Ch. 10 Inequalities of Gender and Age


Ch. 10

Inequalities of

Gender and


Sex and Gender Identity

Sex – classification of people as male or female based on biological characteristics

Biological Determinism – principle that behavioral differences are the result of inherited physical characteristics

This lacks scientific proof

What few tendencies that are biological are easily overruled by society and culture

Gender Identity – a sense of being male or female based on learned cultural values

Biology, culture, and behavior

Research indicates that the brains of men and women are slightly different

The majority of sociologists argue that gender-related behavior is not primarily the result of biology

Margaret Mead’s research (1950) on

New Guinean peoples

The Arapesh – Men and women were raised to be cooperative, unaggressive, and empathetic. Traditional concept of the female gender role

Mundugumor – Men and women were raised to be aggressive, ruthless, and unresponsive to the needs of others

Tchambuli – gender roles were opposite of those in Western culture

Theoretical Perspectives on Gender

Functionalism and


Any pattern of behavior that does not benefit society will become unimportant

Therefore the division of responsibilities b/w male and female benefited human living

Theoretical Perspectives on Gender

Conflict Theory and Gender

It is to the advantage of men to prevent women from gaining access to political, economic, and social resources

“Gender Apartheid” in Afghanistan

Conflict theorists see traditional gender roles as outdated

Women who prefer careers in fields formerly reserved for men have every right to make that choice, whether or not it is “functional” for society

Theoretical Perspectives on Gender

Symbolic Interactionism and


Focuses on how boy and girls learn to act the way they are

“supposed to act”

Gender socialization – the social process of learning how to act as a boy or girl

The effect of the media is very powerful

Parents are vitally important in gender socialization

Blue or pink clothes

Trucks vs. dolls

Mowing the grass vs. doing the dishes

Theoretical Perspectives on Gender

Schools also aid gender socialization

Teachers encourage different behaviors

Clothing styles, school functions, after-school activities

Peers contribution to gender socialization

Kids who most closely resemble the traditional roles are typically given the most respect

Football players, cheerleaders

Feminine boys and masculine girls are typically assigned low status

Gender Inequality

Sexism – a set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, and values used to justify sexual inequality

Occupational and Economic inequality

In 1999 65% of women worked outside the home compared to

77% of men

Occupational sex segregation – the concentration of women in lower-status positions

Ex. – only about 11% of engineer positions are held by women, and about

29% of attorney jobs

When women are in high-status occupational groups, they are concentrated in lower-prestige, lower-paid jobs

In 1999 women who worked full-time earned only 72 cents for every dollar earned by men

In virtually every occupational category, men’s earning power is greater than women’s

Compared globally U.S. women are closer to the bottom of the equality list than the top

Legal and political Inequality

Women are participating in elective politics at an increasing rate

1988, Geraldine Ferraro became the 1 st female vicepresidential candidate in the history of the U.S.

1996, Madeleine Albright was named the first female

Secretary of State

Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed the 1 st female

Supreme Court Justice in 1981 by Pres. Reagan

Age stratification – the unequal distribution of scarce resources based on age

Ageism – a set of beliefs, attitudes, norm, and values used to justify age-based prejudice and discrimination

Functionalism and Ageism

Elderly people in a given society are treated according to the role the aged play in that society

In many cultures the elderly are treated with great respect and honor

Attitudes about aging changed greatly as industrialization changed the nature of work



Conflict Theory and Ageism

Competition over scarce resources is the heart of ageism for the conflict perspective

Symbolic Interactionism and


Children learn negative images of older people just as they learn other aspects of culture, through socialization

Stereotypes of the elderly

Senile, forgetful, or “daft”


Incapable of learning new things

Inequality in America’s Elderly


Sociologists believe that elderly should be viewed as a minority group

Economics of the Elderly

The Federal Government assumes that elderly need less money to live

About 16% of those over the age of 65 are poor

Most elderly in America do not have sources of income beyond

Social Security

Poverty rates for minority elderly are high than that of white elderly

Political Power and the Elderly

Voting turn out increase w/ age in the U.S.

Interest groups – a group organized to influence political decision making