“As a process, gender creates the social differences that define “woman” and “man.” In social interaction throughout their lives, individuals learn what is expected, see what is expected, act and react in expected ways, and thus, simultaneously construct and maintain gender order.” (p. 66).
Judy Lorber discusses her views on the definition of “man” and “woman.” It is most evident in daily interactions and behavior codes because both men and women have to project their identity and behavior according to the pattern expected in society. According to Lorber, one can easily assess the behavior code to determine whether a project’s masculinity and femininity occurs purely based on the social norms for each gender. The fact that gender has established such rigid patterns of the expected male and female behavior serves to maintain gender.
This quote implies that gender is not an aspect imprinted on human DNA. On the contrary, “doing gender” is an aspect that human beings have learned. Society is responsible for defining a gender system that many people use in making assessments. However, the existing gender system has proved to be highly pervasive, giving many people the illusion that gender is an integral aspect of humankind. Society has created gender as a binding system that has been embedded in the cultures of different societies.
“When gender is a major component of structured inequality, the devalued genders have less power, prestige, and economic rewards than the valued genders. In countries that discourage gender discrimination, many major roles are still gendered; women still do most of the domestic labor and child rearing, even while doing full-time paid work; women and men are segregated on the job and each does work considered “appropriate; women’s work is usually paid less than men’s work” (p. 66).
Lorber related the case of the developed world’s efforts towards realizing equality to illustrate to the reader that despite the concerted efforts of bridging the gap between men and women, little success has been achieved. There is a remarkable gap between the treatment of men and women in the society mainly because of the fact that society has always viewed gender as a separation. Similarity in society is considered as a taboo, explaining why the society has remained reluctant to adopt gender equality. The gender system is responsible for the sense of inferiority among women today. Feminists accuse the gender system as a major setback in achieving equality. Although it is evident that society will always have some form of classification, they argue against the binary classification. Most of the feminists argue against the hierarchy of gender roles. This hierarchy explains why men and women receive different treatment in the society. This hierarchy results to the inferiority in women hindering them from advancing to attain a similar status as men. This is the reason the author has the conviction that the bridging of the gap between men and women still proves to be difficult to achieve.
“The crucial thing to understand about patriarchy or any other kind of social system is that it’s something people participate in. It’s an arrangement of shared understandings and relationships that connect people to one another and something larger than themselves” (p. 72).
This quote seeks to describe patriarchy in the society, persuading the readers to abandon the incomplete perceptions of many people. One of the flawed understandings of patriarchy is that women were inferior and had to exhibit subjection to their men. The majority of the people have defined patriarchy using the players, instead of as a system. Men have often received the blame for promoting patriarchal attitudes that have denied women a rightful place in the society. However, Johnson highlights that this blame is unwarranted because both men and women are only players in a system of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a rigid system that is more powerful than the players. The rigidity of the system allows the players a little space to determine what happens. The current players of the system may not persist in the future, but the rules of the system persist. The system of patriarchy is integrated into different cultures, and determines the gender roles in the society.
“And yet they participate in a system that produces these cruel results anyway, not because of personalities or malice toward workers, but because a capitalist system make this a path of least resistance and exacts real costs from those who stray from it” (p. 73).
This quote serves to highlight those players who promote patriarchal attitudes that prove to be highly cruel and malicious do so in fear of the consequences of non-compliance with the system. The author of this article reveals that capitalism contributed to the development of the patriarchal system (p. 73). The emergence of capitalism brought about the institutionalization that resulted in hierarchical division of labor. Initially, men only assumed the roles of supervisors of work. In time, the ideology of free markets under capitalism emerged. This came along with the notion that equality was a possibility in the market while in the production means, a hierarchical division of labor would ensure that production was efficient. In the production sector, men assumed the leading role while the women took the lower jobs in accordance with the hierarchical version of division of labor. This implied that women would receive lower wages compared to men because they performed the lower-level jobs. On the other hand, men received higher wages because they performed the leading roles. This system has persisted and penetrated into every part of society. Therefore, this explains why the promoters of patriarchy act with cruelty and malice.
The man and the woman often have different roles in a marriage. The recent years have seen multiple changes to the definition of marriage in a bid to convert a stringent societal institution to offer liberation at some point (p. 318). I support the marriage institution, although I realize that people who venture into this institution should understand what it entails. With many distortions of the marriage definition emerging from many people in the society, there is an increasing insecurity of the stability of modern marriages. Apparently, many people have been living in disillusionment because they think that marriage is a source of liberation from the stringent societal systems. However, the reality remains that marriage has its limitations, and does not promote equality in the case. The people getting into a marriage have to realize that there are different roles for each individual in the binding commitment.
The modern society has seen a sudden increase in the number of divorce cases, and it is estimated that out of ten couples who get married, seven of them are likely to divorce. The changes in the forms of life, such as the fight for gender equality have seen most women not being able to tolerate the demanding institution of marriage. Moreover, people have demystified the sacredness of the long-term relationship, since many view it as a construct of convenience, rather than a morally and legally binding union that must be protected. It goes without saying that most couples go into marriage with exceptional expectations, which apparently are never fulfilled in marriage. For instance, many hope to get the ultimate fulfillment and comfort in their new found partner, but individual differences brought about by disparities in rearing, life experiences, and inherent attributes suddenly dawn and couple s realize that it would be hard to cope with a person of such diverse characteristics. It is a projection that if the society continues to embrace the new styles of living, forgetting the mutuality of institution of marriage, instances of divorce will continue being on the increase.
