Gendered Division Of Labor Essay Scholarships

      In this course we will investigate what causes inequality between women and menHow does it arise, why does it take different forms, why does it vary in degree across societies, what are the components that add up to gender inequality, how do various institutions and practices contribute to it, and how does it change?  The course will emphasize the history of gender inequality in the United States.

While we focus on gender inequality, we will also seek to understand social causation more generally.  We will explore the diverse ways social causation works and how we can identify the causes behind important social phenomena. 

Description – Scope, Organization, and Access:

The Scope of the Topics and Materials. We know a lot about gender inequality – its history, how people experience it in their lives, the ways it varies in intensity and form across time and place, the beliefs that make it seem natural, and much more.  The outpouring of research and commentary on gender inequality over the past half century has been extraordinary.  Unfortunately, despite all this, our understanding of what causes gender inequality remains troubled. Both ordinary people and experts (such as scholars) commonly fluctuate between simplistic explanations that founder under close scrutiny and throwing up their hands in frustration over what can seem an enigma beyond human comprehension.  Here we will seek to surmount this dilemma.  We will explore diverse facets of gender inequality and varied ideas about what causes might be decisive.  We will also look carefully at the ways we can identify and verify the causes of social phenomena.  Through these efforts we will aim both to enhance our understanding of what produces gender inequality and to improve our general ability to do causal social analyses effectively.

The class organization and goals. In this class, each week's work will be organized around an analytical task, as well as a set of readings.  Rather than focusing on discussion of the readings, the analytical tasks involve attempting a causal analysis of some aspect of gender inequality related to the week's issue, building on the materials we read (in brief papers of a couple pages).  The approach in this class seeks to develop analytical skills as well as understandings of the relevant literature by stressing doing actual analyses of gender inequality. (Note: this class does not have an exam nor a final paper.)

All class meetings are organized as discussions.  Part of our class discussions will be on the common readings and part on students' efforts to explore the analytical tasks  each week.  We will adjust the time devoted to these two goals according to our experiences over the class.  Every week, students will initiate discussions on readings and papers. To make this work, each week's papers will be exchanged (electronically) with enough lead time that we can all read all the papers prior to the class meetings.

Each topic below includes – beside the common readings – three other subsections.  These are: an analytical task, recommended readings, and related readings.  The analytical task is the writing assignment for the week.  Everyone should read the common readings while doing the analytical task (and be prepared to discuss them).  In each of these papers – always  brief papers – students will try out causal ideas related to the week's topic.  Recommended and related readings are optional materials useful for those who want to dig deeper into a topic.  To simplify navigating through the syllabus, these subsections are hidden until the viewer clicks on the subsection heading, then they will appear.

Most of our readings will be articles available for downloading.  The links will appear in the  online version of the course syllabus.  Excerpts from Down So Long . . .: The Puzzling Persistence of Gender Inequality (book manuscript by RMJ not yet published) will similarly be available for downloading from the class web site.  (As we will read selections from Jackson's book Destined for Equality [Harvard U Press] throughout the course, you might want to buy it or borrow it.) 

Any student unfamiliar with the study of gender, can (and probably should) pick up the basics from a standard textbook in the area – I recommend Michael Kimmel's Gendered Society (which I use in my basic general undergraduate class on gender, so used copies should be easy to find).

For further relevant sources, my reading lists/syllabi for two graduate courses might be valuable.  The one most directly related is What Causes Gender Inequality: Analytical Foundations; a more general class, What Causes Inequality: Analytical Foundations, may provide materials for broader questions about different kinds of inequalities and how to think about gender inequality in relationship to them.

A note on the "hidden" material below:  Each section of this guide includes – beside the common readings – three subsections, one for an analytical task, one for recommended readings, and one for related readings.  To simplify navigating through the course guide, only the headings for these subsections are initially visible.  The contents of all these subsections are hidden (so that the beginning appearance of the page is similar to a standard syllabus) until the viewer clicks on a subsection heading, then its contents will appear.  While this organization is helpful for negotiating the page most of the time, it can become an obstacle if we want to search the page (for example, for a particular article) as searches will ignore the hidden material (that is, if you search a page you are viewing in an internet browser, the search will only examine what is shown on the page at that time).  To overcome this limitation, you can "open" all the hidden sections to show everything on the page by clicking the § symbol at the top of the page.  (To restore the page to the normal condensed view, simply reload the page which will collapse all the "hidden" sections to their usual look).  The table of contents at the top of this page will aid speedy navigation to any topic, which is particularly helpful if you reveal all the "hidden" material.

