- Sex is a concept that refers to biological differences between females and males, while gender is a concept that refers to a society’s expectations of how females and males should think and behave.
- In understanding gender differences, scholars continue to debate the value of biological explanations. Biological explanations are provocative but ultimately imply that gender differences are inevitable and that the status quo must be maintained. In contrast, cultural and socialization explanations imply some hope for changing gender roles and for reducing gender inequality.
- Many studies emphasize that socialization leads children in the United States to adopt the gender roles associated with femininity and masculinity. Parents view and interact with their daughters and sons differently, and children continue to learn their gender roles from their peers, schools, the mass media, and religion.
- Feminism refers to the belief that women should be equal to men. With feminism defined in this way, many more people hold feminist beliefs than might be willing to admit to it.
- Gender inequality in the workplace is manifested through the gender gap in earnings and through sexual harassment. Women earn only about 80 percent of what men earn. Several reasons account for this gap, including sex segregation in the workplace, women’s caring roles, the devaluing of women’s work, and outright sex discrimination by employers. Sexual harassment against women is quite common and stems from cultural beliefs about women’s and men’s roles and structural differences in the workplace in power between women and men.
- Women of color experience a triple burden based on their gender, race/ethnicity, and social class. Even though white women earn less money and are poorer than white men, women of color earn less money and are poorer than white women.
- Violence against women is another manifestation of gender inequality. Research shows that up to one-third of US women will be raped or sexually assaulted and that about 70–80 percent of their assailants will be men they know.
- In a patriarchal society men enjoy privileges just for being male, whether or not they recognize these privileges. At the same time, men also experience disadvantages, including violent behavior and victimization and higher rates of certain emotional problems than those experienced by women.
Using What You Know
A friend of yours is working twenty hours per week in a local restaurant during the academic year to earn money for her tuition. She tells you that her manager has pressured her to go out on a date with him and has hinted she could be fired if she refuses. Your friend likes working there otherwise and makes good tips, but she is now dreading having to go to work. With the tight job market, she fears not being able to find other work if she quits, and she’s afraid of being fired or not believed if she complains to state authorities. She asks you what she should do. What do you tell her?
What You Can Do
To help reduce gender inequality, you may wish to do any of the following:
- Contribute money to a local, state, or national organization that provides treatment to adolescent girls with drug, alcohol, or other problems.
- Volunteer at a rape crisis center or for a rape hotline.
- Start or join a group on your campus that focuses on gender issues.
- Start or join a group on your campus or in the local community that focuses on getting middle-school girls more interested in math and the sciences.