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8: Gender and Gender Inequality

Much progress has occured the past four decades in gender equality. Women have entered medicine, engineering, and other professions and careers in unprecedented numbers, no doubt dismaying the biology professor who thought them best suited as wives and mothers. Many men have begun to realize that “real men” do not necessarily have to enjoy fighting and other traditionally male behaviors and attitudes. Our society now has an awareness of rape and other violence against women that would astonish students of the 1970s. Still, gender roles and gender inequality persist and violence against women continues, with important consequences for both women and men and for society as a whole. To begin our discussion of gender and gender inequality, this chapter begins with a critical look at the concepts of sex and gender.

  • 8.0: Prelude to Gender and Gender Inequality
    It was the early 1970s. Susan (a pseudonym), a sophomore college student, wanted to become a physician, so she went to talk to her biology professor about the pre-med program at her school. The professor belittled her interest in medicine and refused to discuss the program. Women, he advised her, should just become wives and mothers and leave the doctoring to men.
  • 8.1: Feminism and Sexism
    Feminism and sexism are generally two sides of the same coin. Feminism refers to the belief that women and men should have equal opportunities in economic, political, and social life, while sexism refers to a belief in traditional gender role stereotypes and in the inherent inequality between men and women. Sexism thus parallels the concept of racial and ethnic prejudice. Both women and people of color are said, for biological and/or cultural reasons, to lack certain qualities for success.
  • 8.1: Understanding Sex and Gender
    Although the terms sex and gender are sometimes used interchangeably and do in fact complement each other, they nonetheless refer to different aspects of what it means to be a woman or man in any society.
  • 8.3: Gender Inequality
    We have said that the women’s movement changed American life in many ways but that gender inequality persists. Let’s look at examples of such inequality, much of it taking the form of institutional discrimination, which can occur even if it is not intended to happen. We start with gender inequality in income and the workplace and then move on to a few other spheres of life.
  • 8.4: Violence Against Women: Rape and Pornography
    Women are far more likely than men to be raped and sexually assaulted. They are also much more likely to be portrayed as victims of pornographic violence on the Internet and in videos, magazines, and other outlets. Finally, women are more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence, or violence between spouses and others with intimate relationships. The gendered nature of these acts against women distinguishes them from the violence men suffer.
  • 8.5: The Benefits and Costs of Being Male
    Most of the discussion so far has been about women, and with good reason: in a sexist society such as our own, women are the subordinate, unequal sex. But “gender” means more than “female,” and a few comments about men are in order.
  • 8.S: Gender and Gender Inequality (Summary)