The Topics

I. Introduction.  What do we mean by gender inequality?

To analyze the causes of gender inequality, we need to know what we mean by gender inequality.  How can we conceive of and talk about gender inequality in ways that are general enough to apply across the range of relevant phenomena, consistent enough to minimize conceptual ambiguities, and precise enough to be analytically effective?  Gender inequality has been extraordinarily diverse and wide spread.  Women and men are unequal in every conceivable way in endless circumstances, both immediate and enduring, by both objective criteria and subjective experience.   So, what counts as gender inequality? Can we characterize it in ways that let us confidently and impartially assess when there is more or less of it?

  • Analytical Task
    • No task for the introductory meeting.
  • Common Readings
  • Recommended Readings
    • Janet Saltzman Chafetz "Feminist Theory and Sociology: Underutilized Contributions for Mainstream Theory"  Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 23, (1997), pp. 97-120;  or Janet Saltzman Chafetz "The Varieties of Gender Theory in Sociology"  Handbook of the Sociology of Gender, 1999, p3-23, 21
    • Rachel A. Rosenfeld. "What Do We Learn about Difference from the Scholarship on Gender?" Social Forces, Vol. 81, No. 1 (Sep., 2002), pp. 1-24 
    • Destined for Equality: Egalitarian Impulse
  • Related Readings

II. Causality - What are causes, mechanisms, and the like?

We casually refer to causes and effects in normal interactions all the time.  We all conduct our lives – choosing actions, making decisions, trying to influence others – based on theories about why and how things happen in the world.  From the early stages of childhood we attribute causes, building a vision of the social (and physical) world that makes it understandable.  Every action, every choice about what to do, is based on our anticipation of its effects, our understandings of consequences.  Analytical and scientific reasoning has a similar form, but requires that we approach causation more systematically and self-consciously.

  • Analytical Task
    • The general analytical problem.  In this and other societies, women and men commonly dress differently.  Prepare a causal analysis that seeks to explain why women and men dress differently.
      • Our analytical task this week is to attempt a "simple" causal analysis of a gender difference that is obvious but not often questioned - the way we dress.  The purpose of this exercise is to get us thinking about causality. 
      • To the degree that we can, we want to try to think of different kinds of causes based on varied ways of framing the causal question.  Realistically, one could easily write a book about all the possible ways of interpreting this causal question and answering it.  We are just trying to develop some sensible insights in a couple pages. 
    • Thinking Tools.  The starting point of most causal analyses is a comparison.  When we start with the general question "what causes X?" we turn it into possible comparisons to produce an answer.  Examples of such questions might be "why do people in group A do X more than those in group B?," "why does X occur more often in summer than winter?," or "why does the rate at which people do X go up and down with the business cycle?" 

      The underlying idea is simple but powerful.  If we are trying to explain some phenomenon, X, then we need to identify variations in the likelihood of X or the rate of X, and look for potential causes that (1) vary across the relevant circumstances in a way that could explain X and (2) that we can connect to the outcomes for X in some way.  For example, with the gender distinctive clothing question, some ways to better specify the question and look at it through comparisons are:

      • What causes individual conformity to the cultural pattern?  What induces women and men to conform to the expectations for dressing differently?  Whenever we observe a consistent pattern of social behavior, some common conditions or processes must be inducing people to act in a similar way.  Figuring out what encourages conformity and discourages deviance allows us to provide a causal explanation.  Think about what happens to people who do not conform to the expectations about male and female appropriate clothing.  And, just as important, ask why it is that people punish nonconformists.  Here the basic comparison is between people who conform and those who do not, or between the reactions of people to conformity and nonconformity.
      • What causes differences in dress "codes" across cultures? What circumstances could exist across societies that consistently produce gender differences in modes of dress?  The clothing characteristic of each sex varies greatly across societies (and time).  Clothing differs between "primitive" cultures and modern ones, between warm and cold climates, and between different parts of the world.  But seemingly everywhere men and women dress differently.  How can we explain this pattern?  Here the primary comparison is between cultures that have different clothing.
      • Why do the expectations about clothing differences vary by context?  Why are gender differences in dress greater in some circumstances than in others?  For example, both women and men may wear similar coveralls in a factory, but women and men generally wear dramatically different clothing to formal dances.  Our efforts to find causes behind any phenomena are improved by looking at variations.  If male and female clothing is just a little different in some contexts but greatly different in others, we can usefully focus on what might produce this variance in gender differences.  Here the primary comparison is between contexts with greater differences in the expected clothing and contexts with lesser differences.
    • Thinking Tools 2.  While considering how to explain the differences in the ways women and men dress, it can also be helpful to think through ways that this pattern could be considered an example of a larger pattern.  The explanation for the broader pattern may be different or easier to develop. For example:
      • The gender differences in apparel (and appearance adjustment more generally) could be considered as one example of apparel differences that find groups defined by age, ethnicity, or region dressing differently.  That is to say, it is not only women and men who consistently dress differently.  Different ways of dressing also distinguish other groups.  If we think about those other groups, does it give us insights into explaining the difference between women's and men's clothing?
      • The gender differences in dress could be considered as one example of a wider range of behavioral differences between women and men such as rules of proper decorum, speech patterns, or displays of sexuality.  That is, we can point to other presentational differences between women and men.  If we think about the range of these presentational differences, do they suggest ideas that might help explain differences in apparel?
  • Common Readings:
    • Little, Daniel. 1991. Varieties of Social Explanation: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Social Science. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Pp. 1-87   
    • John Gerring.  "Causation: A Unified Framework for the Social Sciences." Journal of Theoretical Politics, (2005) 17(2), 163-198.  (doi:10.1177/0951629805050859)
    • Epstein, Joshua M. " Why Model?." Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 11, no. 4 (2008): 12.
  • Recommended Readings
  • Related Readings

