Chapter 13: Gender Stratification
Chapter Overview


  1. Gender and Inequality
    1. Male-Female Difference
    2. Gender in the Global Perspective
      1. The Israeli Kibbutzim
      2. Margaret Mead's Research
      3. George Murdock's Research
      4. In Sum: Gender and Culture
    3. Patriarchy and Sexism
      1. The Cost of Sexism
      2. Is Patriarchy Inevitable?
  2. Gender and Socilization
    1. Gender and the Family
    2. Gender and the Peer Group
    3. Gender and Schooling
    4. Gender and the Mass Media
  3. Gender Stratification
    1. Working Men and Women
      1. Gender and Occupations
    2. Housework
    3. Gender, Income, and Wealth
    4. Gender and Education
    5. Gender and Politics
    6. Gender and the Military
    7. Are Women a Minority?
    8. Minority Women
    9. Violence Against Women
      1. Sexual Harassment
      2. Pornography
  4. Theoretical Analysis of Gender
    1. Structural-Functional Analysis
      1. Talcott Parsons: Gender and Complementarity
    2. Social-Conflict Analysis
      1. Friedrich Engels: Gender and Class
  5. Feminism
    1. Basic Feminist Ideas
    2. Types of Feminism
      1. Liberal Feminism
      2. Socialist Feminism
      3. Radical Feminism
    3. Opposition to Feminism
  6. Looking Ahead: Gender in the Twenty-First Century
  7. Summary
  8. Key Concepts
  9. Critical-Thinking Questions
  10. Applications and Exercises
  11. Sites to See


  1. To know the distinction between male-female differences and gender stratification.
  2. To become aware of the various types of social organization found globally based upon the relationship between females and males.
  3. To be able to describe the link between patriarchy and sexism, and to see how the nature of each is changing in modern society.
  4. To be able to describe the role that gender plays in socialization in the family, the peer group, schooling, the mass media, and adult interaction.
  5. To see how gender stratification occurs in the work world, education, and politics.
  6. To consider key arguments in the debate over whether women constitute a minority.
  7. To consider how the structural-functional and social-conflict paradigms help explain the origins and persistence of gender inequality.
  8. To begin to recognize the extent to which women are victims of violence, and to begin to understand what we can do to change this problem.
  9. To consider the central ideas of feminism, the variations of feminism and resistance to feminism.



Gender refers to the significance a society attaches to the biological categories of female and male. Typically they are differentiated into feminine and masculine traits. Biologically, males and females reveal limited differences.


The Israeli Kibbutzim The significance played by culture in the development of gender is illustrated by various types of research, including studies that focus on egalitarian gender role patterns in the Israeli kibbutzim.

Margaret Mead's Research Other cross-cultural evidence, for example the research by anthropologist Margaret Mead, uncovers the variety of ways in which masculine and feminine traits are defined and experienced by males and females. She studied three primitive societies in New Guinea--the Arapesh, the Mundugumor, and the Tchambuli. In each society very different gender-role patterns were found to have existed.

George Murdock's Research Cross-cultural research by George Murdock in over 200 preindustrialized societies shows some consistencies in the distribution of certain tasks between females and males. However, within these general patterns, significant variation was found.

In Sum: Gender and Culture Global comparisons indicate that, generally speaking, societies do not consistently define most tasks as either feminine or masculine. The cultural variability of gender also means that gender roles change over time.

Patriarchy and Sexism While conceptions of gender vary cross-culturally and historically, there is an apparent universal pattern of patriarchy, a form of social organization in which males dominate females. Matriarchy, defined as a form of social organization in which females dominate males, is not known to have ever existed. Patriarchy is based on sexism, or the belief that one sex is innately superior to the other. Some researchers argue that sexism is very similar in form to racism. Institutionalized sexism is also common.

The Costs of Sexism The costs of sexism are great. Masculinity places men at high ris of accidents, stress, heart attacks, and other diseases. Everyone suffers when cultural conceptions of gender do not allow people to develop and express the full range of their humanity.

Is Patriarchy Inevitable? Patriarchy in societies with simple technology tends to reflect biological sex differences. In industrial societies, technology minimizes the significance of biological differences. Most sociologists believe gender is a social construction that can be changed, although no society has succeeded in eliminating patriarchy.


Males and females are encouraged through the socialization process to incorporate gender into their personal identities. Studies show that despite cultural norms, women and men don't develop consistently feminine or masculine personalities. Gender roles are attitudes and activities that a society links to each sex. They are the active expression of gender identity for females and males.

Gender and the Family Jessie Bernard suggests children are born into the "pink" world of girls and the "blue" world of boys. A girl's world revolves around passivity and emotion, and a boy's world places a premium on independence and action.

Gender and the Peer Group Janet Lever's research on peer group influences on gender suggests that the cultural lessons being taught to boys and girls are very different. Boys are more likely to play in team sports with complex rules and clear objectives. Girls are more likely to engage in activities in smaller groups involving fewer formal rules, more spontaneity, and rarely leading to a "victory."

Carol Gilligan conducted research on moral reasoning that demonstrated differences between boys and girls. Girls seem to understand morality in terms of moral responsibility and maintaining close relationships. Boys seem to reason more according to rules and principles. The Sociology of Everyday Life box (p. 325) talks about "masculinity as contest."

Gender and Schooling Schooling encourages children to embrace appropriate gender roles. In college, for example, men and women tend toward different majors, and areas of study tend to be gender-typed.

Gender and the Mass Media The mass media have portrayed males as dominant in U.S. culture. Women have tended to be shown as less competent than men, and often as sex objects. Children's programs also reinforce gender stereotypes. Changes in such patterns are occurring slowly. This is particularly true in advertising.