“The percentage of marriages that end within ten years varies by age at first marriage. More than 40 percent of women who marry in either teens divorce within ten years compared to 24 percent of women who marry over the age of twenty” (p. 333).
This quote brings out one of the critical statistics regarding the increasing divorce rates in the society today. It becomes apparent that women who venture into marriage at a tender age are likely to divorce compared to those who wait until twenty-five years. Marriage in the teen years is likely to result in divorce within the first ten years. Apparently, such teenagers lack the level of maturity needed to make informed choices of their partners. Women who get married after their mid-twenties are likely to have sound reasoning when choosing partners. As a result, their marriages last.
The IWPR/Rockfeller survey shows that more than one and half years after the recession came to an official end, and the recovery supposedly began, many women and men report that they are still suffering significant hardships. They are having difficulty paying for basics like food (26 million women and 15 million men), health care (46 million women and 34 million men), rent or mortgage (32 million women and 25 million men), transportation (37 million women and 28 million men), utility bills (41 million women and 27 million men) and they have difficulty saving for the future (65 million women and 53 million men). On almost every measure of insecurity and hardship, the survey reveals the Great Recession has visited more hardship on women than it has on men (p. 358).
This quote describes the disparity of the extent of the hardships caused by the great recession. It appears that a remarkably high number of women had to face the devastating effects caused by the dwindling of the economy during the great recession. These statistics serve to emphasize the depth vulnerability of women in the society. Women face both detrimental effects of the stringent gender system as well as the effects of financial decline as outlined in this quote. This places emphasis on the need to empower women in the society.
Riley describes the perception of both white and black women towards their bodies and weight. As Riley describes, white women have always had the obsession of being thin and having as little fat on their bodies as possible. White women have associated thin bodies with beauty. White girls will do anything in their power to maintain a thin body, regardless of the effort. The curvy black beauty is what many black women have learned to flaunt. Apparently, having fat on one’s body has been associated with black women. A close relationship is established between weight and sexuality. The negative connotation of weight has compelled some black women to rely on unhealthy ways of losing weight. Those unable to lose weight have established a disconnection between themselves and their bodies, a factor that has negatively affected their self-esteem. The issue of weight has been used to promote racism, with white girls ridiculing the fact that black women have accepted their bodies. The attitudes made by many whites concerning weight only serves to highlight how “different” black women are, an attitude that promotes racial differences.
“I was so proud. I went around telling everyone about the survey results. I could not believe it’ Black women being praised on national television. There they were telling the whole country that their black men loved the” extra meat on their bones”. Unfortunately, my pride also had a twinge of envy, in my own experience, I couldn’t quite identify with either the black women or the white women” (p. 228).
This quote reveals the mixed feelings exhibited by the author of the essay because she did not seem to fit into any of the categories highlighted on national television. Although she was proud that black beauty was receiving some form of recognition, she was jealous of them because she had the fat that was highly diminished in the society. This quote also highlights the fact that the preference of men affects the self-perception of women.
“Womanhood was full of mysteries. I was as ignorant about my own body as any female ancestor who hid behind a sheet with a hole in the center when the husband or doctor called. Religion and our culture, our culture and religion, helped to create that blur, a vagueness about what went on “down there“. So ashamed was I about my own “down there” that until I was an adult I had no idea I had another orifice called the vagina; I thought my period would arrive via the urethra or perhaps through the walls of my skin” (p. 180).
This quote highlights the effects of stringent cultural beliefs on women’s awareness of their sexuality. I agree with the views of the author because many societies have denied women the opportunity of discovering their bodies and appreciating feminine biological processes. The author was unaware of her body for a long time when she was growing up. Since it was morally wrong for her to peer into her physique, she grew up in utter ignorance. She lacked prior knowledge on womanhood, and faced life blindly. Apparently, she approached puberty with such vagueness, and grew up to become an adult without taking time to understand her body and taking a firm stand on issues related to sex. This scenario depicts the situation of many Latino girls, who grow up in ignorance because the restrictive culture offers little preparation to womanhood. Girls in the Latino society usually lacked any realistic ideologies about the real value of womanhood. This explains why there are girls in the said society who experience teenage pregnancy.
“Obviously, men make up the overwhelming majority of sexual predators. But that does not mean that all men are necessarily sexual predators. It is important for us to keep in mind that the men-as-predator stereotype is exactly that-a stereotype- and it creates obstacles that all men must navigate, whether they are predators or not. This is especially true for men who are additionally marginalized with regard to race and class” (p. 178)
I agree with this quote because some innocent men in the society have suffered the consequences of the stereotype that “all men are predators.” Although it is true that men perpetrate the majority of sexual abuse cases, some men do not exhibit such predatory habits. Women have firmly held onto the perception that men have predatory motives, a factor that has led to the misinterpretation of the intentions of some good men in the society. This stereotype has presented men with an additional responsibility of proving that they do not exhibit such predatory attitudes. The fact that the stereotype has been proven true in a great population of men only serves to make the society hold it as a true attribute of men. With the current conviction of the society, it will take some time for men to clear themselves of the salient blame. The stereotype has had immense effects on the men who face racial and class discrimination. In the American context, the minority groups and especially black men have been compelled to take the blame of sexual violence because of this stereotype. A black man is usually considered the first suspect in cases of sexual violence because of the complexity of the men-as-predator stereotype, class, and race interaction.
Kirk, G., & Rey, M. (2013). Women’s lives: Multicultural perspectives. New York: McGraw Hill.