Table of Contents
Gender and Stratification:
Studies of stratification were for many years “gender blind”- they were written as though women did not exist, or as though for purposes of analyzing divisions of power, wealth, and prestige, women were unimportant and uninteresting.
Yet gender itself is one of the most profound examples of stratification.
There are no societies in the world in which men do not in some aspects of social life, have more wealth, status, and influence than women.
To return to our discussion of the similarities in the gender and ethnicity issues, women for the very large part are considered to be naturally inferior.
The phenomenon of women being marginal and the weaker sex was taken so literally that a women’s movement was needed to challenge the assumption.
That is to question the inequality of gender and ask why women are unequally placed.
Studies on stratification have for the most part assumed that the position of women can be derived from the position of her husband, father, brother, or whosoever happens to be the male head of the household. That the head of the household would be a male went unquestioned.
Recent studies have found many women-headed households. Credit organizations have found it more productive to lend out money to women rather than to men.
The mistaken assumptions of the inequalities being naturally derived from biological facts and of men being natural and universal heads of households have led studies of stratification to ignore gender as a principle of stratification.
Inequalities of Gender:
Inequalities of gender are more deep-rooted historically than class systems; men have superior standing to women even in hunting and gathering societies, where there are no classes.
In modern societies however so fundamental are class divisions, that they tend to overlap substantially with gender differences.
The material position of women tends to reflect that of their fathers or husbands.
Female status certainly carries with it many disadvantages compared with that of males in various areas of social life.
Although women today share certain status attributes in common, simply by virtue of their sex, their claims over resources are not primarily determined by their occupation but, more commonly, by that of their fathers or husbands.
And if the wives and daughters of wealthy landowners, there can be no doubt that the differences in their overall situation are far more striking and significant.
Only if the disabilities attached to female status were felt to be so great as to override differences of a class kind would it be realistic to regard sex as an important dimension of stratification.
Patriarchy and Gender:
The ideas that we have about families are drawn mostly from our immediate experience. And if we happen to belong to the middle class or the lower and upper midder class urban dweller the male-headed nuclear family is a normative fact.
By normative I mean that not only will this pattern be empirically true for many, but that the other kind of families will be seen as an anomaly. A woman-headed household would be seen as an aberration.
Following from this normative aspect, the state will have various laws derived from a model of a male-headed nuclear family as the norm.
Many women who are heads of households, thereby had to face a situation where they were not entitled to be a beneficiary under an anti-poverty scheme on the grounds that since she was a woman she could not be the head of the household.
Here is an instance where the normative reality edges out the empirical reality.
The formulation that since the earnings of the male head is the most significant factor, the status of the woman, even if she is earning, would not alter the situation can be criticized in several ways.
In a substantial proportion of the households the income of the women is essential to maintaining the family’s economic position and mode of life.
In these circumstances, women’s paid employment in some parts determines the class position of the households.
A wife’s employment may affect the status of the husband, not simply the other way around.
Although women rarely earn more than their husbands, the working situation of a wife might still be the “lead” factor in influencing the class of her husband.
The wife’s occupation may set the standard for the position of the family as a whole.
Many “cross-class” households exist, in which the work of the husband is in a higher class category than that of the wife or (less commonly) the other way around.
Since few studies have been carried out looking at the consequences of this, we cannot know if it is always appropriate to take the occupation of the male as the determining influence.
The proportion of families in which women are the sole breadwinners is increasing.
The male-headed normative family could retain its purity and authenticity by affording space for the men to have liaisons outside both classes.
Women from the middle class, and upper caste on the other hand would fall outside the class and family if she had liaisons outside marriage.
Gender as a principle of stratification therefore has to take into account not only if women members in a family have a status derived from the male head but also how patriarchy operates differentially to men and women.
Issues of control of sexuality, norms of chastity, social sanction against women seen as violators of family, class, ethnic norms, and double standards to male and female sexual practices should all be taken into account when discussing stratification and gender.
Ethnicity and Cultural Deprivation:
When discussing ethnicity and stratification we found that ethnicity was important in determining material and cultural deprivation just as much as class or caste was.
With land reforms and the resultant issue of land deeds, policymakers realized that though the unit of the land deed was the family, it had to be explicitly taken into account that both men and women have equal rights to land.
This brings us to the important question about the family and gender-related to basic issues of stratification like unequal access to resources- cultural and material.
In other words, even though men and women belong to the same family of the class, they are differently located in their access to material and non-material resources.