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For a long time gender inequality has been an issue of focal issue in many societies in the world. Sex of the baby has been the first thing to check upon birth. This is because it has certain inclinations towards each sex. For example, a vast majority of the people regard male children are more important as female children. This is a confirmation of how gender determination is a serious issue as early as the baby is born. The society assigns certain roles to both men and women, which are deemed to be unequal. This is evident in that it assigns women lighter roles than those of the men. The societal roles exist in the form of male roles and female roles.
However, these roles differ in that women's roles are 'lighter' than the men's. This is because the society holds that women are weak species who cannot handle hard 'manly' tasks. According to Jane Pilcher, the society teaches men and women their sex role through socialization, especially when they are young (Pilcher, 1999).
She further says that these roles are passed through certain 'scripts' the children pick as they grow. Consequently, the difference in gender roles has been instrumental in facilitating gender inequality.Various scholars and philosophers have conflicted opinions on the issue of gender inequality. Some of them who are feminists claim debate against gender inequality while others are for it. For example, Sigmund Freud perpetuates gender inequality by asserting that women and men are naturally unequal. He claims that their biological differences confirm the distinct conduct of both men and women. Another philosopher who supports gender inequality is Aristotle. He asserts that men and women are different species and can never be equal (Fourie, 2001).
On the other hand, scholars such as John Gray have opposite views from those of Freud and Aristotle. He is a feminist who believes that both women and men are equal, in that they all love, feel, perceive, respond, think, react and appreciate in different ways. To understand the concept of gender inequality it is imperative distinguish between gender and sex. Therefore, sex is the physiological structures of men and women while gender involves the social masculine and feminine structures. That is sex is natural and connected with biological issues while gender is a construction of the society based on certain roles. However, the two concepts, gender and sex, are related since gender is based on the sexual difference.
Due to many controversial views on gender inequality, various feminists have teamed up to address the issue. These feminists came up with liberal and radical theories to explain the extent, sources, and solutions to gender inequality in the society. To start with, liberal feminism fights for gender equality in politics and legal issues. It asserts that women, through their actions and choices, are capable of demonstrating and maintaining equality in the society (Prince, 2011). Moreover, it advocates for the achievement of gender equality through individual involvement of men and women. Liberal feminists address certain issues in the society that are instrumental in the perpetuation of gender inequality in the society.
Firstly, there is inequality in terms of reproductive rights. Liberal feminism attempts to bring order by advocating for women's reproductive rights. It asserts that both women and men have equal reproductive rights that should be protected from any form of violation. In addition, liberal feminism attempts to address abortion cases in the society. Since the society does not advocate for abortion, women have felt incapacitated in that they are forced to proceed with pregnancy even when they do not opt for that. This is a way of infringing on women's rights since there are instances when the mother's life is at stake (Pilcher, 1999). Additionally, liberal feminism deals with the children's care. In relation to the women's plight, the theory attempts to ensure that women get access to inexpensive childcare. The expenses of caring for children have been soaring high and hence causing alarm among the women folk. Therefore, the theory champions for the reduction of the high costs up to the levels that every woman affords.
The theory also seeks to reduce the cost of health care in the society. There many cases related to inadequate healthcare due to the high costs. Such incidences could lead to loss of life yet, yet the situation is within human control (Edwards, 2011). Therefore, the movement advocates for reforms in the health sectors, which will ensure that every individual gets access to proper and affordable healthcare. This move is more inclined to women than men because of the former's vulnerability. In addition, liberal feminism advocates for gender equality during vital national events such as voting. Over the period, society has been sidelining women's participation in such events. It is every citizen's right to take part of decision making in the society. If these rights are not respected, the citizens lose meaning of their citizenry in their respective countries. Women, for a long time, have been obscured from participating in decision-making processes. Therefore, the movement has been influential in demanding these women rights. This way, it is facilitating equal treatment of women in society.
Another pertinent issue the theory explores education; many societies in the world regard women's education lowly. This means that women are underestimated in the society. Conversely, the society tends to give men better educational opportunities than the women. In fact, some communities have not embraced girl child education since they value boys more than girls. They believe that educating girls is a waste of resources since they are married off to other families. Besides, they believe that women's place is in home, specifically in the kitchen, and attending to the children. Although some societies give women education opportunities, there is a clear disparity between the numbers of female than the male students (Baehr, 2005). Also, the female students do not take up technical courses, unlike the male students. Most female students study courses that are considered feminine, while the men study the masculine courses, such as engineering, medicine and information technology. Statistics show that a small percentage of the female students studying science-oriented courses. This is an indication that gender inequality is still on in the society.
Furthermore, liberal feminism is trying to handle sexual violence among women in society. There are multiple cases that involve raping of women even by their own husbands. It is saddening that some sections of the society view women as sexual objects. Therefore, men take advantage of the women's vulnerability to abuse them sexually. This means that the society has not offered sufficient safety to the women folk. Subsequently, liberal feminism seeks to normalize the situation by fighting for women rights. Moreover, it campaigns against domestic violence that mainly affects women in society. Many cases of wife battery are reported often in the society (Edwards, 2011). This is an indication that men still regard their women lowly. This is because of the economic nature of women to depend on men. Therefore, they are forced to put up with the violence they experience in their homes. At this point, the liberal feminists have taken up the responsibility addressing the issue.
