Gender Inequality.

Authors Avatar

Gender Inequality

In exploring the essay title, it would seem wise to explain the terms "Gender" and "Inequality". Within this essay, "gender" refers to the socially defined differences between men and women. As the word suggests, "inequality" means unequal rewards/opportunities for different individuals within a group or groups within a society. Primarily, during this essay, I intend to exam the causes of gender inequality through biological and socially constructed gender theorists, such as Tiger and Fox and Ann Oakley. Secondly, Young and Wilmott and again Ann Oakley's definitions of the family today, will outline the consequences (Effects) that these causes have had upon the family today.

There are numerous Sociological debates about the relationship between the biological and socially constructed views on the causes of gender inequality. To explain gender inequality in Britain today, one might be encouraged to briefly look upon the historical explanations of gender inequality, in order to understand its origin. Engels, the nineteenth- century philosopher, socialist and co-founder of Marxism, attempted to explain the basis of gender inequality in his works "The origin of the Family, Private property and the State" (1884). In his work he attempted to explain the history of women's subordination, "materialistically" in terms of the spheres of private property and monogamy. He linked the emergence of the modern nucleur family and the exploited housewife role to the development of capitalism.

Anthropologist's Tiger and Fox (in 1970's) have taken the theory of genetics and evolution, in an effort to explain the differences between men and women. They go on to explain that human's are 'programmed' by their genetics and their behaviour is an extension of this. They labelled this genetic programming the "Human Biogrammer". Although there are similarities in the biogrammers between the sexes, there are some important differences, said Tiger and Fox. They argue that men are more aggressive than females; characteristics that they maintain are genetically based. These specific characteristics are largely influenced by the different male and female hormones and relate back to a time when man's primate ancestors had to adjust to a hunting way of life. Therefore the male hormone creates aggressive behaviour which suited hunting and the protection of his family. In contrast, Tiger and Fox maintain that women are programmed by their biogrammers to reproduce and care for children. In Tiger and Fox's words "Nature intended mother and child to be together, the mother is essential to the well being of the child". According to Tiger and Fox, unless this emotional bond is continuous, the child will experience difficulties creating successful relationships in adult life Functionalists, Murdock and Parsons, explanations of gender inequality took into consideration cultural flexibility, alongside the biological principals. Anthropologist George Murdock, examined the biological differences between men and women in the sexual division of labour. He proposed that biological differences, such as the greater physical strength of men and the obvious fact that women bear children, commanded gender roles out of pure practicality and convenience. Each sex is biologically best suited to their particular role. To reinforce his claims Murdock, conducted a cross cultural survey of 224 diverse societies. From his findings Murdock concluded that the sexual division of labour is apparent, universally. Talcott Parsons (1902-1979), a Functionalist Sociologist, was more culturally biased in his analysis to the sexual division of labour. He considers that it is functional, in reference to modern industrial society, that women should satisfy the expressive role by providing warmth, security and emotional support for the children and husband. In accordance to Parsons, the woman's expressive role is essential for the effective socialisation of the children. Further more, the expressive role is also easily extended so that the woman may offer psychological support for her husband, after a hard day's work! The man in comparison performs an instrumental role, one that is competitive and acquisitive. From Parsons assumption, a married couple will hold complimentary roles which are not biologically based, but originate in biological differences, promoting family solidarity and efficient functioning and therefore essential for efficient functioning of society.

Join now!

In contrast feminists would be more critical of the causes of gender inequality. Although acknowledging certain biological differences between men and women, feminists would argue that most differences are socially constructed, by reinforcement through the process of socialisation within the family. Ann Oakley, feminist sociologist, criticises functional theorists Murdock and Parsons. Oakley examined numerous societies whereby biology had little or no effect upon women's roles. For example the Mbuti Pygmies, a hunting and gathering society whom live in the Congo rain forests, have no clear divisions of labour by sex. As well as examining Murdocks claims of the 'human biogrammer', ...

This is a preview of the whole essay