III.  How is gender inequality symbolized and reproduced in everyday life?

To start our investigation of the causes of gender inequality, we will consider how people experience and act out gender in their day to day lives.  We want to think about the most basic questions.  Why and when do women and men act differently?  Why and when do people respond differently to women than men?  How do all these private individual actions when taken together over time influence the understanding of gender in a culture and gender inequality?

  • Analytical Task
    • The general analytical problem.  Using a typical setting where women and men meet, assess how Ridgeway's framing approach helps explain the role of gender in these interactions and where it might fall short.
      • For this task, we choose some familiar (to us) setting or type of interaction where women and men typically engage each other.  For example, this could be a workplace, a bar, interactions between buyers and sellers, or parties.  We use this as our source of empirical data and focus our argument on explaining gender interactions there.
      • First, we need to read Ridgeway's argument carefully.  Then we try to apply her argument to the setting we have chosen.  We want to assess how much we believe people's actions (in the context we chose) fit the expectations we can derive from her argument and when they might not.  As we work on our analyses, we are evaluating Ridgeway's approach as a tool. The right tool allows us to construct a better edifice with less effort; the wrong tool does not.
    • Thinking tools. The remaining notes for this analytical task look at some analytical steps that allow us to think through this problem effectively.
      • Systematic steps in the analysis.  Doing this kind of thought experiment, we want our thinking to be as systematic as possible.  For all systematic causal analyses, we want to consider how the phenomenon being examined varies in regular or predictable ways across conditions, settings, types of people, places, or the like. Then, we ask what conditions or events typically precede or occur along with the outcomes that could plausibly influence those outcomes.
        • For example, first, we simply consider possible differences between men's and women's actions. 
        • Then we consider how their actions might differ between opposite-sex and same-sex encounters. 
        • We can broaden the range of the examples we use to think about these differences by considering other characteristics that might affect interactions, such as the age or race of the people, whether the interaction is cordial or unfriendly, how well the people know each other, and so on. 
        • We want to ask ourselves if the gender aspect of the interaction will be influenced by these other circumstances that seem relevant to interactions. For example, does gender influence cordial interactions differently from the ways it influences confrontations in our setting? If we believe the answer is yes, then we consider how and why. 
        • Analogously, we want to think about the ways that people's goals in gendered interactions vary in these kinds of circumstances, and how these goals influence their actions.  For example, in the same setting, a person seeking sex will commonly act differently than someone trying to curry favor or sell a product.
        • When we apply a systematic logic to the analysis, we usually do not want to write about all the possibilities we think about.  Instead, we use the ones that we find telling.  But we will not identify those telling possibilities unless we systematically work through all the relevant possible influences.
      • Gender context. We can take the analysis of interactions another step by considering how the influence of gender on these interactions is potentially affected by conditions like:
        • the presence or absence of onlookers (i.e., the relative privacy of the interaction) or
        • the gender distribution of other people present (i.e., mostly male, mostly female, or mixed)
      • Conformity.  Whenever we try to explain patterns like this, we want to consider the exceptions.  When will people violate the implications of gender expectations and what follows when they do?  Are there circumstances that make it more likely people will depart from conventional behavior?  Violations of norms or common expectations are valuable for causal analyses because cracks in the veneer of social order can reveal its structure and dynamics.
    • Bring it together.  After working through the steps above, we try to assess when Ridgeway's approach does a good job explaining how gender influences behavior in our chosen setting, and when her approach seems to fall short.   Do we see ways that her approach neglects or misunderstands important causes influencing the gender character of behavior in the context we examine?  Our central goal here is to explain how and why gender organizes interactions in our chosen example. We are not attempting a general evaluation of Ridgeway's ideas, but a focused assessment of their effectiveness in the setting we have selected to try them out.
  • Common Readings:
    • Cecilia L. Ridgeway, Framed by Gender, Chs. 1-2 {I recommend buying Ridgeway's book, but it is also available on line through the library via this link}; If any of Ridgeway's presentation seems unclear, try reading Ridgeway's article listed under the recommended readings for this week.
    • Hyde, J. S. (2005). The Gender Similarities Hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 581-592.
    • Rosabeth Moss Kanter.  "Some Effects of Proportions on Group Life: Skewed Sex Ratios and Responses to Token Women"    American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 82, No. 5 (Mar., 1977), pp. 965-990
  • Recommended Readings
    • Erving Goffman, "The Arrangement between the Sexes" Theory and Society, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Autumn, 1977), pp. 301-331 
    • Deniz Kandiyoti, "Bargaining with Patriarchy." Gender and Society," Vol. 2, No. 3 (Sep 1988), pp. 274-290
    • Cecilia L. Ridgeway, "Framed Before We Know It: How Gender Shapes Social Relations".  Gender & Society 2009 23:145-160   
    • Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman " Doing Gender" Gender & Society 1987 1: 125-151.
  • Related Readings
    • Cecilia Ridgeway.  Framed by Gender.  Oxford: 2011.
    • ...

