Sexual Division Of Labour Essay

1307 words - 5 pages

DEFINING WOMENWhat do you understand by the sexual division of Labour? What benefits, if any, might women gain from it?Sexual division of labour can be defined as a separation of labour along the lines of gender. It can be considered to be a cultural behaviour, rather than a genetic one, One of the outcomes of a sexual division of labour can be argued to have been the idea of women as a separate category in human society, or the idea of men and women, and so the origin of gender. It can be seen in the workforce and within the domestic setting, as well as other areas of social activity, such as politics. The division of labour in public and private settings along gender lines will be considered, as will as the possible benefits to women from having this kind of labour division.The division of labour by gender within both paid and unpaid work and between them exists in almost all societies and from earliest times, even though the nature of the specialised work done by women and men differs significantly by place, time, and in some cases, over the life cycle. This division of labour has been accepted historically and culturally as a natural order. Yoshie Furuhashi (http://csf.colorado.edu/forums/m-fem/98/0271.html) notes that, according to Engel's, "there was a 'natural' division of labour, with men specializing in producing the means of subsistence while women worked in the household." Thus the concept of the sexual division of labour has always been a historical reality. It has often been said of this division of labour as 'patriarchy', a kind of 'gender contract' which defines explicitly what people of either sex can do or think. The accepted sexual division of labour has meant that women's work has been limited to childrearing and other domestic duties (e.g housework) and limited to the private sphere. Men, on the other hand, have occupied the role of 'breadwinner' or provider for the family, with the emphasis on paid labour in the public sphere. In cases where women worked outside the house, the work was usually less skilled and worth less than male labour. An example of this was the establishment of the basic wage in the early nineteenth century; the female wage was fixed at 54% of the male wage.The definition and understanding of the concept of work has impacted on the sexual division of labour. Work has traditionally been defined as an occupation for which you are paid. This definition legitimises labour which occurs outside the home, in the public sphere while devaluing work which is conducted in the private (domestic sphere) and for which no money is received. The feminist push of the 1950s and 60s was motivated partly by a desire to break down the sexual division of labour, as a way of achieving equality with men. Work was seen as important for women's independence and there were major campaigns to get more women into the workforce. We might thus think of modern capitalist societies as 'transitional' between eras of patriarchy and an era...

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