'Despite recent optimism, gender inequality persists in Australian society.' Evaluate the extent of gender inequality in Australia, citing examples from within politics, the law, workforce, the household and education.

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‘Despite recent optimism, gender inequality persists in Australian society.’ Evaluate the extent of gender inequality in Australia, citing examples from within politics, the law, workforce, the household and education. 

Gender is not simply a case of dichotomous oraginisation. It is also used as a basis of inclusion and exclusion, of inequality of life chances, of restriction of choices, and for relationships which reflect power and powerlessness (Furze and Stafford, 1994: 247).

        Women in general are in a socially inferior position to men, although both men and women have access to a range of positions. The ranking of women as inferior to men leads to the former having more restricted opportunities for social interaction. Inferiority of social position is manifested in the things that women do being valued less than the things men do. Women are expected to defer to men in social contexts. Men have greater access to means of coercion in order to enforce their will through both physical and symbolic violence. Women are permitted to compete in male arenas on masculine terms, and these terms inevitably define women as ‘second best (Furze and Stafford, 1994: 247).’

Stratification by gender was once legitimised by reference to the complementary roles of women and men. Women were responsible for the emotional or expressive side of life, and men were responsible for the breadwinning, or instrumental side of life. Like segregation of blacks from whites, the notion was ‘separate but equal (Furze and Stafford, 1994: 248).’

Gender is a fundamental condition of people’s participation in, and experience of work, as well as one of the fundamental organising conditions of the work place. Men’s identities are grounded in work, whereas women’s identities are grounded in family membership. For men, the family is a support, for women it is a competing responsibility (Newman, 2000: 447).

        From the earliest phases of industrial society, the work place has come to be considered the men’s sphere, with the home belonging to the women and children. The physical separation of activities has been supported by the social separation of tasks according to gender, with men responsible for working and ‘breadwinning’ and women ‘relieved’ of the responsibility of supporting themselves through paid work (Newman, 2000: 446).

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        This myth of ‘separate but equal’ was destroyed by two associated social movements of the 1960’s.  The first was the expanding women’s movement, which was highly critical of the ideal of ‘women’s place is the home’. The second social movement was the increased recruitment of married women, including mothers, in the paid workforce, partly to provide for the growing need for labour, and partly to solve the problem of female poverty (Furze and Stafford, 1994: 252).

        The idea that women’s place was in the home and that married woman did not work had been an ideal of industrial society, ...

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