IV. Why have women apparently occupied a subordinate position in all societies?  And how does explaining the "origins" of gender inequality relate to explaining the "persistence" of gender inequality?

Although some scholars may question if women have been subordinate in all societies, all agree that men have been dominant in most societies although the degree of dominance varies greatly.  This raises the very tricky question, how do we explain the prevalence of male dominance?  This exceedingly elusive question continues to elude any answer that will evoke a consensus. 

  • Analytical Task
    • Analytical Task Alternative 1: An analytical critique.  As most of us lack the substantive knowledge needed to develop even simple analyses of gender inequality's possible origins, we will explore the causal possibilities by responding to the arguments of people who are knowledgeable.
      • Please read the "Basics of Causal Descriptions" on a separate page for some simple, beginning ideas about describing a causal analysis.
      • Isolate what you believe are the most important causal arguments in the common readingsGive a critical assessment of their different approaches.  In doing this, try to pay attention to what it is that makes you find the causal arguments more or less persuasive.  The recommended and related readings provide a range of material that you can look at as you need to deepen and sharpen your arguments.
      • It can be helpful to look back at the material from Topic II, especially Gerring's list of criteria for causal arguments.
    • Analytical Task Alternative 2: A hypothetical scenario.  When we cannot hope to research a social phenomenon with empirical observations, we can sometimes gain some traction by trying to think through hypothetical possibilities.  Here is an example.
      • Assume that sometime in the near future we launch a rocket into space with a crew of 1,000.  This crew is evenly divided between women and men, the women and men have similar credentials and accomplishments, and the two sexes are about equally represented at each level of authority.  The crew members' cultural understandings are similar to those of college students today.
      • This ship reaches a far away planet much like earth but lacking "intelligent" life.  Unfortunately, the ship's engines have become unstable and the crew must abandon it. So they must start life on this new planet.  While they possess much advanced knowledge, they have no technology.  They must start from scratch, producing food, organizing themselves into a community, pairing off to reproduce, slowly building toward some kind of technological development over generations.  [Note: If the distant planet scenario seems unnerving, we could have the same effect by dropping a 1,000 people on a remote island that is isolated as a social experiment.]
      • Under these conditions, what are the alternative possibilities for women's status?  What might decide which alternative occurs?
  • Common Readings
  • Recommended Readings
    • Sapolsky, Robert.  "Testosterone rules" Discover. Chicago: Mar 1997. Vol. 18, Iss. 3; p. 44 
    • Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2002). A Cross-Cultural Analysis Of The Behavior Of Women And Men: Implications For The Origins Of Sex Differences. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 699-727.
    • Evolutionary Psychology and similar approaches:  The debates over evolutionary psychology - in general and as applied to gender inequality - are very important but often difficult to follow and assess.  Here are some starting points for learning the basics.  Buller's supplies a sophisticated overview and critique of the most influential paradigm in evolutionary psychology (while supportive of the more general venture), Downes and Walter present guided views of the field, and other pieces provide further commentaries and some studies that explore key issues facing this approach.
      • Downes, Stephen M., "Evolutionary Psychology", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition)
      • Sven Walter, "Evolutionary Psychology," The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2009
      • Bolger, Diane. "Introduction." In A Companion to Gender Prehistory, edited by Diane Bolger, 1-19. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2012. [doi:10.1002/9781118294291.ch0]
