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Inequalities of Gender & Sexual Orientation Chapter 9. The Problem in Sociological Perspective. Sex is the major sorting device in every society in the world The development of sexism as a social problem (objective & subjective conditions)

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Inequalities of Gender

& Sexual Orientation

Chapter 9

the problem in sociological perspective
The Problem in Sociological Perspective

Sex is the major sorting device in every society in the world

The development of sexism as a social problem (objective & subjective conditions)

Helen Hacker: first to apply the term minority towomen

Sexism: belief that one sex is innately superior to the other and the discrimination that results

the scope of the problem
The Scope of the Problem

Is male dominance universal?

Men’s domination of society has been in continuous existence throughout virtually the entire globe from the earliest times to the present

Most work is Sex-typed: associated with one sex or the other

Universally, men’s activities are always given greater prestige

It is the sex that is associated with the work that provides its prestige, not the work itself

major areas of discrimination

Political and legal




Women’s three major roles—sister/daughter, wife, and mother—fit this pattern of discrimination

symbolic interactionism
Symbolic Interactionism
  • Sex: the different biological equipment of males and females
  • Gender: how we express our “maleness” or “femaleness”
  • Socialization into gender roles
    • Gender Accomplishment
  • Sex is a Master Trait, cuttingacross all other identities in life

Difficulties of Interpretation

    • Parents teach gender roles subconsciously
    • Most symbolic interactionists assume that gender differences are learned
    • Stereotypes applied at birth tend to become reality through the self-fulfilling prophecy and continued socialization practices
    • Gender bending
  • “Rewards for Warriors”
    • Social—the necessity to survive warfare
    • Biological—innate differences in the physical strength of men and women
  • “Reproduction”
    • Throughout history, a woman has been encumbered physically—unable to participate fully in the labor market
  • Ultimate result was a Patriarchal Society
  • But, origins vs. maintenance of power
conflict theory
Conflict Theory
    • Power yields privilege
    • Privileged lifestyles of powerful encourage them to feel they are superior beings
    • To bolster their feelings of superiority, the powerful clothe themselves with ideologies that justify their position
    • As the powerful cling to their privileges, they use social institutions to maintain their power

The struggle for equality

  • 1800s, Almost every woman was under the legal control of a man, either a father or a husband
    • Suffragists: Advocates of the extension of political voting rights to women
  • Glass Ceiling: Imaginary blockade keeping women from achieving greater success in the workplace
research findings
Research Findings
  • Are There Natural Differences Between the Sexes?
    • Difficulty of separating culture from biology has plagued researchers
    • First explanation focuses on socialization in childhood
    • SAT—Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT)
    • “All apparent sex differences in intelligence may be explained by early learning and continual reinforcement.”
    • Machismo—an overt demonstration of masculine aggression

Studies of animals

    • Testosterone—a hormone produced by the testicles that stimulates primary and secondary sex traits in men
  • The study of Vietnam Veterans
    • U.S. government collected data on hormone levels among Vietnam veterans
    • Further proof that testosterone plays a role in male aggression
    • Does not leave us with the ability to claim biology as the sole basis for aggression

Reconciling the findings

    • If biologyprovides males and females differences in temperament, personality, or predisposition in behavior, culture often overrides those differences
    • Because people are often unaware of how environmental factors contribute to differences among men and women, biology presents overwhelming evidence of “natural” and “genetic” differences
    • Concerning because “different sexed” often results in “unequal treatment.”

Avoiding Ideology

    • No conclusive evidence as to whether nature or nurture leads to aggression, nurturing, intelligence
    • Must examine data with an open mind
    • Differences between men and women has become emotionally charged
    • Data, not ideology, may one day answer the nature versus nurture argument


Rather than asking what sex or gender is, we should explore what sex and gender do.

inequalities in everyday life
Inequalities in Everyday Life

Women encounter antagonistic attitudes from men

Masculinity and machismo represent strength while femininity is perceived as weakness

Derogatory feminine terms

Most dismiss remarks as insignificant

Such comments reveal derogatory attitude toward women and things feminine


Century ago, leading educators claimed that women’s wombs dominated their mental life (p. 293)

Put women at an educational disadvantage

Women studied less than men and did worse overall

Confirm the stereotype that women’s brains weren’t as capable as men’s

In some countries women still overtly discriminated against in education

the mass media
The Mass Media
  • Children’s Books
  • Help to shape gender roles
  • Illustrated books for children are more than entertainment
  • Feminists protested stereotypes
  • One gender stereotype continues to linger in children’s books
    • Females are now portrayed as doing things that males do, but males are not portrayed as doing things that females do


    • More powerful than picture books
  • Misogyny
    • Hatred or strong prejudice against women
    • Adult television creates and reinforces stereotypes of gender, age, and sexuality
  • Body image is key part of gender accomplishment
    • Television effective in teaching what we “should” look like


    • Advertising is an insidious propaganda machine for a male supremacist society
    • Television advertising continues to reinforce stereotypical gender roles
    • Use of the female body—especially exposed breasts—to sell products continues
  • Mass media influences us
    • Shape society’s expectations
    • Parents changing how they socialize their children

Target Women: Disney Princesses


Jean Kilbourne’s, “Still Killing Us

Softly, v. 4”



    • Boys learn to dominate male–female relationships
    • Lyrics instruct girls to be sexy, passive, and dependent
    • Those who watch music videos hold more traditional sex-role stereotypes
    • Rap & rock groups glorify male sexual aggression and revel in humiliating women
the world of politics
The World of Politics
  • The Current Situation
    • Women underrepresented in political decision making
  • Why Don’t Women Dominate Politics?
    • About 8 million more women than men are of voting age
    • Women who vote outnumber men who vote by 9 million

Dominance is masculine; Politics is a form of dominance; Therefore, politics is masculine.

