Sociology of gender is a vital component of sociology as gender plays a major role in sociology. Gender refers to a range or rather a combination of characteristics that work towards distinguishing between female and male. It is very complex as it is made up of countless characteristics of speech, appearance, movement among other factors. The word sex can also be used instead of gender to denote the condition of being female or male. Other organizations define gender as behaviors, roles, activities and attributes that have been socially developed or constructed within a particular society in which it is believed that they are appropriate for women and men.
It is worth noting that events over the past decade have influenced gender roles. It follows that the sociology of gender is a central feature of discipline within a society. Gender shaper lives, behavior and attitudes (Amy, 2005).
Basic concepts of sociology
Status is one of the concepts of sociology which means a position that a person occupies and relates to how he or she will be treated or defined simply because of that very position. Status is attained through achievement, own efforts, ascription and even being born into them. Simultaneous occupation of statuses is referred to as a status set. Ascribed statuses include gender, race and social class. The society usually categorizes people by status and then ranks them in fashion thus creating a system of social stratification. A role is behavior that is closely associated with a respective status. They are performed in relation to social norms which are rules that seek to guide the behavior in specific circumstances. It follows that males and females, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters are all examples of statuses with different requirements of normative roles.
Concepts for Sociology of Gender
Statuses and roles are meant to organize people’s lives in predictable and consistent ways. They also function to prescribe behavior and ease interaction amongst people with different social statuses. Rigid definition of normative role behavior leads to compromised freedom of action. This situation results into development of stereotypes. Stereotypes can include both positive and negative, although the negative one are used to bring out discrimination within a society. The statuses that male and female have are usually stereotyped basing on the traits which they possess. Their traits have a huge bearing in their biological make up for instance women are stereotyped as unreliable simply because of their unpredictable emotional outbursts. These outbursts are due to uncontrollable hormones in their system. A possible result of stereotyping is sexism which is the belief that females are always inferior to the males in terms of status. Sexism is enhanced by systems of patriarchy which are male dominated social structures that definitely lead to oppression of the female gender. Patriarchy in turn exhibits androcentrism.
According to Janet (2006), there is a difference between sex and gender. Sex relates to biological characteristics that distinguish between a male and a female. The definition is derived from the difference in chromosomes, anatomy, hormones, the reproductive systems among other physiological factors. On the other hand, gender is defined from a social context. Sex is about male and female while gender is about masculine and feminine. While sex is an ascribed status, gender is an achieved status since it ought to be learnt.
Sociological Perspectives on Gender Roles
Research has shown that in comparison, women are segregated in lower paying jobs thus leading to fewer opportunities for professional advancement and growth. It is also true that in different cultures, the domestic work performed by a woman is considered of low value as compared to that performed by men.
According to Joseph (2005), functionalism is a macro sociological perspective that assumes that the society in general is made up of interdependent parts that contribute to the functioning of the entire society. In the preindustrial society, social equilibrium was achieved by assigning different roles like hunting and gathering to men and women. The issue of role specialization became a functional necessity. In the contemporary society, similar principles still apply for instance in the various families. A husband may take an instrumental role and is expected to provide food and shelter and link the family to the outside world, on the other hand when the wife takes the expressive role, she is expected to offer emotional support in addition to home making.
This theory has significantly reshaped discipline over time in addition to bridging the micro-macro gap. This theory is compatible wit h the conflict theory in relation to its assertions that structured social inequality is normally maintained by ideologies which are frequently accepted by the oppressed and less privileged in the society. It’s worth noting that feminists focus on women and thus their ability to acquire resources. The feminist perspective greatly contributes to the situation of multiple oppressions that are faced by people with disadvantaged statuses. The understanding of the link between multiple oppressions is necessary in the determination of how women are alike and different. When poverty is feminized it reflects how women are at higher risk of being poor as compared to men. This will defiantly ignore the link among race, social class and marital status. Other sites of oppression that put people at risk include religion, sex orientation, age and disability.
Sharmila (2003) stipulates that in the 1960’s and 70’s, it was discovered that the traditional patriarchal family was the source of oppression to the woman. The woman in a single parent family faces difficulty in finding a job which is necessary to support her family while on the other hand lesbians find it hard to work within a system that represses same sex relationships.
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Feminists try to end sexism by empowering women. Feminism comes with a number of branches including, liberal feminism, cultural feminism, socialist feminism and radical feminism. Women who are drawn into feminism by environmental activism are catalysts of ecofeminism. This aspect connects oppression and degradation related to women with the degradation of the ecosystem
Feminism with the media
Basically feminism is a movement to end the oppression of women. Various perceptions and experiences of women are used to come up with ways of overcoming oppression. As much as women agree that feminism has altered their lives, they still refuse to identify themselves with feminism. The media has highlighted the disagreement among feminists, depicted them as man-hating, puritanical, controlling men in their homes and taking advantage over men at work places (Sharmila, 2003). While racist comments are unacceptable in the media and entertainment industry, sexism comments are acceptable. An assertive girl is usually silenced and then accused of being feminists. At the same time the boys who support the assertive girls fear being labeled in such a way that it will raise questions about their masculinity.
Gender is considered as one of the most important trends in the twentieth century since it has led to a new feminist model and also opened up new areas for research. One of the topics therefore is the link between gender, race and social class. In other words all aspects of social relations are gendered and thus guided by the positions which people occupy, status, behavior and roles that are related to the respective statuses. It follows that sexism and discrimination will come up when the roles and status of female and male parties are stereotyped. It also worth noting that while sex is the biological constituent of female and male, gender is the psychological constituent of masculinity and femininity.
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