Television commercials and other forms of advertising also reinforce inequality and gender-based stereotypes. Women are almost exclusively present in ads promoting cooking, cleaning, or child care—related products Davis Think about the last time you saw a man star in a dishwasher or laundry detergent commercial. In general, women are underrepresented in roles that involve leadership, intelligence, or a balanced psyche. Of particular concern is the depiction of women in ways that are dehumanizing, especially in music videos.
Even in mainstream advertising, however, themes intermingling violence and sexuality are quite common Kilbourne Stratification refers to a system in which groups of people experience unequal access to basic, yet highly valuable, social resources. Canada is characterized by gender stratification as well as stratification of race, income, occupation, and the like. Evidence of gender stratification is especially keen within the economic realm.
However, as one report noted, if the gender gap in wages continues to close at the same glacial rate, women will not earn the same as men until the year McInturff Additionally, women who are in the paid labour force still do the majority of the unpaid work at home. In women spent an average 50 hours a week looking after children compared to This double duty keeps working women in a subordinate role in the family structure Hochschild and Machung Gender stratification through the division of labour is not exclusively North American.
When a pattern appears in all societies, it is called a cultural universal. While the phenomenon of assigning work by gender is universal, its specifics are not. The same task is not assigned to either men or women worldwide. There is a long history of gender stratification in Canada. When looking to the past, it would appear that society has made great strides in terms of abolishing some of the most blatant forms of gender inequality see timeline below but underlying effects of male dominance still permeate many aspects of society.
Sociological theories serve to guide the research process and offer a means for interpreting research data and explaining social phenomena. For example, a sociologist interested in gender stratification in education may study why middle-school girls are more likely than their male counterparts to fall behind grade-level expectations in math and science. Structural functionalism provided one of the most important perspectives of sociological research in the 20th century and has been a major influence on research in the social sciences, including gender studies.
Viewing the family as the most integral component of society, assumptions about gender roles within marriage assume a prominent place in this perspective. Functionalists argue that gender roles were established well before the preindustrial era when men typically took care of responsibilities outside of the home, such as hunting, and women typically took care of the domestic responsibilities in or around the home. These roles were considered functional because women were often limited by the physical restraints of pregnancy and nursing and unable to leave the home for long periods of time.
Once established, these roles were passed on to subsequent generations since they served as an effective means of keeping the family system functioning properly.
When changes occurred in the social and economic climate of Canada during World War II, changes in the family structure also occurred. Many women had to assume the role of breadwinner or modern hunter and gatherer alongside their domestic role in order to stabilize a rapidly changing society. When the men returned from war and wanted to reclaim their jobs, society fell into a state of imbalance, as many women did not want to forfeit their wage-earning positions Hawke Talcott Parsons argued that the contradiction between occupational roles and kinship roles of men and women in North America created tension or strain on individuals as they tried to adapt to the conflicting norms or requirements.
The division of traditional middle-class gender roles within the family—the husband as breadwinner and wife as homemaker—was functional for him because the roles were complementary.
They enabled a clear division of labour between spouses, which ensured that the ongoing functional needs of the family were being met. Within the North American kinship system, wives and husbands roles were equally valued according to Parsons. As a result, Parson theorized that these tensions would lead women to become expressive specialists in order to claim prestige e. According to critical sociology, society is structured by relations of power and domination among social groups e.
When sociologists examine gender from this perspective, we can view men as the dominant group and women as the subordinate group. According to critical sociology, social problems and contradictions are created when dominant groups exploit or oppress subordinate groups. It is difficult for women to rise above men, as dominant group members create the rules for success and opportunity in society Farrington and Chertok Friedrich Engels, a German sociologist, studied family structure and gender roles.
Engels suggested that the same owner-worker relationship seen in the labour force is also seen in the household, with women assuming the role of the proletariat. Women are therefore doubly exploited in capitalist society, both when they work outside the home and when they work within the home. Contemporary critical sociologists suggest that when women become wage earners, they can gain power in the family structure and create more democratic arrangements in the home, although they may still carry the majority of the domestic burden, as noted earlier Risman and Johnson-Sumerford Feminist theory is a type of critical sociology that examines inequalities in gender-related issues.
It uses the critical approach to examine the maintenance of gender roles and inequalities. Radical feminism, in particular, considers the role of the family in perpetuating male dominance.