      • Buller, David J. "Evolutionary Psychology: A Critique." In Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology, edited by Elliott Sober. Cambridge, MA: A Bradford Book, 2006. [also, compare David Buller. "A Guided Tour of Evolutionary Psychology" (In A Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind. Eds. Marco Nani and Massimo Marraffa. "An official electronic publication of the Department of Philosophy of University of Rome" 2000.) Also by Buller see: "Evolutionary Psychology: The Emperor's New Paradigm," Trends in Cognitive Sciences 9 (2005): 277-283 and for a full treatment his book Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford Books, 2005.]
      • Fausto-Sterling, Anne. "Beyond Difference: A Biologist's Perspective." Journal of Social Issues 53, no. 2 (2010): 233-58. [doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.1997.tb02442.x]
      • Goodman, Madeleine J., P. Bion Griffin, Agnes A. Estioko-Griffin, and John S. Grove. "The Compatibility of Hunting and Mothering among the Agta Hunter-Gatherers of the Philippines." Sex Roles 12, no. 11-12 (1985): 1199-209. [doi:10.1007/bf00287829]
      • Rigby, Nichole, and Rob J. Kulathinal. "Genetic Architecture of Sexual Dimorphism in Humans." Journal of Cellular Physiology 230, no. 10 (Oct 2015): 2304-10. [doi:10.1002/jcp.24979]
      • Stulp, Gert, and Louise Barrett. "Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Height Variation." Biological Reviews 91, no. 1 (Feb 2016): 206-34. [doi:10.1111/brv.12165]
      • Joseph Henrich. "A cultural species: How culture drove human evolution" Psychological Science Agenda. Science Brief. 2009
      • Rosemary L. Hopcroft. "Gender Inequality in Interaction – An Evolutionary Account." Social Forces  87.4 (2009): 1845-1871.
    • Randall Collins. "A Conflict Theory of Sexual Stratification." Social Problems, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Summer, 1971), pp. 3-21
    • Rae Blumberg. "A General Theory of Gender Stratification." Sociological Theory  2  (1984): 23-101
  • Related Readings
    • Rae Blumberg. "Extending Lenski's Schema to Hold Up Both Halves of the Sky.”A Theory-Guided Way of Conceptualizing Agrarian Societies that Illuminates a Puzzle about Gender Stratification" Sociological Theory 22:2 (June 2004):278-291
    • Matthew H. McIntyre, Carolyn Pope Edwards.  The Early Development of Gender Differences  Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 38 (2009): 83-97
    • Laurie Wermuth and Miriam Ma'at-Ka-Re Monges. "Gender Stratification: A Structural Model for Examining Case Examples of Women in Less-Developed Countries." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 23.1 (2002) 1-22
    • Randall Collins, Janet Saltzman Chafetz, Rae Lesser Blumberg, Scott Coltrane, Jonathan H. Turner  Toward an Integrated Theory of Gender StratificationSociological Perspectives, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 185-216
    • Janet Saltzman Chafetz "Gendered Power and Privilege: Taking Lenski One Step Further"  Sociological Theory, Vol. 22, No. 2, Religion, Stratification, and Evolution in Human Societies: Essays in Honor of Gerhard E. Lenski (Jun., 2004), pp. 269-277
    • Joan N. Huber. "Comparative Gender Stratification." Handbook of the Sociology of Gender, 1999, p65-80
    • Maurice Godelier, "The Origins of Male Domination" New Left Review, May-June 1981, pp. 3-17
    • William Tulio Divale, Marvin Harris. "Population, Warfare, and the Male Supremacist Complex." American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 78, No. 3 (Sep., 1976), pp. 521-538 [See also: William Divale, Marvin Harris, Donald T. Williams. "On the Misuse of Statistics: A Reply to Hirschfeld et al."  American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 80, No. 2 (Jun., 1978), pp. 379-386; William Divale, Marvin Harris.  "The Male Supremacist Complex: Discovery of a Cultural Invention" American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 80, No. 3 (Sep., 1978), pp. 668-671
    • C C Mukhopadhyay, and P J Higgins. "Anthropological Studies of Women's Status Revisited: 1977-1987". Annual Review of Anthropology Vol. 17 (1988): 461-495
    • Naomi Quinn. "Anthropological Studies on Women's Status".  Annual Review of Anthropology Vol. 6 (1977): 181-225 
    • Chris Hann. "Reproduction and Inheritance: Goody Revisited." Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 37 (2008): 145-158

V.   What determines men's and women's roles and positions within families?

Family and kinship are potentially relevant to gender inequality in varied ways and a lot of work had pursued such issues.  Probably the two most important general issues involve the ways that women and men are unequal within families and the ways that family organization both contributes to and is influenced by gender inequality beyond the family institution.  We will just touch the surface of these issues this week.

