Conceptualizing Gender Disparity: An Argument

By Janes Ouma Odongo

Introduction

Though there have been many debates globally on what gender equity is, this has not been fully agreed upon due to the raging war fired up by misunderstandings, or misinterpretation of what gender inequality constitutes.

This paper seeks to, upon comparing the various definitions given, conceptualize the concept and operationalize it by giving it measurable and definite variables.

Dictionary definitions

Gender:

According to google.com, gender refers to the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones). The synonym for this word is sex. This definition is shared by Oxford Dictionary which also defines the noun as, “The state of being male or female. The dictionary however states that the term is typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones; in most cases.

This paper will adopt the above definition for the noun gender.

Disparity

Defined as a great difference, lack of similarity or equality, disparity is the condition of being unequal in google.com, the free dictionary.com and vocabulary.com/dictionary/disparity respectively, the term has several synonyms including but not limited to contrast, disagreement, discrepancy, desperateness, disparity, dissimilarity, dissimilitude, distance (Merriam-webster.com)

Gender Disparity

Also means gender inequality, gender gap, or gender marginalization (wikipedia.com). It is a disproportionate difference, as in attitudes and voting preferences, between the sexes, (Americandictionary.com), or the difference between women and men in regard to social, political, economic, or other attainments or attitudes, or the problem perceived to exist because of such difference, (thefreedictionary.com).

Gender disparity, then, refers to statistical differences in the possessions, statuses, and opportunities between men and women. For instance, the raw statistic on the average income of men and women somewhat famously has women making around three quarters of the income of men, on average (yahooanswers.com/CAustin).

Conceptualizing gender inequality as a feminist construct

Whereas some scholars consider gender equality campaigns as programs meant to empower women and help them overcome their historical disadvantages so that they can catch up with the privileged men, (Robert Max Jackson), many others consider it a feminist drive. Feminism, as used here, means the range of movements and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women. These seeks to “turn” women into men by simply claiming that men get better treatment than women. The “special” treatment of men, they claim, is achieved through attitudes, voting preferences between the sexes, individual attainments as well as through social, economic and political status all of which are preferable assigned to men. In most cases than not, gender disparity tends to be focused on income disparities between men and women, (Thomas Pogge and Keith Horton (2008). Their campaign is mainly driven by the feminist theory which states that as long as genders are imbalanced, there will always be an obstacle to peace for women. This claim is however not cognizant of the fact that the more “empowered” they become, women get very selfish and outperform themselves only to realize that the ends, for them, are less satisfying, and that they desperately need their sense of womanhood; having a husband, getting children and being the mother figure in society.

Furthermore, earning these incomes come with responsibilities that have overtime proved challenging for women to take up. In a realist world, earning more means working harder and for longer hours using more mental, emotional and physical energy. Whereas men are often available for such, women are sometimes not whole-heartedly given to the same. Many expect to reap the fruits without putting in the works, merely through affirmative actions. Even on occasions when they get the opportunity, many a woman will ride on the back of a man or several men to deliver the results and get credit. This applies in all cadres of education and work environments. And, whereas this does not apply to all women, a majority tend to prefer this route. Wailing at the top of their lungs for rights and equality that they are rarely willing to work hard towards achieving. Women are largely lazy at the work place. Although this has also been attributed to their myriad other responsibilities outside work, a good proportion of womenfolk develop these dependent tendencies independent of their social status.

The feminist ideals are blind to the fact that gender income disparity isn’t the only type of gender disparity. Opportunity disparity, which might be measured in things like available college scholarships (in which women actually have a 3-to-1 advantage over men), success-encouraging social attitudes (which is arguably the most significant social factor still actively oppressing women in the US), or gender-biased business hiring and promotion practices play at least as big a role in gender disparity as a raw income disparity does, (yahooanswers.com/CAustin). There are also a number of jobs which are mentally reserved for women because they demand warmth and serve male clientele. Similar jobs exist for men as well, and often demand more energy and endurance than many women can deliver.

Many companies simply just don’t hire women because of poor job performance which spring from work-family conflicts. This concern tends not to favor women in a hotly competitive work environment where job retention and career growth is based on results, (businessweek.com). In the business world, women’s businesses tend to grow more slowly than men’s. They also tend to be smaller. Researchers report that women chose to keep their businesses smaller so that they can manage their family responsibilities better, because they aren’t aware of the funding mechanisms available for growth, and because they’re leery of giving up control out of concern over what’s going to happen to the business then, (businessweek.com). These factors have nothing to do with gender discrimination but are a matter of personal choice.

Socially, whereas it is assumed that men are superior to women, women actually determine men’s behavior Some scholars have have claimed that men are born by women to serve women who, being the slave owners (women), constantly cry as if being the slaves themselves. Some analysts conclude that having come from between a woman’s legs as a child, in his adulthood, a man will toil and sweat to his death trying to go back there as many times as possible. Knowing this, in a law abiding society, women will spend their time frustrating men’s efforts at meeting their innate desire making them slave owners for sure. A man will spend his entire adult life seating to take care of women and their off-springs, with laws being put in place to ensure they cooperate or face dire legal, economic, social and mental repercussions.

