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Essay: Gender is created from institutional structures which allow inequality to exist

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  • Subject area(s): Sociology essays
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  • Published: 15 September 2013*
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  • Words: 1,046 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 5 (approx)

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Society’s view of gender is created from institutional structures, that are impervious to change. These structures produce social normalities that allow gender inequality to persist in society. Hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy are sociological concepts that influence society’s view of gender, creating the standards of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ characteristics. Gender socialisation is a process that passes on these ideologies to the new generation, creating a constant cycle of gender inequality. The difference in labour, economic income and hierarchy between gender are the consequences of these discriminating concepts. The constant representation of hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy determines gender as a basis for inequality in contemporary society.
Society consists of culturally defined concepts that create gender inequality today. The Conflict Theory communicates gender inequality as a form of social order where men dominate women. Conflict theorists believe that gender inequality resonated from men wanting to maintain privilege and power in society.  Gender theorist, R.W. Connell describes hegemonic masculinity as ‘culturally exalted’; “it’s is … the configuration of gender practice which embodies the problem of patriarchy, which guarantees … the dominant position of men and the subordination of women” (Connell, 2007, p. 7). Gender order refers to influential structures that produce a reality that one gender can dominate another – politically, socially and economically. An example of this reality is the, economic and social advantages men gain over women, known as ‘patriarchal dividend’. The constant cycle of gender inequality is produced from men and women dramatically recreating relationships that mimic patterns of past power relations. This is a result of gender socialisation. For instance, sociologist Mike Donaldson and Scott Poynting (2009) interview some of the most powerful and richest Australian men, who describe their socialisation processes during childhood and schooling as the construction of hegemonic masculinity. Where manliness is presented as powerful, brutal and unemotional – limits the value to be caring and nurturing because it is seen as feminine. This illustrates how class and gender is reproduced via family and educational institutions, which are impervious to change. Thus, determining gender as a basis for inequality in contemporary society.
Gender is socially constructed throughout the years of life via gender socialisation, which influences sexual identity. This social structure forms, masculine and feminine stereotypes, creating the basis of gender inequality in society. It is known that families, educational institutions and mass media have a major influence in determining gender and what is socially accepted in society. Within society, gender socialisation is a process that starts from an early age and continues into adulthood via primary, secondary and tertiary environments. Family is the primary site of socialisation which has the most influence over individuals growing up. Most families have standards and opinions in which they enforce on their children. For example, girls wear pink and play with dolls, whereas boys wear blue and play with toy cars. Parents tend to treat boys harsher than girls, to influence masculinity – boys need to be strong, tough and fearless. Consequently, the enforcement of these stereotypes creates the concepts of hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy, allowing for gender inequality in society. Educational institutions often segregate and stereotype gender. For example, some schools enforce specific uniforms for girls wearing skirts or dresses and boys shorts or pants. Although, this could be seen as unconventional because during the winter season these uniforms for girls are not warm enough. Thus, this conveys how educational institutions are influenced by social normalities, therefore enforcing specific uniforms for girls and boys to fit masculine and feminine identities. Also, the media is a territory site of socialisation, that creates masculine and feminine characteristics. For example, the media attempts to promote hegemonic ideologies of masculinity, such as toughness and power, to endorse the myths of male ability. For example, the advertising commercial for H&M in 2012 featuring the English footballer David Beckham was portrayed as muscular, athletic and powerful in appearance-the embodiment of hegemonic masculinity. Additionally; he is white, famous, wealthy, and married to a universally known pop star confirming his heterosexuality. Thus, the media creates these stereotypes in society, which people assume to be reality. Therefore, men without these appearances and abilities may be seen as less masculine. Hence, this repetitive process of discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping within the sites of socialisation determines gender as a basis of inequality in modern society.
Gender manages to persist as a basis or principle for inequality in the workforce. The ‘patriarchal dividend’ influences the modern gender order, where women remain subordinate to men in the workplace. In relation to the gender division of labour, men economically receive the bulk of income and occupy most of the managerial positions. Whereas, women undertake more domestic labour than men, whilst occupying a full time job. Australia’s gender pay gap in 2018 is currently 15.3%,  therefore women earn on average $253.70 per week less than men. Also, in 2015 Conrad Liveris an Australia’s employment and workplace expert collected data on CEOs and board members of Australia’s largest 200 companies. He said, “To be a captain of Australian business, you are 40% more likely to be named Peter or John than to be female”. Men aged 40-69 years, are 8.4 per cent of the population who represent the majority of leadership positions. Women in those leadership positions fell in 2017. There are 9 women CEOs and 10 chairing boards in the ASX 200. This enormous gap in workplace diversity between men and women, portrays how men uphold the majority of managerial positions. These statistics show characteristics of patriarchy in the workplace, in which men have primary power over women due to their level of employment. Additionally, hegemonic masculinity is portrayed from men needing dominant social and economic power over women. Thus, the ongoing difference in labour, economic income and hierarchy in the workforce, determines gender as a basis of inequality in society.
In sum, the portrayal of hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy allows gender to be a basis for inequality in society. These sociological concepts influence social normalities, which creates the standards of masculine and feminine characteristics. Gender socialisation is a process that passes on these ideologies to the new generation, creating a constant cycle of gender inequality. The difference in labour, economic income and hierarchy between gender are the repercussions of these discriminating concepts. Therefore, the constant representation of hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy determines gender as a basis for inequality in contemporary society

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