    • Perception imposes severe restraints on women’s recruitment, participation, and performance in politics
  • The Power of Sex Roles
    • Women are underrepresented in law and business, the careers of politicians
    • Irregular hours to run for elective office incompatible with home life responsibilities
    • Women are also less likely to have a supportive spouse
    • Men have been reluctant to bring women into decision-making roles or to regard them as viable candidates
  • Restrictive patterns changing
the world of work
The World of Work
  • Labor Force Participation Rate
    • Percentage of those ages 16 and older who are in the labor force at least part-time
  • The Gender Pay Gap
    • At all ages and at all levels of education and no matter the type of work, the average man is paid more than the average woman
    • Between the ages of 25 and 65, the average man who graduates from college earns about a million dollars ($1,100,000) more than the average woman who graduates from college

Reasons For The Gender Pay Gap

    • Tracking in education
    • Women are more likely to work at types of jobs that pay less
    • Women professionals, such as physicians, work fewer hours than men in same profession
    • Above factors account for about half the pay gap
    • Other half may be attributed to pure gender discrimination
  • The Fuller-Schoenberger Study (1991)
    • Women had to have higher qualifications than men in order to be offered lower salaries!
why is our workforce segregated by sex
Why Is Our Workforce Segregated by Sex?
  • The Conflict And Feminist Perspectives
    • Dual Labor Market
  • The Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
    • Men perceive women as less capable, less productive, and ultimately, less profitable, they pay them less
  • Sex discrimination tends to be self-perpetuating
sexual harassment
Sexual Harassment
  • Unsolicited sexual advances made by a person in power
  • Traditional view makes it a personal problem
  • Sexual harassment is a structural matter; built into the marketplace
  • Sexual harassment as a social problem
    • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Racial–ethnic lines
  • Used to be perceived as an exclusively female problem
  • Homosexual Behavior
    • Sexual relations between people of the same sex
  • Homosexuality
    • Sexual orientation involving an attraction or preference for people of one’s own sex
  • Americans more tolerant of those practicing full-time homosexuality
  • Women are more likely to favor the legality of homosexual relations

Homosexuals and The Law

    • Lawrence et al. v. Texas
  • Hate Crimes
    • Ordinary crimes motivated by dislike or hatred of the victim’s personal characteristics
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (2003) ban sexual discrimination in the workplace
homosexuality viewed theoretically applying conflict theory
Homosexuality Viewed Theoretically: Applying Conflict Theory
  • Overt discrimination
    • Differential treatment that is open and observable
  • Same-sex marriage (SSM)
    • Legally sanctioned marriage of two same-sex people
  • Domestic Partnership or Civil Union
    • Not a legal marriage
  • Defense of Marriage Act
research on homosexuality
Research on Homosexuality
  • The Kinsey Research
    • Sample was biased and findings no longer trusted
  • The Laumann Research
    • 2.2% of women and 4.1% of men in the United States had had sex with a same-sex partner
    • Sampling technique allowed generalization to broader U.S. population
    • Narrative Data
      • Unstructured data that tells a story

The Humphreys Research

    • Devised ingenious but, widely criticized research method
    • “Tea-rooms”
  • Situational Homosexual Behavior: The Prison
    • Refers to homosexual acts committed by people who, if members of the opposite sex were available, would choose to be involved in heterosexual relations
    • Sociology focuses on learned behavior
  • Homosexuality is a social problem because of subjective concerns
violence against women
Violence Against Women
  • Rape And Murder
  • Gendered Violence
    • In U.S., women are disproportionately victims of spousal abuse and rape
    • Alien to western culture is “Honor Killings”
      • Killings of girls and women who have violated the family’s honor
  • Applying The Conflict And Feminist Perspective
    • Understand violence against women if viewed as an expression of power

Applying Symbolic Interactionism

    • Sociologists also use symbolic interactionism to understand gendered violence
    • In American culture, men learn machismo
    • Males are surrounded with models of violence
social policy
Social Policy
  • The Radical Extremists
    • Insist that society is so discriminatory that it must be restructured
  • The Conservative Extremists
    • Believe that heterosexual gender distinctions are natural and desirable and ought to be encouraged
  • Middle-of-the-road Policies
    • Innumerable positions fall between two above extremes
the future of the problem
The Future of the Problem
  • The World Of Work
    • Significant social trend that will affect gender discrimination: future employment of women
  • Breaking Gender Stereotypes
    • Increasing numbers of women in the workforce are already changing gender stereotypes
  • New Orientations
    • Ultimate possibility for the future is a new concept of the human personality

WHY MEN ARE NEVER DEPRESSED: (For laughs, but which ones are stereotypes?)

  • Your last name stays put.
  • The garage is all yours.
  • Wedding plans take care of themselves.
  • Chocolate is just another snack.
      • You can be President.
      • You can never be pregnant.
      • You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park.
      • You can wear NO shirt to a water park.
      • Car mechanics tell you the truth.
      • You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky.
      • Same work, more pay.
      • Wrinkles add character.
      • Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental-$100.
      • People never stare at your chest when you\'re talking to them.
      • New shoes don\'t cut, blister, or mangle your feet.
      • One mood all the time!
      • Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.
      • A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
      • You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
      • If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend.
      • Your underwear is $8.95 for a 3 pack.  
      • Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.  
      • You almost never have strap problems in public.
      • You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes.     
      • The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades.  
      • You only have to shave your face and neck.
      • You can play with toys all your life.
      • You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look.
      • You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache.
      • You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in 25 minutes. 

      • No wonder men are happier.