Since the beginning of history, women have not had the same rights as men. Although this has increasingly gotten better over the years to the point where some would say that feminism is not needed anymore, there are still many areas of life in which women face inequality compared to men. These discriminations that women encounter are closely related to the theories of the social construction of gender, race, and disability. These theories suggest that any woman can come across greater inequities if she is not only a woman, but of a minority race or disabled in any way.
There has been much discussion among scholars in many different disciplines as to why women are always seen as lesser than men. MacKinnon suggests two different approaches: difference and sameness. The philosophy underlying the difference approach is that sex is differences between humans, while the sameness principle tries to grant women access to the same privileges men receive (MacKinnon 244). These approaches allow for women to be looked at in two different manners. MacKinnon further explains:
Under the sameness standard, women are measured according to our correspondence with man, our equality judged by our proximity to his measure. Under the difference standard, we are measured according to our lack of correspondence with him, our womanhood judged by our distance from his measure. Gender neutrality is thus simply the male standard, and the special protection rule is simply the female standard, but not to be deceived: masculinity, or maleness, is the referent for both. (245)
This notion of the male being the ideal gender in society is prevalent in many areas of life. MacKinnon contends that in medical school the male body is the only body studied, while all the other things that women have are studied in ob/gyn (245). Wendell also states, “Much architecture has been planned with a young-adult, non-disabled male paradigm of humanity in mind” (26).
Through this belief that males are at the top of the hierarchy comes social inequalities for women. Although the sameness approach grants that men and women’s differences are equal to one another, the two are not socially equal (MacKinnon 247). MacKinnon explains, “The difference approach misses the fact that hierarchy of power produces real as well as fantasied differences, differences that are also inequalities” (247). The social power that is granted to men within society is so great that it allows for them to place women lower on the totem pole. MacKinnon clarifies, “Gender might not even code as difference, might not mean distinction epistemologically, were it not for its consequences for social power” (249).
As previously stated earlier, although life for women has gotten better throughout the world, they still continue to go through situations that their higher-valued societal counterparts do not. MacKinnon explains, “We still have not got equal pay, or equal work, far less equal pay for equal work,...