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Social inequality

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Social inequality influences all aspects of our lives. The following essay will look at evidence highlighting inequalities in society today. In particular it will focus upon inequalities found between men and women, referred to as gender inequality. Additionally it will integrate sociological perspectives such as functionalism, radical, Marxist or liberal feminism to explain the causes of inequalities and in particular those found in the areas of education and work. In every human society there is some form of inequality. In western society the foundations of inequality are power, economic differences and social prestige. Social stratification is the term sociologists use to describe the organisation of these inequalities which can be likened to the geological layers formed in rocks. Moore, (2001:46) defines social stratification as the "division of people into groups based on how much wealth, power and social prestige they have". In Western society the main system of division is referred to as social class and indicates an individual's economic standing in society, which can be dictated by occupation and income (Walsh et al 2000:45). In addition to social class, other divisions within the stratums occur through a process called differentiation. O'Donnell (1987:231) describes differentiation as "that which makes an individual or group separate and distinct". As in all systems of stratification it illustrates the organisation of inequality in society and has historically been the stratification of people on the basis of age, ethnicity, disability, and in particular gender. In western society there are two terms of reference for men and women ~ 'sex' or 'gender'. Sex, defined by Giddens (1993:762) as the "biological and anatomical differences distinguishing females from males", refers to the visual or physiological differences between men and women, such as genitalia or a women's ability to bear children. ...read more.


From this perspective gender inequality is caused by patriarchy, defined by Bilton et al (1987:149) as "a structure of subordination and domination..." predominately of women, but also encompassing "...other more junior men..." who are dominated by more senior men. Radical feminist promote separatism on the basis that women should not seek liberation through equality (and in the event become like men), but need to free themselves from patriarchal control and the constraints of the male dominated nuclear family. In relation to education the hidden curriculum and classroom attitudes teach female subordination, a necessary agent for patriarchy to thrive. Additionally education is used by men to "...exercise control over cultural attitudes and this means they are able to justify their dominance by convincing people...it is 'just the way things are'..." (Taylor 1998:119). Black feminists however disagree arguing that the basis of most feminist theories of gender inequality is centred around the presumption of white heterosexuality. With the opposite being true black women are doubly oppressed firstly on the grounds of their colour, an issue which is over looked in most types of feminists and then on the grounds of their sex, Moreover, whilst systems of patriarchy exists within black culture a matrifocal system is more dominant. Matrifocal systems differ from matriarchy as women are not dominant or 'rule' over men, but rather organise themselves independently of men (Taylor et al 1998:131). Black girls do exceptionally well in education with research showing 42% of them achieving four GCSE's at grades A-C in comparison to 24% of boys who achieved the same. (Social Trends 2000:58). Black feminists also distance themselves from the 'anti-man bias of white feminists preferring to see black men as allies in the common struggle against racism. ...read more.


Whilst to a certain extent functionalist are correct in saying the family (bearing in mind the term 'family' has various definitions) is central to human survival the division of labour needs to be flexible. Should women wish to contribute financially then they should and the running of the home be divided between men and women on the basis of a partnership and not on an employee/employer basis which occurs mainly because of the benefits to capitalists. As Ann Oakley eloquently states "Men and women cannot be equal partners outside the home if they are not equal partners inside it" (cited O'Donnell 1987:323). In modern society noticeable change has happened, but even with the tireless campaigns of liberal feminists and the implementation of various laws women still continue to be disadvantaged as society continues to be patriarchal. The solution then is for women to organise themselves to be independent of men but also to be educated enough to confidently compete with men and use the laws available to their advantage. Reference List BOOKS: Abercrombie, N & Wardle, A (1995) Contemporary British Society 2nd ed. Cambridge, Polity Bilton Tony et al, (1987) Introductory Sociology 2nd ed. Hampshire, Macmillan Brown, W.J (1986) GCSE & 'O' Level Law. 3rd ed. London, Sweet & Maxwell Giddens Anthony, ( 1993) Sociology 2nd ed. Cambridge, Polity Moore, Stephen (2001) Sociology Alive! 3rd ed. Cheltenham, Nelson Thornes Limited O'Donnell Mike, (1987) A New Introduction to Sociology 2nd ed. Hong Kong, Nelson Richards, Judy (2000) The Complete A-Z of Health & Social Care. Kent, Hodder & Stoughton Taylor, Paul et al (1998) Sociology In Focus. Lancs, Causeway Press Limited Thompson, Neil (2001) Anti-Discriminatory Practice. 3rd Ed. Hampshire, Palgrave Walsh, Mark et al (2000) Health & Social Care. Hammersmith, Harper Collins Publishers Limited. Publications: 1 Connon, H (2001) Old Girls Network Takes on Male Bastion, The Observer (Business Supplement). ...read more.

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