Gender stratification refers to a society's unequal distribution of wealth, power, and privilege between men and women. The general conclusion is that women around the world have fewer of their society's valued resources than men.

Gender and Occupations Women are still positioned in the lower paying, traditionally female occupations. Almost one-half of working women fall into one of two broad occupational categories--clerical and service. Men dominate virtually all other job categories. Even within a given occupation category (i.e., teaching), the higher-prestige jobs and higher-paying jobs are usually held by men.

Housework: Women's "Second Shift" Cross-cultural research suggests that housework is the domain of women. In the U.S., the increasing role of women in the labor force has not affected men's involvement in housework. On average, housework accounts for about twenty-six hours of work per week for women. Therefore, women often come home from work to face a "second shift."

Gender, Income, and Wealth Women working full-time earn only 74 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Research shows two-thirds of this difference to be attributed to the type of work in which men and women are employed and family-related responsibilities. Still, one-third is attributable to discrimination. The concept of glass-ceiling is identified, referring to the subtle and hidden ways in which women are discriminated against in the corporate world.

Gender and Education Higher education was traditionally the domain of men. However, this pattern has been changing in recent decades. Over one-half of all college students today are women, and women earn 55 percent of all M.A. degrees conferred. Further, women are pursuing programs traditionally dominated by men. However, significant differences still exist, particularly in the percentage of Ph.D.s granted, and in the areas of law and medicine.

Gender and Politics While the political power of women has increased dramatically during the last century, at the highest levels of government women's roles are still minimal compared to men. After the 1996 national elections, 2 of 50 state governors were women, and in Congress, women held 51 of 435 seats, and 9 of 100 seats in the Senate. At the state level, in 1996, twenty-two percent of the legislators were women.

Gender and the Military A brief historical review of women's participation in the military is presented. In 1998 women represented 15 percent of all armed forces personnel. Recent evidence has suggested that women are often sexually harassed and exploited in the military. While incorporating women into military culture has been difficult, more and more assignments are being given to women. Changes in technology have been a significant factor in this regard.

Are Women a Minority? A minority is any category of people, set apart by physical or cultural difference, that is socially disadvantaged. The author argues that objectively women must be viewed as a minority given their social disadvantage and physical distinction. However, subjectively, most white women do not perceive themselves as such due to their representation at all levels of the class structure.

Minority Women Statistics indicate that minority women are doubly disadvantaged, earning less than minority men and significantly less than white men.

Violence Against Women It is argued that, in part, violence directed against women by men is the result of the cultural devaluing of what is feminine.

Sexual Harassment One type of violence against women is sexual--violence which is fundamentally about power, not sex. Sexual harassment, is comments, gestures, or physical contact of a sexual nature that are deliberate, repeated, and unwelcome. Currently the effect standard is being used to determine if sexual harassment exists. The underlying factor is the existence of a hostile environment.

Pornography Pornography is another form of violence against women. The challenge of trying to define pornography is discussed, along with the surrounding moral and political issues.


Structural-Functional Analysis Using this perspective, gender-role patterns over history and cross-culturally are understood to be the result of the functional contributions made to the survival of society. Industrial technology has allowed greater variation in gender roles. However, gender roles still reflect long-standing institutionalized attitudes.

Talcott Parsons: Gender and Complementarity Talcott Parsons theorized that gender plays a part in maintaining society in industrial times by providing men and women with a set of complementary roles (instrumental and expressive). Through socialization males and females adopt these roles.

Criticisms of this approach include the lack of recognition that many women have traditionally worked outside the home, the over-emphasis on only one kind of family, and the neglect of the personal strains associated with such a family orientation.

Social-Conflict Analysis The focus here is on inequality between women and men. This theoretical view holds that women are a minority, and men benefit by the unequal relationship which is perpetuated by sexism and sexist ideology.

Friedrich Engels: Gender and Class Friedrich Engels identified the origins of gender inequality in the historical formation of social classes. The creation of property and social classes were seen by Engels as the basis of male dominance over females.

One criticism of this approach is that it neglects the cooperation of females and males in the institution of the family. Another criticism is that capitalism is not the origin of gender stratification since socialist societies are patriarchal as well. And finally, critics say that this approach casts traditional families as evil.


Feminism is the advocacy of social equality for men and women, in opposition to patriarchy and sexism. Its first wave in this country occurred in the mid-nineteenth century, culminating with the right to vote for women in 1920. The second wave began in the 1960s and continues today.

Basic Feminist Ideas Feminism shares at least two qualities with the sociological perspective: first, questioning of our basic assumptions about social patterns; and second, an awareness of the relationship between personal experiences and society.

There are differences in opinion among feminists, but most support five basic principles which include: the importance of change, expanding human choice, eliminating gender stratification, ending sexual violence, and promoting sexual autonomy.

Variations Within Feminism

Liberal Feminism Liberal feminism accepts the basic organization of society, but seeks the same rights and opportunities for women and men.

Socialist Feminism Socialist feminism supports the reforms of liberal feminism, but believes its goals can be gained only through the elimination of the capitalist economy.

Radical Feminism Radical feminism advocates the elimination of patriarchy altogether by organizing a gender-free society.

Opposition to Feminism Reasons for opposition to feminism include a preference for traditional gender and family definitions, a concern that our self-identity will be subject to change, and a fear or ignorance of what feminism is in actuality. One final issue concerns opinions about how change should occur. Nationally though, only 37 percent of all adults support a gender-based division of labor.

Looking Ahead: Gender in the Twenty-First Century Several general observations include: First, the trend over the last century or so in our society has been toward greater equality between the sexes. Second, while strong opposition to the feminist movement remains, deliberate policies toward reducing patriarchy are advancing the status of women. Finally, while radical change in views about gender is not likely in the short-term, movement toward greater equality in rights and opportunities for females and males will continue to gain strength.


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