  • Analytical Task
    • The general analytical problem.  We want to provide an integrated analytical overview of the principal causal arguments about gender inequality and family organization that appear in the common readings.
    • Each of the readings has various causal arguments about family organization, some directly about gender inequality, some relevant to gender inequality but not directly exploring it.  Some of the causal questions may receive different causal analyses by these authors.  Sometimes two or more authors may use a similar causal approach to explain different causal problems.  Our goal is to sort this out. 
    • Our overviews should be organized around the causal arguments, not a series of summaries of what each author wrote (see Thinking Tools).
    • Thinking tools.
      • We want to use one of the following two possible ways to organize the causal assessment (unless one of us has a better way).  The first organizes around what is to be explained, the second around the causes.
        • First approach.  We start by identifying the principal causal problems addressed by the group of papers.  That is, we figure out what they suggest needs to be explained.  Then, we organize these causal problems in a sensible order (including consideration of some problems potentially being secondary or sub-problems of others).  Under each causal problem, we summarize and assess all the relevant explanations found in the readings.
        • Second approach.  We start by identifying the principal causal frameworks used in the papers.  That is, we figure out what they suggest are the conditions or processes that have the most important influence over the outcomes.  Then, we organize these causal frameworks in a sensible order, taking into account which are entirely different and which might be variations of a similar theme, and which are competing versus complementary.  For each of these, after summarizing the causal logic of the framework, we show how it has been used by these authors, describing the range of outcomes the framework is supposed to determine and how it has such effects.
        • Note that regardless which way we organize our analysis of competing causal arguments, it can be valuable to think about not only what is considered by the authors being examine, but also which theoretical questions and which causal frameworks seem relevant but absent.
      • Please reread the "Basics of Causal Descriptions" on the starting point for describing a causal analysis.
    • Bringing it together.  In short, our aim is to produce a critical overview of the principal causal arguments concerning the family and gender inequality, starting with the ideas present in the common readings for this week.  To do this effectively, we need to identify all the relevant causal arguments, deduce the logical structure of each causal argument and determine how to present that clearly (even if the original source is inconsistent or ambiguous), detect how the causal arguments (from different sources) relate to each other and present them in a way that makes those relations clear, and, where possible, summarize the important analytical strengths and weaknesses of each argument (or facet to an argument).

      (We should start with the understanding that this kind of analytical overview is rather easy to do poorly and very demanding to do well and thoroughly.  At this stage we are not aspiring to a professional job but hoping to achieve a reasonable, if basic, analysis.)

  • Common Readings
    • Andrew J. Cherlin,  American Marriage in the Early Twenty-First CenturyThe Future of Children Volume 15, Number 2, Fall 2005
    • Down So Long:  Intimate Combat: The Responsibility for Child Rearing
    • Brines, Julie. 1994. "Economic Dependency, Gender, and the Division of Labor at Home."  American Journal of Sociology 100(3): 652-689. 
    • William J. Goode. "The Theoretical Importance of Love"  American Sociological Review, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Feb., 1959), pp. 38-47  [jstor: 2089581]
    • Kathleen Gerson. "Changing Lives, Resistant Institutions: A New Generation Negotiates Gender, Work, and Family Change"  Sociological Forum, Vol. 24, No. 4, December 2009
  • Recommended Readings
    • Destined for Equality: Institutional Individualism: "Individualistic Family" 157-169
    • Coltrane, Scott. 1989. "Household Labor and the Routine Production of Gender." Social Problems 3
    • Stephanie Coontz. "The Historical Transformation of Marriage," Journal of Marriage and Family,  Volume 66, Issue 4 (p 974-979) November 2004.
    • Beth Anne Shelton, Daphne John.  "The Division of Household Labor." Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 22, (1996), pp. 299-322
    • Andrew J. Cherlin, "The Deinstitutionalization of American Marriage"  Journal of Marriage and Family, Volume 66, Issue 4 (p 848-861)   November 2004. 
  • Related Readings
    • Kathleen Gerson.  "Moral Dilemmas, Moral Strategies, and the Transformation of Gender: Lessons from Two Generations of Work and Family Change" Gender & Society. Vol. 16 No. 1, February 2002 8-28
    • Sara B. Raley, Marybeth J. Mattingly, Suzanne M. Bianchi. "How Dual Are Dual-Income Couples? Documenting Change From 1970 to 2001. Journal of Marriage and Family 68:1 (2006), 11-28
    • Davis, S. N., T. Greenstein and J. G. Marks, "Effects of Union Type and Division of Household Labor," Journal of Family Issues 28 (2007):1247-72. [doi: 10.1177/0192513X07300968]
    • Scott Coltrane. Father-Child Relationships and the Status of Women: A Cross-Cultural Study. American Journal of Sociology, 93 (1988): 1060-1095.
    • Joann Vanek. "Time Spent in Housework." Scientific American 231 (Nov 1974):116-120. 
    • Valerie Kincade Oppenheimer. "The Sociology of Women's Economic Role in the Family." American Sociological Review, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Jun., 1977), pp. 387-406 
    • Kathleen Gerson.  (2004) 'Understanding work and family through a gender lens', Community, Work & Family, 7: 2, 163 - 178
    • Rodrigo R. Soares, Bruno L. S. Falcão. "The Demographic Transition and the Sexual Division of Labor." The Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 116, No. 6 (Dec., 2008), pp. 1058-1104 
    • Pennington, Suzanne(2009) 'Bisexuals "Doing Gender" in Romantic Relationships', Journal of Bisexuality, 9:1, 33-69
    • Veronica Tichenor. "Maintaining Men's Dominance: Negotiating Identity and Power When She Earns More." Sex Roles 53:3-4, (2005): 191-205
    • Becker, G. S., "Human Capital, Effort, and the Sexual Division of Labor," Journal of Labor Economics 3(1) (1985):33-58.  [