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Additionally, women often perceive a disconnect between their personal experiences and the way the world is represented by society as a whole. Dorothy Smith referred to this phenomenon as bifurcated consciousness Smith Patriarchal perspectives and arrangements, widespread and taken for granted, are built into the relations of ruling.
As a result, not only do women find it difficult to find their experiences acknowledged in the wider patriarchal culture, their viewpoints also tend to be silenced or marginalized to the point of being discredited or considered invalid. The men, however, do not experience the sense of bifurcated consciousness under this social structure that modern Canadian females encounter Sanday Symbolic interactionism aims to understand human behaviour by analyzing the critical role of symbols in human interaction.
This is certainly relevant to the discussion of masculinity and femininity. Imagine that you walk into a bank, hoping to get a small loan for school, a home, or a small business venture. If you meet with a male loan officer, you may state your case logically by listing all of the hard numbers that make you a qualified applicant as a means of appealing to the analytical characteristics associated with masculinity. If you meet with a female loan officer, you may make an emotional appeal by stating your good intentions as a means of appealing to the caring characteristics associated with femininity.
Because the meanings attached to symbols are socially created and not natural, and fluid, not static, we act and react to symbols based on the current assigned meaning. Furthermore, the word gay as it refers to a homosexual carried a somewhat negative and unfavourable meaning 50 years ago, but has since gained more neutral and even positive connotations. These shifts in symbolic meaning apply to family structure as well. In , when only Today, when a majority of women with preschool-aged children are part of the paid workforce Sociologist Charles H.
When people perform tasks or possess characteristics based on the gender role assigned to them, they are said to be doing gender. In , Broverman and Broverman conducted a groundbreaking study on the traits mental health workers ascribed to males and females. When asked to name the characteristics of a female, the list featured words such as unaggressive, gentle, emotional, tactful, less logical, not ambitious, dependent, passive, and neat.
The list of male characteristics featured words such as aggressive, rough, unemotional, blunt, logical, direct, active, and sloppy Seem and Clark Later, when asked to describe the characteristics of a healthy person not gender specific , the list was nearly identical to that of a male. This study uncovered the general assumption that being female is associated with being somewhat unhealthy or not of sound mind.
This concept seems extremely dated, but in , Seem and Clark replicated the study and found similar results. Again, the characteristics associated with a healthy male were very similar to that of a healthy genderless adult. The list of characteristics associated with being female broadened somewhat but did not show significant change from the original study Seem and Clark This interpretation of feminine characteristic may help us one day better understand gender disparities in certain illnesses, such as why one in eight women can be expected to develop clinical depression in her lifetime National Institute of Mental Health In the area of sexuality, sociologists focus their attention on sexual attitudes and practices, not on physiology or anatomy.
Studying sexual attitudes and practices is a particularly interesting field of sociology because sexual behaviour is a cultural universal. Throughout time and place, the vast majority of human beings have participated in sexual relationships Broude Each society, however, interprets sexuality and sexual activity in different ways. Many societies around the world have different attitudes about premarital sex, the age of sexual consent, homosexuality, masturbation, and other sexual behaviours that are not consistent with universally cultural norms Widmer, Treas, and Newcomb At the same time, sociologists have learned that certain norms like disapproval of incest are shared among most societies.
Likewise, societies generally have norms that reinforce their accepted social system of sexuality. Societies that value monogamy, for example, would likely oppose extramarital sex. Individuals are socialized to sexual attitudes by their family, education system, peers, media, and religion. Historically, religion has been the greatest influence on sexual behaviour in most societies, but in more recent years, peers and the media have emerged as two of the strongest influences, particularly with North American teens Potard, Courtois, and Rusch Let us take a closer look at sexual attitudes in Canada and around the world.
Cross-national research on sexual attitudes in industrialized nations reveals that normative standards differ across the world. For example, several studies have shown that Scandinavian students are more tolerant of premarital sex than are North American students Grose A study of 37 countries reported that non-Western societies—like China, Iran, and India—valued chastity highly in a potential mate, while western European countries—such as France, the Netherlands, and Sweden—placed little value on prior sexual experiences Buss Even among Western cultures, attitudes can differ.
For example, according to a 33,person survey across 24 countries, 89 percent of Swedes responded that there is nothing wrong with premarital sex, while only 42 percent of Irish responded this way.
