Sample Sociology Paper on Feminism and Gender-Conflict Theory

Abstract

The gender-conflict theory is important as far as changing today’s societal perception of gender equality is concerned. Also known as feminist theory, it has helped to address the challenges related to gender inequality that faced women in society. This paper explores founders of the theory, its major ideologies, and importance.

 

Feminism and Gender-Conflict Theory

Introduction

The gender-conflict theory is one important social-conflict, and it is defined as the study of society focusing on existing conflict and inequality between women and men. The gender-conflict approach is closely associated to the concept of feminism (feminist theory) that strongly advocates for social equality for both men and women. The approach is considered to be important to society as people are made aware of the several ways in which their ways of life tend to place men in positions of control and power over women. The development of the gender conflict approach several years ago was triggered by various reasons or factors. One of the reasons behind the development of the gender conflict approach was existence of gender stratification in society. Gender stratification refers to inequality in the distribution of power, wealth, privilege, and occupational prestige between genders. A typical example of gender stratification is whereby single-parent families headed by women are more likely to be poor as compared to those headed by men. Another reason for the development of the gender conflict approach was the fact that women are seemingly more sensitive when it comes to non-verbal communication thus different techniques are required to have them studied from a sociological perspective. The approach was also developed due to the fact that gender usually creates double standards from a social view point in situations such as calling a particular couple a “man and wife.” Moreover, the approach’s development can be attributed to the aspect of gender blindness that was common in studies with subjects having certain reactions towards the researcher’s gender.

Founders of Gender-Conflict Theory

One of the founders of the gender-conflict approach that was closely linked to feminism was Harriet Martineau. Born in June 1802, Martineau is cited as one of the first female pioneers of sociology (Labovitz, 2011). She is remembered for writing several books and essays mainly from a female perspective, which made her controversial at the time. Another milestone in her career was her translation of Auguste Comte’s works and later earning enough to support her writing career, which was considered an impossibility for women in the Victorian era. She firmly believed that it is important for one to focus on every aspect of society when studying it with some of these aspects including religious, social, and political institutions. She also believed that to understand the status of women under men, it was important to conduct a thorough analysis of society. Unlike other males or females of her generation, Martineau was less distinctively impacted by her sex. Throughout her career, Martineau campaigned for equality between men and women (Labovitz, 2011), what is referred to as feminism. She is also a renowned advocate for female education and a strong challenger of the woman’s typical role at the time.

Another founder of the gender-conflict approach was Jane Addams. Born in September 1860, Addams had several careers including being a public administrator, social worker, reformer, sociologist, author, and settlement activist. She was one of the most prominent reformers of the Progressive Era; a time when presidents such as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt also identified themselves as social activists and reformers. One of her achievements from a feminism perspective was her assistance to America in addressing and focusing on matters of concern to women some of which included local public health, needs of children, and global peace (Fischer, 2011). She wrote an essay “Utilization of Women in City Government” in which she highlighted the connection between the household and government undertakings. She stated that a good number of government departments such as schooling of children and sanitation were as a result of the traditional role played by women in the private sphere. According to Addams, women were more knowledgeable than men in matters sanitation and schooling of children hence they needed to participate in elections by voting to voice their views or opinions. Addams argued that allowing women to vote was important if they were to have a responsibility for cleaning their communities and making them better places for people to live. She was a role model for middle-class women who were willingly involved in uplifting their communities. Another major achievement of Jane Addams being one of the founders of the gender-conflict approach was that she helped to establish the Hull House that provided services and assistance to poor and laboring immigrants, particularly women.

Gender Conflict Theory/Feminist Theory Ideologies

There are four major ideologies of feminist theory that explain societal differences that exist between men and women. One of the ideologies is gender differences, which examines how the location of women in social situations are different from that of men. Gender difference can be best explained by the differences in the roles often assigned to men and women within societal institutions. Another ideology explaining societal differences between men and women is gender inequality. This ideology notes that the location of women in social situations and how they experience these situations not only differ but are also unequal to men’s location in and experience of the same social situations. In this regard, liberal feminists opine that women have a similar capacity to that of men when it comes to moral reasoning. However, in light of the opinion of liberal feminists, patriarchy has for a long time denied women a chance to not only express but practice moral reasoning. The third ideology that explains existing societal differences between men and women is gender oppression. This ideology argues that not only are women different from or unequal to men, they are also oppressed and sometimes abuse by men and society at large. Two major theories that explain gender oppression are radical feminism and psychoanalytical feminism. Radical feminists argue that sexism is rooted in society and its only cure is complete elimination of the gender concept. Eliminating the concept of gender can be achieved through promotion of equality between men and women and allowing babies to grow outside women’s bodies. Psychoanalytic feminism, in its explanation of gender oppression, contends that men’s psychological need to subjugate women is inherent. That men find it right to dominate women and women’s resistance of the same lies within the human psyche. The fourth ideology that make an attempt to explain societal differences that exist between men and women is structural oppression. This ideology asserts that the inequality between men and women and the oppression of women are due to elements such as patriarchy, capitalism, and racism.