Most of the women that face domestic violence often become helpless, since they depend on their husbands for basic needs, and those of their children. More so, the society asserts that women are responsible for the success or failure of a marriage. Therefore, any family failure is attributed to the women's failure. Besides, the women cannot flee marriage the husband can blackmail them. They also fear the challenge of bringing up the children alone or losing them to other women. Another ay in which liberal feminism addresses gender inequality is by campaigning for equal job opportunities. Statistics indicate the more men are employed in both private and public sectors than women. This is due to social factors such as the women's place in society. Another reason is that women have attained lower educational levels than the men. Therefore, when they go to the job market, employers consider male applicants at the expense of the female ones. This disparity is also caused by the inflexibility of women in handling work. This is because of they have many roles to play in the family furthermore, men belief that women cannot manage work together with family responsibilities at a go. These factors often favor the men folk in the job market, hence leaving women unappreciated.
Besides, those few women in employment do not get satisfactory wages compared to the men folk's. This is because of the levels of employment and beliefs the society holds about women. Since most of the women employees are married, employers believe that they do not need as much money as men do. The liberal feminists try to ensure that women get equal job opportunities like the men since they are capable of handling any job position in an organization. Reports say that few women holding high positions in their work places are exceedingly few. A few of them are directors and managers while the majority of them is in the support staff. Liberal feminists attribute gender inequality to cultural factors. They argue the socialization process is the main cause of gender disparities. Socialization is a process of learning social and cultural values by the children as they grow. Social institutions such as schools, churches, peers, mass media, and family among others play a key role in facilitating the process. Culture guides the way people operate in the society (Edwards, 2011). For example, it assigns sex roles to the people appropriately. Culture has assigned men masculine roles and feminine roles to the women. These roes are also based on the way the society views both sexes. These views are then transferred to other aspects of life such as education, health, employment and politics. Consequently, this results in gender inequality.
Examples of the liberal feminists include John Stuart Mill, Mary Wollstonecraft, Betty Friedan, Rebecca Walker and Gloria Steinem. These feminists among others play a key role in ridding existing biases in the social institutions and implementation of just laws. They work towards endorsement of the Equal Rights Amendment so as to ensure that the reproduction, salary issues and employment of women are improved (Prince, 2011). Therefore, liberal feminists are influential in championing for equal opportunities for both women and men. They argue that both women and men should be accorded treatment based on their skills and efforts rather than their sexual characteristics. Moreover, liberal feminists advocate for the removal of political, social, economical or legal hindrances to the women's development compared to the men's. Evidently, the society has realized a lot of progress in that most of the unequal practices have been exposed. Additionally, the legal system has readjusted itself to ensure that the laws favor every one (Fourie, 2001).
On the other hand, radical feminism is a movement that also attempt to address gender inequality in the society. It tries to address the patriarchal theory that places a society in a way that men dominate in every aspect of life. The society, in turn, holds a view that males are supreme. Consequently, the views of male supremacy facilitate the oppression of women in society. Therefore, radical feminists advocates for radical restructuring of the society through fighting male dominance in the society. It seeks to challenge it by refuting the gender roles assigned to men and women. Also, the movement aims at eliminating any form of women oppression in the society. Radical feminism also intends to the main source for the women oppression in the patriarchal society (Baehr, 2005). Radical feminists describe the society as patriarchal in that it is dominated by men. In such a society, women are disadvantaged in that they face a lot of oppression. Therefore, the primary aim is to root out patriarchy in the society. They assert that patriarchy is responsible for the way women are viewed in the society.
Patriarchal society views women as subordinate to the men. Therefore, it pays little attention to the women's rights in all aspects of life. This opinion has led to marginalization and oppression of women in society. These feminists are out to address the issue by identifying the causes and facilitating change in the society. The initial radical feminists attributed gender inequalities to women's oppression. However, other radical feminists identified more sources that include race, sexual orientation, gender equity, social class and perceived attractiveness (Baehr, 2005). Moreover, radical feminists base their arguments on patriarchy theory that asserts that a society consists of two groups; the dominant and the dominated group. In this case, the dominant group comprises of the males. The dominant groups are often the one that exploits the other group to their own advantage. Additionally, these feminists believe that men employ social systems among other techniques to suppress the non-dominant groups. Moreover, they believe that in order to liberate women from this oppression, patriarchy should be eliminated in the society. In fact, some radical feminists advocated for women to rule other women. They included Phylis Chesler, Jill Johnston, Mary Day and Robin Morgan.
