Research Paper: Gender Inequality
For many centuries, men have been the dominant gender and women have been the minority. Men were the “breadwinners” and women just stayed home and took care of the housework and children. Women barely had any rights. Their husbands could abuse them and get away with it easily. Fortunately, over a period of time, things have slowly changed. However, this is still a very serious and widespread problem. Women are still at the bottom of the chain. What was the cause of this inequality and what will be the consequences if this problem continues to linger?
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Gender inequality, in my definition, is the unequal and biased treatment between the two sexes. I strongly believe that the unequal treatment of women is something that should have stayed in primitive times. We are in the present now and we are far more advanced than we ever were and yet we are old school in our thinking of how men and women should be treated. I can strongly identify with gender inequality because many of my closest friends have faced it or still face it.
Materialist theories define gender inequality as a result of how men and women are tied to the economic structure of society. They believe that women’s role as a mother and wife are devalued by society and deny access to highly respected public opportunities. Gender inequality is definitely something that we often take for granted; it is accepted and seems so normal in society. These differences often seem invisible to us even though it happens in our everyday life in everything from employment and education to politics and the media without us being aware of it.
Before we look at the gender inequalities in paid employment, it is vital to look at unpaid labor and the discriminations that women face. History has shown us that the roles and responsibilities for men and women were already chosen for them. In the United Kingdom, there was a trend of male dominance in employment until World War II where women gained male-orientated jobs for the first time whilst the men fought in the front line. Before this, the males were often the breadwinners and therefore provided for their family. On the other hand, the females were more inclined to be involved in unpaid labor often labeled as housewives who performed chores around the family home and looked after the children. You could apply Leslie Feinberg’s theory to this as back then it was just accepted and seen as the way of life for men and women. It was found in a study in 2006 that on average ‘women spent 180 minutes per day on housework; that’s 78% more time than men who spent only 101 minutes per day.’ This reveals that even in current society women are still accepted to partake in unpaid labor through housework rather than be in employment and this reflects the past in the United Kingdom. A very good example of this are the employment rates in the UK as it was around 79% for men and 70 % for women which has remained unchanged since 1999. (Office of National Statistics, 2008).
It has to be said that in recent times, the division between males and females is less evident but inclination towards male dominance in employment is still shown. It was reported that the gender pay gap in the UK is one of the highest in Europe: women who work full-time earned 17% less per hour than men and women working part-time earned 39% less per hour than men working full-time. (Office of National Statistics, 2008) In the United States, the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. However, women’s place in society and in employment has improved greatly since the Equal Pay Act of 1970. Over the years, there has been an increase of women in the workplace with women working in a larger number of senior positions. This reveals that even though there have been improvements in some areas, men often still have the upper hand in employment.
Today, this gender inequality is accepted in society which reveals a strong unfairness against women in employment. Men and women still follow very different career paths. Men are much more likely than women to be employed in skilled trades whereas women are more likely than not to be forced into working lower paid labor jobs such as cleaning. ‘Women tend not to put their whole bodies into engagement in a physical task with the same ease and naturalness as men’ (Young, Iris. M, 207). There is the national organization for tradeswomen called ‘Women and Manual Trades (WAMT) who support training women to work in plumbing, building and electricians for example. As well as this, they address the problem of low female representation in such work. Although there are organisations such as the WAMT who support women working in skilled trades the likeliness of women to partake in such a job is still very low and shows little improvement. This, yet again, reveals the strong dominance of men in employment worldwide.
The notion of being a female is considered to have more challenges than male within the mass media. There is an unbalanced and stereotyped representation of women in the media and a lot of the time they are dominated by men in their roles. Gender inequalities traditionally were greatly enforced in media output with women being used in advertisements to sell anything from cars to tobacco. As well as this, women were often portrayed as ‘sex objects’ in the media, especially in the 1980’s when men’s magazines were first distributed. This still happens in recent times as women are displayed in the magazines mostly for male entertainment which is a major gender inequality as it uses the objectification of women. As well as this, women often feel insecure and are forced to impress men by copying what they see in the magazines. This happens in most of the media from the magazines and newspapers to advertisements in television they are such powerful forces which influence society to a great extent.
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Furthermore, women in more contemporary media are still sexualized and the men still look at women in the same way as before. It was discovered in the late 1990’s that ‘44% of music videos contain sexual imagery. Women are far more likely than men to be presented in provocative or revealing clothing and sexually objectified.’ This links to female stereotypes and sexualization which are abused in this present day in media especially with the rapid growth of the internet in recent years often through sexual images of women linked to the sex industry such as pornography being easily accessible on the internet which often depicts women as mere entertainment for men. The nature of pornography is a prime example of the sexualized representation of women in society.
Gender inequality is not an issue that can be resolved within a day or two, and reaching our final goal of equality is not going to be an easy step, all we can do is break it down into many factors and give it time to pay off. First part of our resolution is educational wise, which is basically teaching our young ones counter gender stereotypes from kinder-garden, and holding on to these beliefs all the way till college. This can be done by showing both sexes that there aren’t any male or female biased sports, there isn’t a major that a girl shouldn’t get into because it’s a “man major”, those stereotypes should be totally eradicated from all new generations.
Another part of our resolution is promoting equality in the labor fields; maybe have a long lasting initiative to promote equality in all labor fields. Some people might say that women cannot perform many jobs that men do like construction working, well during WW2, women were the only ones doing these “men jobs” while all the men were gone to fight in the war.
Another possible way to resolve our issue is through celebrities and TV. Nowadays, everyone’s role model is a Hollywood star, a singer, a model, so basically a celebrity. Why don’t we make these celebrities indirectly implant the idea of equality in our human brains, why don’t they show us that males and females are capable of doing the same jobs and quests and that segregation is not needed. Again, I repeat that this won’t be an easy process and it might take a very long time but at the end of the day, gender inequality is a very big issue and it has to be resolved sooner or later.
Humanity requires both men and women, and we are equally important and need one another. So why are women viewed as less than equal? These old attitudes are drilled into us from the very beginning. We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.
We have a lot of work to do, but we can get there if we work together. Unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. With determination, commitment and strong belief, we can achieve our goal.
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