Importance of Gender-Conflict Theory/Feminist Theory

As mentioned earlier, the gender-conflict theory mainly focuses and seeks to address inequality and conflict existing between men and women in society. The concept of feminism, which arises from the gender-conflict approach, emphasizes social equality for men and women. The gender-conflict theory is important as it enhances people’s awareness of the several ways in which their ways of life tends to place men in positions of power and control over women thus triggering efforts to change these ways of life. For instance, in home settings, men are often believed or considered to be household heads. At the workplace, men earn higher incomes and hold more positions of power and control as compared to women. In the media context, there are more men than women who are involved in music, films, sport, and other areas. As a result of the enhanced awareness, in today’s society, gender as a social category is no longer identified as a fundamental constituent of social identity as was the case during the last two decades (Fritsche & Jonas, 2005). The enhanced awareness of the many ways in which people’s way of life places men in power and control positions over women has also led to widespread development of pro-women attitudes in society today. Pro-women attitudes in today’s society entail increased demands for equality between men and women going against the recent past distribution that favored men. Feminist movements have also been on the rise arguing against the widespread assumption that male have higher abilities than women in the professional sector (Fritsche & Jonas, 2005). The feminist movements’ rise attributed to the feminist theory has led to claims that women are superior to men in certain domains in society today.

The feminist theory is also responsible for the adoption of gender mainstreaming around the world. The theory helps to connote an understanding of gender equality whereby a conflict existing between interests is implied. Thanks to the feminist theory, gender mainstreaming was adopted as a dominant strategy in 1994 (Andersson, 2015). In a country such as Sweden, gender mainstreaming has since spread from the national level to the local level resulting in great expectations of change. Currently, in Sweden, gender mainstreaming has been adopted as the primary strategy for strengthening the concept of gender equality (Andersson, 2015). Although there are scores of people objecting gender equality brought about by gender mainstreaming, there is a significant shift in political content in Sweden as witnessed in the inclusion of more women in the political field. Women have gradually become superior to men in certain areas such as education as a result of the ideologies of the feminist theory and its proponents. Today, around the world, there are more women than women in educational institutions. For instance, Meredith College, in one of its recent gender studies courses released statistics indicating that roughly 57 percent of the students in the college today are women (Love & Helmbrecht, 2007). This is contrary to how the situation was several years ago when there was inequality between men and women when it came to admission to educational institutions.

The gender-conflict theory focuses on existing conflict and inequality between men and women. Two of the major founders of the theory were Harriet Martineau and jane Addams. There are four major ideologies of the theory explaining societal differences between men and women including gender differences, gender inequality, gender oppression, and structural oppression. The gender-conflict approach has since enhanced people’s awareness of the several ways in which their ways of life tends to place men in positions of power and control over women. As a result, there has been a noticeable change in these ways of life. The theory is also responsible for the adoption of gender mainstreaming around the world, which has increased gender equality.

 

References

Andersson, R. (2015). The Question of Feminism in Gender Mainstreaming—A Case of Non-conflict in Local Politics. NORA-Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research23(3), 203-219.

Fischer, C. (2011). Feminist Interpretations of Jane Addams. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/pluralist.6.2.0096?seq=1

Fritsche, I., & Jonas, E. (2005). Gender conflict and worldview defence. British Journal of Social Psychology44(4), 571-581.

Labovitz, L. J. (2011). For the benefit of others: Harriet Martineau: feminist, abolitionist and travel writer. Retrieved from https://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=2385&context=thesesdissertations

Love, M. A., & Helmbrecht, B. M. (2007). Teaching the conflicts:(Re) engaging students with feminism in a postfeminist world. Feminist teacher18(1), 41-58.