Gender is still an issue in society. Though, many parts of the world made great strides in reducing gender discrimination, a casual glance across the globe quickly reveals that the scourges of gender intolerance are far from having been eliminated. Despite intense and almost desperate efforts to eliminate ethnic intolerance and discrimination, they appear to be every bit as bad at the close of the 20th century as at the beginning of the century.
“We do not cut our own deal by ourselves, in gender–neutral institutions and arenas. The social institutions of our world–workplace, family, school, and politics–are also gendered institutions, sites where the dominant definitions are reinforced and reproduced, and where “deviants” are disciplined. We become gendered selves in a gendered society” (Kimmel, 2004, p16).
We live in a society where as ‘gender’ we entail that the organizations of our society have developed in ways that reproduce both the differences between women and men and the control of men over women. Institutionally, we can see how the constitution of the workplace is organized around representing and reproducing masculinity: The temporal and spatial organization of work both depend upon the severance of spheres.
However, a primary reason for our seeming incapability to eliminate the plagues of gender, ethnic, and class discrimination is the fact that we have not appropriately understood the etiology and functions of this phenomenon. Social dominance theorists suggest that these forms of social oppression, somewhat than being just products of “improper socialization,” simple ignorance, or the exigencies of capitalism, are mainly the result of inherent features of human and primate social organization.
“Yet to the point to which they refuse to give up their femininity, they are seen as different, and thus gender discrimination is justifiable as the sorting of different people into different Slots” (Catharine MacKinnon, 1989, pp. 218-19).
Women who succeed are punished for throwing out their femininity–rejected as potential partners, labeled as “dykes,” left off the enticement lists. The first women who entered the military, or military colleges, or even Princeton and Yale when they became coeducational in the late 1960s, were seen as being “less” feminine, as being abortive as women. Yet had they been more “successful” as women, they would have been seen as less capable soldiers or students (Michael Kimmel, Diane Diamond, and Kirby Schroeder, 1999). .
I believe that one of the major reasons why humans have made so little advancement in eliminating gender discrimination is that we do not yet adequately understand the dynamics of these phenomena. One instance of this lack of under- standing is the popularity of the double danger hypothesis, which holds that Black women, for instance, will be more discriminated against than Black males.
Thus gender inequality creates a double bind for women–a double bind that is based on the postulation of gender difference and the assumption of institutional gender neutrality.
Catharine MacKinnon, Towards a Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 218-19.
Michael Kimmel, Diane Diamond, and Kirby Schroeder, “‘What’s This about a Few Good Men?’ Negotiating Sameness and Difference in Military Education from the 1970s to the Present,” in Masculinities and Education, N. Lesko, ed. (Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications, 1999).
Michael S. Kimmel, The Gendered Society, Oxford University Press, 2000
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