The study of sociology is instrumental in understanding of society and its attitudes across the world. In this course, I was most interested by the concept of gender stratification. The race for gender equality has been a long and arduous one, and indeed, one cannot say the race has been won. While many important strides have been made in championing for the equal treatment of men and women, studying this concept has enabled me to realize that it is deeply ingrained into societal conditioning. According to (Macionis 272), gender stratification is the result of distribution of power or wealth which is unequal between women and men.
It was interesting to be enlightened on the various facets involved that bring about this stratification. Gender inequalities should not be viewed only as a function of biological differences but also as a factor of social conditioning on what is appropriate behavior for males and females (Macionis 276). Some research studies have shown that in certain cultures, behaviors which are typically considered feminine are exhibited by men. An example is the Tchambuli people in New Guinea, where females were typically more aggressive and dominant than the men and the men were emotional and submissive (Macionis 273). This advanced the hypothesis that stratification is a result of societal attitudes and not a biological trait because then the Tchambuli males exhibited feminine attributes. This means that the men in this society behaved as they did due to the societal position on gender roles proving that ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ was a function of attitude and not biology.
The subject of gender is of a personal nature because as a woman I find myself bombarded with various ideals which I am expected to follow or conform myself to. As a twelve year old child I remember my father advising me to cultivate the culture of hard work, sacrifice and excellence. He told me that as a woman, I had to work three times as hard as a man to prove myself, not because I was not good enough, but because society did not appreciate and value women’s input as much as it did that of men. This has come out clearly where women are found to occupy positions which are considered feminine like clerical positions. In cases where women occupy top managerial positions, they are not paid as much as their male counterparts in similar position despite similar if not better performance (Macionis 277). When I was weighing options for my career path, I was constantly met by the school of thought that certain careers were male and not very suitable for women. I know a certain male friend who gave up his passion for cooking to pursue a career in engineering due to family pressure as they did not support his interest in a feminine career.
Women are also perceived as creatures or objects of beauty; this often creates a ‘beauty myth’ which is often detrimental to women. The society teaches women to value their relationships with males and to attract these men with beauty; this attitude does not encourage women to challenge male dominance (Macionis 278). This is a grave reality in our society today, there is a certain standard which is set to define beauty, with little regard to character attributes, the thin, gorgeous woman is the standard of beauty. In an effort to attain this ideal, women and girls often subject themselves to unhealthy diets resulting in eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa.
The subject of gender stratification is a complex and deep rooted one. Most global societies are patriarchal, where the male figure is dominant. Few societies however are matriarchal like the Musuo society in Southwestern China and such societies give women power and sexual independence (Macionis 274). This therefore demonstrates clearly that the definitions of roles in gender issues are result of conditioning in societal attitudes and not as a biological law as may have been asserted by certain schools of thought. Women have over the years made difficult strides to achieve gender equality; however to achieve full success will take a long time and will definitely involve changes in societal attitudes which is not an easy task. Meanwhile, women should continue to struggle to attain their rightful place in society and eliminate stereotypes.
Macionis John. (2011). Society: The Basics, Eleventh Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.