Some of the issues that the feminists address include oppression of women according to race. Here, women are discriminated according to their color because of stereotypes. For example, when a woman migrates to another country, she is treated badly by the men because of the color difference. More so, it tries to address the issue of social class as a cause of oppression. The society is divided into different economic classes. Therefore, it tends to discriminate those that are lower in status than those with higher status. Women who belong to the higher class are treated better than those belonging to the higher class. In addition, there is an issue of perceived attractiveness. Women are discriminated basing on their attractiveness. Furthermore, sexual orientation is another form of oppression that affects the way people are treated in the society. Liberal feminism fights against oppression of women on grounds of sexual orientation. Also, gender sensitivity causes oppression of women in society. This is because the society has sexual roles assigned to every member of the society.
Women roles are considered to be lighter than men's because of they are seen as weak being. Therefore, the society limits their opportunities to handle other aspects of life. Their course is even determined by the men folk since they rule over them. Nevertheless, radical feminists are aiming at alleviating such issues in the society (Baehr, 2005). Moreover, radical feminism believes that gender inequalities are caused by biological factors rather than other beliefs. It asserts that biological differences between men and women are the key sources of the disparity. This means that women are created differently from the men, hence; they have different capabilities. The patriarchy in the society enables the men folk to dominate their women, hence causing oppression. These men also take advantage of exploiting them for their selfish gains. The feminists view against patriarchy proved to move a majority of women. The feminists also came up with methods of eliminating the issue by separating the men from the women.
Like the Marxist feminism, radical feminism views gender disparity as more of structural than ideological. In the course of time, the radical feminists sought to combine radical and Marxist feminism to come up with social feminism. The social feminism advocates for a combination of gender and class, and the combination of public and economic aspects of life. Just like the liberal feminism, radical feminism explains the reasons for gender inequality. It asserts that women are dependent on men. Therefore, they are forced to stick to their husbands no matter the degree of oppression. Women also are reluctant to leave their marriages because of they fear that the husbands might blackmail them. The society is also vocal on the issue in that women are viewed as responsible for the success of the family. Radical feminists also address the issue of domestic violence. There are reports that the numbers of women who area abused in their homes is on the rise. The movement seeks to advocate for changes in the laws that govern women. It is championing for the eradication of gender violence in society.
Also, it addresses the issue of pornography. Interestingly, it does not totally condemn it since it attributes its prevalence on patriarchy. Radical feminists argue that the demand for the pornographic materials would reduce with the eradication of patriarchy in the society. It also refutes the negotiation of rape culture since it perpetuates pornography used worldwide. Furthermore, radical feminism campaign for homosexual behaviors including lesbianism. It supports the lesbian affairs in that they help women keep away from the oppressive men. It also asserts that the new technology on conception is vital for reducing the extent of dependency of women on men. However, there are certain criticisms of the above feminist movements. Firstly, the critics of liberal feminism talks about issues affecting the middle-class women at the expense of the other classes. Therefore, its feminists have neglected the women's differences in race, classes or races. More so, the critics assert that the feminism has individual assumptions hence making it hard to view the social issues that oppress women. Furthermore, they argue that women still rely on the patriarchal society despite their independence of men.
On the other hand, radical feminism has critics that argue against its support on its stand on lesbianism and pornography. Some critics argue that the movement is insufficient in that it does not provide any study of male and female psychology. The movement also failed to incorporate feminist point of view in all the radical politics. Additionally, the feminist movement is criticized to be inconsiderate of the class divisions in the society. Its ideas only fit the middle-class people in the society. Each of these feminists offers almost similar solutions to gender inequality. To start with, liberal feminism asserts that women should be given equal opportunities as those of men, in all aspects of life. Some of the aspects include education, politics, childcare, health services, employment and wage increment among others. For example, it is every child's right to acquire formal education. Therefore, the society should respect these rights by allowing all the children equal education regardless of gender. Another way alleviating gender inequality in the society is by viewing all the individuals as valuable beings. Thus, employment should not be conducted on the basis of gender but the competence and talents of the applicants. The society should put in place laws that are favorable to all members of the society. It also focuses on culture as a major source of the disparity. Liberal feminism calls for the change in the people's mindset about women.
On the other hand, radical feminism advocates for the elimination of patriarchy in the society. It asserts that the action is vital in balancing the position of men and women in society. It also asserts that the society should amend its laws to favor both men and women I the society. Another solution is to empower women so as to reduce their dependence on men. Additionally, it advocates for the employment of the separation strategy in keeping away from the men. It also proposes the use of technology in conception so as to reduce the dependence of women on the men. Lastly, it is evident that the liberal feminism has better ideas than the radical feminism. This is because the movement has many criticisms than the liberal feminism. The feminism also elaborates on the many sources of gender inequality but stresses on the culture as the primary source. Unlike the biological source by the radical feminists, culture as a source by the liberal feminists is practical. In conclusion, gender inequality is a sensitive issue in the society. The liberal and radical movements are instrumental in addressing the issue. They both look at ways of eradicating hindrances to women's political, social and economic development. Some of these methods is empowering women, offering them similar opportunities as those of men, and making laws that favor everyone in the society.