It is only recently that sociology has begun to explore the topic of gender. Before this, inequalities within society were based primarily on factors such as social class and status. This paper will discuss gender itself: what makes us who we are and how we are represented. It will also explore discrimination towards women throughout history, focusing mainly on women and the right to vote, inequalities between males and females in the work place and how gender is represented in the media.
The term ‘gender’ was coined by John Money in 1955: “Gender is used to signify all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself/herself as having the status of a boy or man, girl or woman, respectively” (Coleman and Money, 1991, 13). In sociological terms, gender is a division between men and women which is clear in society throughout the past - for example, in Ancient Egypt with the idea that there was little point in teaching women to read and write. Gender inequalities can be seen throughout many different aspects of our daily lives – from the gender pay gap, to gender discrimination in television adverts.
These inequalities are accepted readily in today’s society and most fail to see that direct gender discrimination is still very much a problem in society today. In 1988, Bretl and Cantor conducted a study into gender representation in television programs and advertisements. It was found that women were more likely to be filmed in a domestic situation and portrayed as being unemployed, working part-time or in low paying jobs such as catering and sales. It was also found that 90% of the time a narrator would be male, and women were more likely than men to be seen advertising household goods (Furnham, A. Mak, T. 1999, 414). It is seen that women are represented to suit men’s interests and aren’t likely to have attention paid to them otherwise. This perhaps explains why so many women changed their name to that of a male to be able to get their work published in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For example, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brönte published their work under the names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.
Studies have also been carried out into whether or not there are differences between male and female brain size and whether this affects how we relate to each other in terms of gender. Simon Baron-Cohen believes that male brains are wired towards systematic understanding and females are wired towards empathy. In addition he says that this is not necessarily always the case but the majority are wired in this way: “Both sexes have their strengths and weaknesses. Neither sex is superior overall.” (Baron-Cohen, S. 2003).
It is also thought that much of the gender inequality in today’s society can be put down to social and biological construction of our characteristics. Stereotypically, men are seen as the “strong” gender and women as the “weak”. In reality, women fail to make full use of their bodies potential and with a greater...