Chapter 10: Sex and Gender

Society the Basics, 6/e

  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.
  4. To be able to describe the role that gender plays in socialization in the family, the peer group, schooling, and the mass media.
  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 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.
  8. To consider how the structural-functional and social-conflict paradigms help explain the origins and persistence of gender inequality.
  9. To consider the central ideas of feminism, the variations of feminism and resistance to feminism.



Gender refers to the personal traits and social positions that members of a society attach to being female and male.

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The Israeli Kibbutzim are significant because of their attempt to eliminate gender inequality.

Margaret Mead's Research 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 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.

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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, 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

The Costs of Sexism The costs of sexism are great.  Masculinity places men at high risk 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.

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Males and females are encouraged through the socialization process to incorporate gender into their personal identities. Gender roles are attitudes and activities that a society links to each sex.

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


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.

Carol Gilligan conducted research on moral reasoning that demonstrated differences between boys and girls.

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.

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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—administrative support and service. Men dominate virtually all other job categories.

Housework: Women's "Second Shift" Research (Figure 10-3 on page 257) 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.

Gender, Income, and Wealth Women working full-time earn only 74 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Research shows the main reason for the difference to be attributed to the type of work in which men and women are employed, family-related responsibilities, and 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


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.

Gender and the Military A brief historical review of  women's participation in the military is presented. In 2000  women represented 15  percent of all armed forces  personnel. Incorporating women into military culture has been difficult. Changes in technology have been a significant factor in this regard.

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Are Women a Minority? A minority is any category of people, characterized by physical or cultural difference, that a society sets apart and subordinates. 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.

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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 refers to comments, gestures, or physical contact of a sexual nature that are deliberate, repeated, and unwelcome. The underlying factor in determining sexual harassment 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.

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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.

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Feminism is the advocacy of social equality for men and women, in opposition to patriarchy and sexism.

Basic Feminist Ideas 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 freedom.

Variations Within Feminism

Liberal feminism accepts the basic organization of society, but seeks the

same rights and opportunities for women and men.

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 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.

Looking Ahead: Gender in the Twenty-First Century Several general observations include the following: The trend over the last century or so in our society has been toward greater equality between the sexes. Opposition to the feminist movement remains, and ways of reducing patriarchy are advancing the

status of women.

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