VI. What is the role of sex differences in the functioning and perpetuation of gender inequality?

Attempts to explain gender inequality at all levels are haunted by essentialism.  Essentialist arguments impute distinctive attributes to women and men and attribute the social differences between women's and men's activities, opportunities, statuses, and roles to these distinct attributes.  Even theoretical analyses of gender inequality that expressly reject the possibility of consequential, inherent sex differences,  commonly build their explanations of inequality on gender differences.  To complicate matters, essentialist arguments proclaiming superior attributes for women exist alongside of the arguments proclaiming women inferior.  Moreover, while for some, essentialism always means a difference based in biology or genetics, for others it includes cultural differences that are embodied in women and men.

  • Analytical Task
    • The general analytical problem.   To investigate how essentialist arguments work, we will examine how different kinds of essentialist arguments might be applied to explain some aspect of gender inequality, in contrast to a non-essentialist argument.  We aim to see both the attraction of essentialist arguments and the possibilities for alternatives.
      • Select one form or facet of gender inequality that you will try to explain for this task.  This instance or aspect of gender inequality should be sufficiently important, widespread, and enduring or recurring to merit thoughtful theory and explanation.  It should also be narrow or specific enough that the goal of explaining it is plausible.  For example, the facet might be that wives commonly defer to husbands. 
      • For the selected type or aspect of gender inequality, you will suggest five alternative explanations, each one representing a different approach to explaining such social phenomena.  The explanations should be succinct but clear.  They should also be plausible to the extent that a reasonable person might make such an argument. Plausible does not mean true, of course.  Rather, we are trying to imagine an argument that would seem plausible to people who are advocates for each of the perspectives.
    • The five types of explanation.   Attempt to devise the best explanations you can for the relevant facet of inequality from each of the following perspectives.  Explanations may be categorized in many ways.  The five perspectives defined here are meant to engage different responses to the problem of essentialism.
      1. Direct biological - Devise an explanation claiming that some biological difference between the sexes produces the relevant aspect of inequality by making women and men act differently.  For example, an argument might be that men are stronger than women so men dominate women as a simple result of superior strength.  (More complex biological explanations might be derived from evolutionary psychology.)  This type of explanation is usually purely essentialist.  Note that this type of explanation can be divided further into those relying on real biological differences and those imputing fictional biological differences.  Let us stress biological differences that are at least potentially real here, leaving the fictitious ones for below.
      2. Indirect biological - Formulate an explanation claiming some biological difference does not directly produce the inequality, but the biological difference has important effects or implications of some sort, and those effects that make likely or unavoidable the emergence or persistence of the selected aspect of gender inequality.  For example, someone might argue that women's child bearing makes them anxious about the welfare of their children, and that anxiety makes them feel weak and in want of a protector, leading them to defer to husbands.  Or, others might suggest that women's biologically induced child rearing orientation encourages both women and men to make men responsible for warfare, and that men's resulting skill at combat, their possession of weapons, and men's organization around mutual defense leaves wives typically in their husbands' control.  The key for this type of explanation is that the relevant biological differences do not directly cause the gender inequality being explained, but have effects on social behavior and social organization that lead to gender inequality.  These types of explanations have essentialist origins in a biological difference, but the explanation as a whole may invoke mediating causal influences that reduce the essentialist quality, sometimes greatly.
      3.  Non-biological sex difference - Suggest how some socially constructed difference between women and men – one that is neither biological nor a direct result of biological differences – initiates or preserves the aspect of gender inequality being explained.  This will usually be an enduring individual characteristic (a difference that people carry with them, not a difference in their circumstances).  For example, one might claim that women are fearful and dependent because of socialization processes (that have no biological basis), and this psychological condition induces wives to defer to their husbands.  Or, one might argue that childhood sports available only to boys result in a higher competitive drive that accounts for adult men's greater success in business.  This type of explanation claims a real difference exists between women and men (in the society or social context where the inequality being explained occurs; the relevant sex difference need not exist in all or any other society or social context), but this difference is a social construction.  This type of explanation often becomes redundantly circular: each aspect of inequality exists as a result of inequality, and that overall inequality is constituted by the various aspects.