This however is not to say that there is no gender discrimination; there could be. However, studies on gender discrimination should not only lean towards one sex. These studies should be open up and disentangled from feminism so that factors that lead to discrimination against men as well as women in specific contexts can be brought to fore. Too much talk of female empowerment can as well be seen as encouraging male inequality as is the case today, (gender-focus.com). This does not serve any justice to the gender parity campaign going on at the global arena. Feminism as it is practiced today is not the same as equalism. Gender parity as the campaign tool used by women today, is a political campaign tool used by women who want to get ahead in life. The orchestrators of this tool do not necessarily campaign for the “woman person” but for the selves.

I was once a neighbor to a couple that fought often times. On these occasions, the woman of the house would wail out loud calling for help because the man was ‘killing her’. However, on getting access to their house, we would find the man on the floor writhing in pain from stab wound. The lady simply used to physically and mentally abuse the husband while playing the victim. When taken to hospital however, the man would protect the wife claiming he hurt himself somewhere else to avoid having the wife imprisoned, or having them have legal battles.

The other factor that we may not want to agree with but which is postulated by anthropologists is that women have rarely occupied a position of higher status or greater political power than men in any society, anywhere, anytime. Women sometimes controlled wealth, and they sometimes served as warriors but in most cases such women were exceptions. Gender inequality is not the product of insurmountable processes or sex differences in modern societies. Further to this, the pervasiveness of gender inequality does not reflect some needs of people or social organization that will be undermined if we establish equality, (Robert Max Jackson). This, in my view, and if the saying that history repeats itself be true, makes feminism and the call for gender parity a waste of time. Empowerment of marginalized groups would work better for both sexes, for everyone, really. The human race on earth has always largely been a patriarchal society and has always been peaceful due to that. Interfering with this status will tilt the equilibrium of this and will come with negative consequences ranging from increased domestic violence, higher divorce rates, increased drug use and the death of the family institution to the frustration and sadness of the women themselves if not anyone else. Feminists are hence wrong in championing for gender equity.

Even if debate on gender disparity was to be sustained, the approach should be different. Gender disparity should be measured in terms of access to opportunities across the sexes. This should be in terms of the percentage of men in employment or that are unemployed against the same for women. It can also be based on the percentage of male workers against that of female workers per industry.

Calculating gender disparity based on salary scales and access to better opportunities; things which entirely depend on qualifications and networks that an individual posses, is by far a show of selfishness by the propagators and does not work to the general good of the female human.

Confirming or disapproving the prevalence of male dominance

If measurements of gender disparity must be based on access to resources and opportunities as is the desire of the feminist initiators of the drive, then there is need to sample some examples of opportunity areas, find out what percentages by men and women have access to these opportunities then find the mean of these percentages by gender. A comparison of these means should then be done to determine weighting/ lean.

This approach, it is my conviction, will define for us the global mean (in the concerned society) in terms of access to the sampled opportunities and hence tell us to which side gender disparity leans in favors or disfavor; whether male or female. The calculations will be based on sheer numbers of people by sex rather than the extent to which each individual benefits. The latter is based on competence and is specific to individual efforts as earlier on highlighted.

Unemployment levels are measured based on the basic definition of unemployed as a person who is actively searching for employment is unable to find work. This definition will not include housewives who willfully decide to stay at home and take care of the family.

The paper hypothesizes that gender disparity is context based. These contexts can range from one factor to another. These factors hence form the various variables to e measured and can actually be investigated as elaborated in the table below:

References

Andrew J. Cherlin, (Fall 2005), American Marriage in the Early Twenty-First Century The Future of Children Volume 15, Number 2.

Eagly, Alice H., and Linda L. Carli, (September 2007), Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership.Harvard Business Review 85, no. 9: 63-71.

England, Paula, (2005), “Gender Inequality in Labor Markets: The Role of Motherhood and Segregation.” Social Politics 12: 264-288.

Hyde, J. S. (2005). The Gender Similarities Hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 581-592.

John Gerring, (2005),  “Causation: A Unified Framework for the Social Sciences.” Journal of Theoretical Politics, 17(2), 163-198.  (doi:10.1177/0951629805050859)

Kathleen Gerson, (December 2009), “Changing Lives, Resistant Institutions: A New Generation Negotiates Gender, Work, and Family Change”  Sociological Forum, Vol. 24, No. 4.

Thomas Pogge and Keith Horton, ed, (2008). Later published in Global Ethics: Seminal Essays, Volume II: Global Ethics, ed. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House. 233-257.

Pitanguy, Jacqueline, (2011), “Recognizing Peace and Violence Against Women”. SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 36 (3) 561-566.

Okin, Susan, (1994), “Gender Inequality and Cultural Differences”. In Political Theory, 22(1). Rosabeth Moss Kanter, (Mar., 1977),  “Some Effects of Proportions on Group Life: Skewed Sex Ratios and Responses to Token Women”    American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 82, No. 5 pp. Rosemary L. Hopcroft, (2009), “Gender Inequality in Interaction – An Evolutionary Account.” Social Forces  87.4: 1845-1871.

Sharon Smith, (Fall 1997), “Engels and the Origin of Women’s Oppression”  International Socialist Review

965-990. Issue 2.

https://www.nyu.edu/classes/jackson/causes.of.gender.inequality/

www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gender

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/gender

Data Set

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