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The Battle Of The Sexes – An Essay On Gender Equality And Inequality Essay, Research Paper

Gender equality aims to achieve a genuine balance between men and women by respecting human rights. A ‘gender equal society’ is a society in which both men and women are given equal opportunities to participate voluntarily in activities at all levels as equal partners and shall be able to enjoy political, economical, social and cultural benefits as well as to take responsibility equally. ‘A realization of a truly affluent society is dependent on the establishment of a social framework which allows individuals to choose various lifestyles regardless of stereotypical gender roles’ (Henley). However, every society categorizes it’s members according to sex, treating men and women

in different ways and expecting different patterns of behavior from them. The division of the human species into two fundamental categories is based on sex. All societies elaborate this biological fact into nonbiological notions of

masculinity and femininity. These concepts refer not to sex but to gender, the culturally learned differences between men and women. How equal are the genders? Any analysis of sexual equality or inequality must confront the

biological, psychological and cultural similarities and differences.

Biological evidence reveals that men and women are different in their genes, which provide the inherited blueprint for their physical development. The male lacks a certain chromosome which makes him in many respects

the weaker sex. Male infants are more likely than females to be stillborn or malformed. Over thirty hereditary disorders, such as hemophilia and webbing of the toes, are found only in men. Furthermore, throughout the life course, the death rate of men is higher than it is for women. Women are more resistant than men to most diseases and seem to have a greater tolerance for pain and malnutrition. Men and women also have differences in their hormones, chemical substances that are secreted by the body’s various glands. The precise effects of hormones have not been fully determined, but it is known that they can influence both physical development and emotional arousal. Experiments with some animals have shown that artificially increased levels of male hormones can heighten aggressiveness and sex drive, even in females. There are obvious anatomical differences in the sexes physical structure and appearance. The most important of these distinctions, of course, is in the reproductive system and their consequences. A mans biological involvement in reproduction begins and ends with a brief act of insemination. Women, on the other hand, bear and suckle children and as a result their personal, social and economical activities may be restricted. There are also other anatomical dissimilarities in such characteristics as height, weight, distribution of body fat and musculature. These factors make men more physically powerful than women. Their

greater strength gives men the potential to dominate women by force, a fact that helps to explain why there has never been a society in which women have had political status superior to that of men.

Although there are many differences among both individual men and individual women, the typical psychological and personality patterns of adult men and women are clearly dissimilar in many ways. Men tend to be more aggressive and to have greater mathematical ability, women tend to be more nurturing and more emotional. But are these differences effects of biological or social influences?

‘The most important research on the psychology of gender concerns children who for some reason have been reared as a member of the opposite sex. A child is biologically a boy but is raised as a girl. Children can be easily raised as a member of the opposite sex.’

Over the past two decades, psychologists have published more than 16 000 articles on the psychology of the sexes but they are relatively insignificant and hardly justify the elaborate gender-role distinctions or sexual inequalities found in many societies.

The social implications and gender roles for both men and women are not genetically defined, because then, they would be exactly the same in all cultures. Even to the extent that gender is cultural, these conceptions should

vary even if they do not usually vary a great deal from culture to culture. A cross-cultural study could provide us with significant information about variation in gender roles among the many cultures of the globe. An interesting

example as far as the significance of cross-cultural evidence is concerned is the investigation which was conducted by Margaret Mead ( 1935 ) . She investigated three isolated tribes in New Guinea. In one tribe, the Arapesh, men andwomen had remarkably similar attitudes and behavioural patterns. The men and women of the Mundugumor tribe, on the other hand, were typically selfish and aggressive, traits defined as more’masculine’ in most Western societies.

The third tribe, the Tchambuli, the female gender were domineering and dictarial while the men were submissive, artistic and more emotional towards the children.

Nevertheless, these cases are not identified very often and ‘the overall cross-cultural tendency points to a very strong pattern of male dominance’ ( I. Robertson ). For instance, even in the industrialized Western societies, high political status is still, almost, a males’ privilege. This last fact points to another cross-cultural characteristic; different occupations have been divided according to gender. For example, home maintenance is usually considered a women’s task while hunting a man’s one. This means that the two sexes are treated differently in different cultures and

content of masculinity and femininity is culturally defined. Although conceptions of gender vary, most societies are marked by inequalities between the sexes due to sexism. The culturally generated ideology can be described as the belief that one sex is inferior to another and that unequal treatment is therefore justified. Obviously, religion endorses sexism and this can be proven if we read through the sacred texts of all religions. The Koran, the sacred text of Islam, declares:

‘Men are superior to women on account of the qualities in which God has given them pre-eminence.’

In this way, women are excluded from high socio-economic statuses. Similar teachings are found in our own religion, Greek Orthodox , aswell. Even though the feminist movement has gained great strength in the last decade sexism is

culturally accepted by most women and therefore they remain submissive. For example, now that men’s ideals for womanhood is shifting towards a leaner and more athletic look, dieting has become a female obsession. These traditional gender roles and social stereotypes, structure the experiences and behaviour of most men and women and their basic options and opportunities in life.

Despite the fact that biological, psychological, cultural and anthropological evidence clearly shows that humans can be socialized into a wide range of gender roles, most societies are marked by striking inequalities

between men and women. No society relies on ‘nature’ to produce its particular gender roles, whatever they may be; in every culture, children are systematically socialized into acceptance of the prevailing assumptions. Throughout history both genders have accepted the system of social stratification and that is what Marx called ‘false consciousness’. This means that aslong as the status quo is taking for granted no significant changes will appear in the future and gender equality will remain impossible.


Robertson, Ian ( 1987 ) Sociology . Worth Publishers Inc, United States of America.

Henley, Nancy ( 1977 ) Body Politics: Power, Sex and Nonverbal Communication. Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall

Coates, T ( 1994 ) Vision of Gender Equality. New York, Random House

Unknown Feminism and Gender Equality In The 1990’s . Webpage: http://www.ee.calpoly.edu/ ercarlso/papers.htm

Unknown Gender Differences . Webpage:


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