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From the same study, 93 percent of Filipinos responded that sex before age 16 is always wrong or almost always wrong, while only 75 percent of Russians responded this way Widmer, Treas, and Newcomb Sexual attitudes can also vary within a country. For instance, 45 percent of Spaniards responded that homosexuality is always wrong, while 42 percent responded that it is never wrong; only 13 percent responded somewhere in the middle Widmer, Treas, and Newcomb Of industrialized nations, Sweden is thought to be the most liberal when it comes to attitudes about sex, including sexual practices and sexual openness.
The country has very few regulations on sexual images in the media, and sex education, which starts around age six, is a compulsory part of Swedish school curricula. It would appear that Sweden is a model for the benefits of sexual freedom and frankness. However, implementing Swedish ideals and policies regarding sexuality in other, more politically conservative, nations would likely be met with resistance.
In the international survey noted above, 12 percent of Canadians stated that premarital sex is always wrong, compared to 29 percent of Americans. The average among the 24 countries surveyed on this question was 17 percent. Fifty-five percent of Canadians compared to 71 percent of Americans condemned sex before the age of 16, 68 percent compared to 80 percent condemned extramarital sex, and 39 percent compared to 70 condemned homosexuality Widmer, Treas, and Newcomb North American culture is particularly restrictive in its attitudes about sex when it comes to women and sexuality.
In fact, there is a popular notion that men think about sex every seven seconds. Research, however, suggests that men think about sex an average of 19 times per day, compared to 10 times per day for women Fisher, Moore, and Pittenger Belief that men have—or have the right to—more sexual urges than women creates a double standard. Ira Reiss, a pioneer researcher in the field of sexual studies, defined the double standard as prohibiting premarital sexual intercourse for women but allowing it for men Reiss This standard has evolved into allowing women to engage in premarital sex only within committed love relationships, but allowing men to engage in sexual relationships with as many partners as they wish without condition Milhausen and Herold Due to this double standard, a woman is likely to have fewer sexual partners in her life time than a man.
Chapter 12. Gender, Sex, and Sexuality
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC survey, the average year-old woman has had three opposite-sex sexual partners while the average year-old man has had twice as many Centers for Disease Control In a study of 1, Canadians over the age of 18, men had had an average of Sociologists representing all three major theoretical perspectives study the role that sexuality plays in social life today. Scholars recognize that sexuality continues to be an important factor in social hierarchies and relations of power and that the manner in which sexuality is constructed has a significant effect on perceptions, interactions, health, and outcomes.
When it comes to sexuality, functionalists stress the importance of regulating sexual behaviour to ensure marital cohesion and family stability. Since functionalists identify the family unit as the most integral component in society, they maintain a strict focus on it at all times and argue in favour of social arrangements that promote and ensure family preservation.
Functionalists such as Talcott Parsons et al. Social norms surrounding family life have, traditionally, encouraged sexual activity within the family unit marriage and have discouraged activity outside of it premarital and extramarital sex. From a functionalist point of view, the purpose of encouraging sexual activity in the confines of marriage is to intensify the bond between spouses and to ensure that procreation occurs within a stable, legally recognized relationship.
This structure gives offspring the best possible chance for appropriate socialization and the provision of basic resources. From a functionalist standpoint, homosexuality cannot be promoted on a large-scale as an acceptable substitute for heterosexuality. If this occurred, procreation would eventually cease.
Thus, homosexuality, if occurring predominantly within the population, is dysfunctional to society. This criticism does not take into account the increasing legal acceptance of same-sex marriage, or the rise in gay and lesbian couples who choose to bear and raise children through a variety of available resources. It is of course not the case that homosexuals are unable to marry or procreate with members of the opposite sex as this has occurred throughout history.
From a critical perspective, sexuality is another area in which power differentials are present and where dominant groups actively work to promote their worldview as well as their economic interests.
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Homosexuality was criminalized in Canada in Throughout the s and s, homosexuals were even treated as national security risks and hundreds of gays and lesbians lost their civil service jobs or were purged from the military. Thousands were kept under surveillance Kinsman It was not until that the Criminal Code was amended to relax the laws against homosexuality. It was not until that same-sex couples were given the right to marry. Critical sociology asks why homosexuality, and other types of sexuality, have been the subject of persecution by the dominant sexual majority.
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