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Has the restructuring of gender relations and employment led to a restructuring of European Societies?

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Introduction

Has the restructuring of gender relations and employment led to a restructuring of European Societies? "Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good."1 This way of thinking has undoubtedly been characteristic of the traditional attitudes of European Societies. Men and women have long been considered different, not only in the obvious biological sense, but also in terms of their roles and their potential as members of society. For centuries, men have been the dominant gender, and have been superior in terms of power, in all aspects of society- politics, business, religion, education and even the family. Women have been denied access to many of these spheres, one of the most notable being the labour market, and in the cases where they have gained entry their participation has been very much restricted by law, and by social attitudes towards them. As suggested, there has been a long history to gender differences, but equally there has been a long history to women's attempts to address the differences. The nineteenth century witnessed the rise of many women's organisations throughout the Western world. "These campaigned for the abolition of laws which discriminated against them and for the introduction of those which would facilitate their emancipation." (Bailey (ed), 1998:77). However, the most effective action thus far, and that which has brought about the most changes have been the actions and policies implemented throughout the late twentieth century. I argue that these structural changes to gender relations have led to the restructuring of European Societies as a whole. ...read more.

Middle

In addition, a gender-equality policy concern has been that if the mother's involvement in the labour market expands, then surely the father's involvement in the family should also expand. The 1990's saw the emergence of the domestication of men and the concept of "political fatherhood" and the caring father. The Scandinavian response to dual breadwinning has undoubtedly led to a restructuring of many spheres of society. While I cannot argue that there has been a complete reversal of roles, it simply cannot be denied that there has been an increased sharing of roles and responsibilities within society. In addition to the Scandinavian model, there has been a variety of different responses throughout the rest of Western Europe, although perhaps not quite so successful in terms of equality. Nonetheless they have produced a number of changes with regard to the structure of society. The Italian model has traditionally been a family economic model. This is based on the cooperation of men and women in their own family business. This was evident throughout much of the twentieth century, and it involved extensive reliance upon family networks. In the second half of the twentieth century, this model evolved towards a male breadwinner/female carer model. As women have become increasingly interested in entering the work force, they have found little state support in terms of the provision of childcare or other forms of assistance, and this has been largely due to the influence of the Church and its views on female roles, as mentioned earlier. ...read more.

Conclusion

countries, where Welfare spending has been directed towards the provision of childcare services and towards generous leave of absence schemes for mothers. Even in the countries where female labour participation has not received this level of State support, it must be argued that they too have undergone huge changes. For example, we saw that although encouraged to maintain a domestic role, many young Italian women are taking up positions in the labour force, and because of the lack of financial assistance from the Welfare State they have responded by having fewer children. In contrast, birth rates in Scandinavian countries have remained high. I have never suggested that all European Societies have experienced the same structural changes, and on the contrary, their restructuring has been somewhat diverse. While I have emphasised the centrality of the concept of gender equality to this discussion of restructuring, I have not ignored the areas in which a level of disparity remains. Social attitudes have proved difficult to change, and although the woman's role is not exclusively confined to the household, these activities remain largely her responsibility. In spite of this, I argue that unlike previously, women are not restricted to this type of work. They have gained control of their own lives, and in doing this, they now have the ability to broaden their own set of opportunities. Some attitudes will be impossible to change, and women will always be the child-bearers and perhaps care-givers, but the restructuring of society is evident in the fact that they have the freedom to choose, and the ability to determine their own fate. ...read more.

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