies. Most research studies have highlighted that the best aspects of society are sometimes not accessed by other people because they are denied based on gender.
The contemporary governments are keen in advancing their economies towards stability in order to be tandem with the demands in population growth as well as desire for decent living styles for their people. In order to achieve such ambitions, a lot of administrative and technological transformations have to be put in place. As such, we are living in an information age whereby efficiency has been significantly improved so as to boost general standards of working, living and development.
Besides, national governments prefer knowledge-based economies to the past traditional systems that were used for development. When all these scenarios are put into consideration, a vivid explanation can be obtained on why social stratification based on gender has equally advanced with the passage of time. As Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) once put it, it is “survival for the fittest” (Aby 67). When the gender factor is brought into perspective, most men are fitter to survive than women.
Spencer was among the earliest founders of sociology. He strongly believed that survival in life was only meant for species that were the fittest among social groups. He also cautioned against helping less fortunate in society asserting that it was wrong to do so since it would amount to assisting the “less fit survive”. Up to date, the question of whether helping the poor is good has remained an issue of morality and not a sociological perspective at all (UNDP par. 2).
Of late, it has become a critical government policy across various nations to inject affirmative action so that women can also secure top positions in governance.
For most feminist movements, affirmative action has been perceived as the most viable tool for reducing the growing gap between the male and female gender. Although this perspective has been widespread across the world, myriads of challenges are still on board especially in systems that cherish democratic processes and not fixing individuals through affirmative action (UNDP par. 2).
In summing up, it is vital to reiterate that gender inequality has been significantly fashioned by the nature of social structures that have been adopted by different societies globally. Besides, there are several sociological theories and scientific research studies that explain both the intrinsic and extrinsic nature of gender inequality.
For instance, social scientists agree that females are naturally and emotionally not positioned to compete with males within the same environment. This makes them achieve less in a male dominated environment. Consequently, it widens the gender disparity gap in terms of wealth acquisition, education, and so on.
Finally, social stratification can also be caused by gender imbalance and inequality. A society can be stratified based on gender especially when one group of gender is denied access to vital resources at its disposal. However, feminist movements worldwide have sought affirmative action in order to increase women representation especially in positions of leadership.
Aby, Stephen. Sociology: A Guide to Reference and Information Sources, (3rd edn). Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited Inc., 2005. Print.
Goldberg, Joseph. Gender Inequality: Women Under Stress. 2009. Web. <https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/stress-management/women-under-stress.htm>
UNDP. The Gender Inequality Index. 2013. Web. <http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/gender-inequality-index-gii>