Sunday, 1 April 2012

Gender Inequality


            Gender inequality refers to the obvious or hidden disparity between individuals due to gender. Gender is constructed both socially through social interactions as well as biologically through chromosomes, brain structure, and hormonal differences. Gender inequality, in my definition, is the unequal and biased treatment between the two sexes. I strongly believe that the unequal treatment of women is something that should have stayed in primitive times. Materialist theories define gender inequality as a result of how men and women are tied to the economic structure of society. They believe that women’s role as a mother and wife are devalued by society and deny access to highly respected public opportunities.

            Concept of Gender Inequality:- The question on how gender inequality shapes peoples' life chances is one that has been echoing widely through minds of modern society in the recent decades. Historically sociologists have suggested, amongst various other reasons that biological differences between men and women constitute as one of the main reasons for males having better job opportunities. Thus males were always branded the breadwinners of the family whilst a female's place was at home (Joanne Naiman 1997: 250-51). However, during the latter half of the 20th century these views began to slowly change but still stained with the ideologies from the past they still exist at the brink of the 21st century. Nevertheless, this is in a more subtle form and it is culturally reasoned to be normal and acceptable. This paper will discuss from a sociologists point of view how gender has come to determine ones future due to ideas instilled into society some time ago intervened with that of the present.
            Examining this from the root one can see that historically males have shaped the society in which we live. The policy-makers have almost always been male and therefore it is not surprising that our society mirrors those ideas, which exist as a result of this male-domination. For example in Joanne Newman’s book, there is an excerpt from Gustavo Le Bonne, a Parisian in 1879, in which he openly compared most of the female brains with that of gorillas and stated " the inferiority (of women) is so obvious that no one can contest it for the moment; only its degree is worth discussing." (Quoted in Joanne Newman 1997: 250)
            Another instance closer to recent time is from Carol Travis' book titled "The Mismeasurement of Woman". She states that in the beginning the left hemisphere of the brain was considered to deal with intellect and reason, while the right side dealt with passion, sex, irrationality and similar concepts -- thus males were considered to have a superior left brain. However in the 1960's &70's scientists found that right brain was intellectually superior and was the source of genius, inspiration, creativity, imagination, mysticism and mathematical brilliance hence conveniently males now had a more developed right brain
            Both these citations clearly show historically how society regarded for the females as a species and how they were not considered smart enough to do jobs that entailed thinking or decision making. Furthermore, they were always under the supervision of their male counter parts.
            Ergo, even in more recent times, when the line between job opportunities amongst the genders is ever fading, a secretary or nurse or most of any other job which required supervision is still engraved into society as a female’s role. An example of this is from the "case story" (Mustapha Koc 1999) where Mary was given the responsibility of being the secretary, accountant and packaging department of the family business while her husband was the boss. This showed that even though they were husband and wife and could have shared all responsibilities equally, Mary was content to play the role society had outlined for her. Mary also became a housewife and quit her job at the bank without much debate when her children were born. This is because of the norms society had laid down.
            A female is expected to take care of the household and look after the children. This is clearly seen in everyday life. Even at an early stage in life girls tend play with dolls- nursing and looking after them as if they were their children. In schools girls are given extracurricular activities like home-sciences and cheerleading, where they learn about cooking and household activities. And even most household products advertised are geared towards a female audience.
            Thus delicately dictating the gender roles in life. Society has made it such that even if a woman wanted to against the norms and get a job in the work force she would not get very far. About 75% of the jobs in the well paying professions are held by men and even if women are able to get equal jobs as men they still get paid considerably less (David Bender and Bruno Leone 1989: 75). So it has just become more practical for the man in the household to work and allow the woman to do the household chores. A recent instant of differences in salaries between the genders is when the Canadian Telephone Employer Association were sued by their respective unions because of the pay difference determined by the employee’s sex. The Unionist wanted their companies to ratify this and have a pay equity (Toronto Star: 29\10\ 1999.
            Another example of how women are manipulated into getting only jobs of a certain caliber is when companies do not give maternal leave or subsidized child care for working mothers. 60% of working mothers in the United Sates have no rights for maternal leave (David Bender and Bruno Leone 1989: 74). And if a mother were to leave the workforce to bear her child and come back after, she faced the risk of falling behind and being deprived of perks such as bonuses and promotions. This makes it hard for a woman to get back up in the job ladder. This again was described in the "case story" when Mary wanted to return to work after her youngest child was five.
