Gender Inequality

Gender is a form of inequality; assess the sociological arguments for and against the existence of such an inequality.

This essay will focus on inequalities found between men and women which are known as gender inequalities. Therefore it will explain the causes of inequality, in particular those found in areas of the family, education and the media. There are many different perspectives and theories as to why women and men are unequal. Feminists believe that males are dominant and that women are less important due to patriarchy, liberal feminists believe it is due to gender role socialisation.

In sociology gender refers to the socially defined differences between men’s masculinity and women’s femininity. Inequality means unequal rewards or opportunities for different individuals within a group or groups within society.

Liberal feminists such as Ann Oakley suggest that gender role socialisation is responsible for the inequality due to the fact that girls and boys are socialised in different ways through primary and secondary socialisation. It is suggested that there are three agents of socialisation, the family, the school and the media, all of which contribute to the influence.

‘There is evidence that children are gendered by their family from birth, this is primary socialisation. Studies comparing adult reactions to a baby dressed in blue and introduced as a boy and the same baby dressed in pink and introduced as a girl show very different reactions. The boy was described as big, strong and lively and the girl was described as sweet, beautiful, quiet and good.’ (AS-Level Sociology: 2008)

Ann Oakley’s (1974) research led her to identify four ways in which primary socialisation constructs gender:
• Manipulation ~ parents often encourage normal behaviour and interests for the child’s sex and discourage what is seen as abnormal. This manipulates the child’s self image and the child becomes interested in the normal behaviour. For example, girls are...