Part of becoming an adult member of human society is learning to recognize the myriad injustices that surround us in our daily lives. One of the pillars of modern society is the concept of egalitarianism, but unfortunately, it remains an ideal to strive for rather than a reality. Various human institutions have been erected to tackle the issues of discrimination, human rights, and social inequality. However, each person also has the additional responsibility of analyzing and deconstructing his own socially programmed subconscious biases. One of the most egregious examples of injustice is stereotyping women and appropriate female behavior.
Although Western society has made definite advances in promoting gender equality within the last five decades, the issue of discrimination remains relevant today. Many people think that centuries of sexual oppression are over because women have legally gained the right to work and vote. However, working women report being treated as if they were not incompetent at six times the rate of men (Barroso & Brown, 2021). Women are routinely paid less than men for performing the same job and are under-represented in leadership positions (Bishu & Alkadry, 2017). Most companies refuse to recognize the presence of the gender wage gap despite its academically proven statistical significance. Female politicians and activists report disproportionate amounts of physical attacks, gendered intimidation, and harassment (Krook, 2017). The majority of the population penalizes ambitious women for “overstepping” socially sanctioned boundaries both culturally and financially.
Secondly, women are still expected to perform the same unpaid domestic labor as before in addition to their regular employment. Women had been traditionally consigned to the private sphere and expected to cook, clean, and provide care to children and elderly relatives. The burden of housework and childcare still rests disproportionately on women (Sevilla & Smith, 2020). Caregiving responsibilities lead to greater career interruptions, which in some cases lead to a negative impact at work (Barroso & Brown, 2021). Domestic responsibilities such as cleaning and cooking are perceived as being less valuable because they are unpaid and traditionally performed by females. This results in gender differences even in seemingly irrelevant areas such as sleep, because mothers prioritize fathers’ sleep to ensure they have more energy at work the next day (Ruppanner et al., 2021). Stereotypes of women as domestic nurturers undermine their career development and potentially even their physical health.
Furthermore, historically and culturally constructed gender differences are often overlooked in favor of supposedly inherent biological differences. Subconscious gender stereotypes influence the interpretation of scientific research and are used to justify the current social hierarchy. The gender wage gap and division of domestic labor are rationalized through the lens of evolutionary psychology and the “natural” gender differences that developed during the epoch of hunter-gatherers. However, these “natural” differences completely vary depending on geography and period. This viewpoint completely ignores the fact that human perception and behavior are culturally conditioned and determined by the surrounding environment.
In conclusion, implicit gender stereotypes continue to affect women’s material reality. Women are underpaid, systematically denied leadership positions, and face disproportionate physical harassment and intimidation. They are forced to carry out the bulk of unpaid domestic labor such as housework and childcare. The existence of these gender barriers is unacknowledged and biology is weaponized to justify social differences. Legally recognized equality does not necessarily translate to de facto equality. Although mass media pays more attention to explicit instances of gender discrimination, it is important to assess how cultural preconceptions indirectly affect women’s economic and social opportunities so better solutions can be found.
Barroso, A. & Brown, A. (2021). Gender pay gap in U.S. held steady in 2020. Pew Research Center. Web.
Bishu, S. G., & Alkadry, M. G. (2017). A systematic review of the gender pay gap and factors that predict it. Administration & Society, 49(1), 65-104.
Krook, M. L. (2017). Violence against women in politics. Journal of Democracy, 28(1), 74-88.
Ruppanner, L., Maltby, B., Hewitt, B., & Maume, D. (2021). Parents’ Sleep Across Weekdays and Weekends: The Influence of Work, Housework, and Childcare Time. Journal of Family Issues, 1(7), 1-27.
Sevilla, A., & Smith, S. (2020). Baby steps: the gender division of childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 36(Supplement_1), S169-S186.