            Many movements are trying to get rid of gender inequality and the nineties have progressed drastically compared to the beginning of the century. Today there are an increasing number of women in the army and similar jobs that used to primarily consist of men. But society has shown us the downfall of such happenings-- by the increase in rapes, sexual assault and sexual harassment in the work force. This once more makes women think twice before wanting to join these gender- secluded jobs.
            Religiously and culturally also female roles have been defined to be different to that of men, and mankind has been taught that men are superior to women (Babara Kantowitz 1986) this is shown in various religious scriptures. Hence teaching gender differences to the masses at a very early stage It has also lead people to believe that males are better than females and so deserve much better job opportunities.
            There clearly is a gender inequality and right throughout life it has been able to dictate our life chances. The degree to which it enables us to determine this has however has broadened over the years and given females a wider range of job opportunities. Nevertheless such boundaries will always exist; it will only get lighter and further apart as years go on.
TYPES OF GENDER INEQUALITY- Seven Types of Inequality: The afflicted world in which we live is characterized by deeply unequal sharing of the burden of adversities between women and men. Gender inequality exists in most parts of the world, from Japan to Morocco, from Uzbekistan to the United States of America. However, inequality between women and men can take very many different forms. Indeed, gender inequality is not one homogeneous phenomenon, but a collection of disparate and interlinked problems. Let me illustrate with examples of different kinds of disparity.
(1) Mortality inequality: In some regions in the world, inequality between women and men directly involves matters of life and death, and takes the brutal form of unusually high mortality rates of women and a consequent preponderance of men in the total population, as opposed to the preponderance of women found in societies with little or no gender bias in health care and nutrition. Mortality inequality has been observed extensively in North Africa and in Asia, including China and S. Asia.
(2) Natality inequality: Given a preference for boys over girls that many male-dominated societies have, gender inequality can manifest itself in the form of the parents wanting the newborn to be a boy rather than a girl. There was a time when this could be no more than a wish (a daydream or a nightmare, depending on one's perspective), but with the availability of modern techniques to determine the gender of the fetus, sex-selective abortion has become common in many countries.
(3) Basic facility inequality: Even when demographic characteristics do not show much or any anti-female bias, there are other ways in which women can have less than a square deal. Afghanistan may be the only country in the world the government of which is keen on actively excluding girls from schooling (it combines this with other features of massive gender inequality), but there are many countries in Asia and Africa, and also in Latin America, where girls have far less opportunity of schooling than boys do. There are other deficiencies in basic facilities available to women, varying from encouragement to cultivate one's natural talents to fair participation in rewarding social functions of the community.
(4) Special opportunity inequality: Even when there is relatively little difference in basic facilities including schooling, the opportunities of higher education may be far fewer for young women than for young men. Indeed, gender bias in higher education and professional training can be observed even in some of the richest countries in the world, in Europe and North America.  Sometimes this type of division has been based on the superficially innocuous idea that the respective "provinces" of men and women are just different.
(5) Professional inequality: In terms of employment as well as promotion in work and occupation, women often face greater handicap than men. A country like Japan may be quite egalitarian in matters of demography or basic facilities, and even, to a great extent, in higher education, and yet progress to elevated levels of employment and occupation seems to be much more problematic for women than for men.
 (6) Ownership inequality: In many societies the ownership of property can also be very unequal. Even basic assets such as homes and land may be very asymmetrically shared. The absence of claims to property can not only reduce the voice of women, but also make it harder for women to enter and flourish in commercial, economic and even some social activities. This type of inequality has existed in most parts of the world, though there are also local variations. For example, even though traditional property rights have favoured men in the bulk of India, in what is now the State of Kerala, there has been, for a long time, matrilineal inheritance for an influential part of the community namely the Nair’s.
(7) Household inequality: There are often enough, basic inequalities in gender relations within the family or the household, which can take many different forms. Even in cases in which there are no overt signs of anti-female bias in, say, survival or son-preference or education, or even in promotion to higher executive positions, the family arrangements can be quite unequal in terms of sharing the burden of housework and child care. It is, for example, quite common in many societies to take it for granted that while men will naturally work outside the home, women could do it if and only if they could combine it with various inescapable and unequally shared household duties. This is sometimes called "division of labour," though women could be forgiven for seeing it as "accumulation of labour."
aswal.b.s, 2010, women &human rights, cyber tech publications, New Delhi
Carol Tavris 1992: The Mismeasurement of Women. New York. Simon and Schuster
Joanne Naiman 1997: How Societies Work. Class power and change in Canadian context.
David Bender and Bruno Leone, Male/Female roles, Toronto Star October29th,1999

Research Schola, Bansthali University, Rajasthan