      4. Fictitious sex difference - An imputed sex difference that does not really exist is claimed to play a significant role in producing the selected facet of gender inequality.  For example, someone might suggest that although women have no better capacity for child rearing, people commonly assume they do because women bear children, and that this false expectation produces a division of labor and power favoring men.  This type of explanation focuses on the consequences of beliefs, relying on the observation that beliefs can organize behavior even if they are false beliefs.  While such fictitious differences are commonly assumed to be biological, they need not be.
      5. Causes independent of sex differentiation - A causal process that does not involve any difference between the sexes is argued to produce the inequality being considered.  For example, some might argue that for families to fulfill their social functions effectively, they need one spouse/parent to perform the critical emotional actions needed and the other spouse/parent to perform the practical and leadership actions (this is essentially a well-know idea of Talcott Parsons).  This role differentiation can then result in spouse inequality, as an indirect and unintended consequence.  This category includes highly diverse explanations, the one critical similarity among them being that they do not rely on a sex difference in their central causal argument.  It may be worth noting that one reason explanations based on sex differences (including all the preceding perspectives) are more common is that formulating a plausible analysis that forgoes the mechanism of sex differences is often a hard task.
    • (Note, in this task we are aiming to produce explanations that those advocating each of the above types of explanation would think are reasonable.  It is often hardest to conceive good explanations from the points of view we find unconvincing or unappealing, but the capacity to do this is a valuable skill.)
    • Bringing it together.  The point of this exercise is to examine how it is possible to devise a range of alternative causal explanations of gender inequality stressing some mechanism of sex differences, while developing alternative theories that do not rely on sex differences is rather hard.  The difference arguments run the full range from being directly and fully biological to relying on non-biological or fictitious differences in indirect ways.  The arguments that exclude not only biology but all dependence on sex differences commonly derive from another theoretical approach, such as functionalism or conflict theories.  The challenge with these approaches is not only to make the immediate causal process eschew differences, but to avoid relying on sex differences one or two steps earlier in the causal chain.
  • Common Readings
    • Carol Gilligan. "Hearing the Difference: Theorizing Connection."  Hypatia, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Spring, 1995), pp. 120-127
    • Carol Gilligan. "Reply by Carol Gilligan." Signs, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Winter, 1986), pp. 324-333
    • Jaffee, Sara; Hyde, Janet Shibley. "Gender Differences In Moral Orientation: A Meta-Analysis." Psychological Bulletin. Vol 126(5), Sep 2000, 703-726. [doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.126.5.703]
    • Valian, Virginia. 1998. "Sex, Schemas, and Success: What's Keeping Women Back?" Academe 84(5): 50-55. (Compare Ridgeway in Section III above.)  (See Valian in Optional Readings for fuller account.)
  • Recommended Readings
    • Douglas Schrock, Michael Schwalbe. "Men, Masculinity, and Manhood Acts."  Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 35: 277-295 (August 2009). [doi: 10.1146/annurev-soc-070308-115933]
    • Janis S. Bohan. "Regarding gender: Essentialism, Constructionism, and Feminist Psychology." Psychology of Women Quarterly, Mar 93, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p5-22 
    • Matthew H. McIntyre, Carolyn Pope Edwards. "The Early Development of Gender Differences."  Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 38: 83-97 (October 2009)
    • Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2002). A Cross-Cultural Analysis Of The Behavior Of Women And Men: Implications For The Origins Of Sex Differences. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 699-727. [doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.128.5.699]
    • Nancy Chodorow. "Oedipal Asymmetries and Heterosexual Knots." Social Problems, Vol. 23, No. 4, Feminist Perspectives: The Sociological Challenge (Apr., 1976), pp. 454-468
  • Related Readings
    • Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (1999). The Origins Of Sex Differences In Human Behavior: Evolved Dispositions Versus Social Roles. American Psychologist, 54, 408-423. 
    • Valian, V. (1999). The Cognitive Bases Of Gender Bias. Brooklyn Law Review, 65, 1037-1061.
    • Clopton, Nancy A.; Sorell, Gwendolyn T.  "Gender differences in moral reasoning." . Psychology of Women Quarterly, Mar93, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p85 [doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1993.tb00678.x]
    • Pamela L. Geller. "Identity and Difference: Complicating Gender in Archaeology."   Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 38: 65-81 (October 2009) [doi: 10.1146/annurev-anthro-091908-164414]
    • Barbara J. Risman, "Intimate Relationships from a Microstructural Perspective: Mothering Men." Gender and Society 1:1 (March 1987). 
    • Nancy Chodorow. "Mothering, Object-Relations, and the Female Oedipal Configuration." Feminist Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Feb., 1978), pp. 137-158 [jstor: 3177630]
    • Timothy J. Biblarz & Judith Stacey. "How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?" Journal of Marriage and Family 72:1 (2010):3-22  [doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00678.x]
    • Adrienne Rich. 1980. "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 5 (4): 631-660
    • Judith Butler. "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory." Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Dec., 1988), pp. 519-531. 
    • Nussbaum, M. C. The Professor Of Parody [J. Butler]. The New Republic v. 220 no. 8 (February 22 1999) p. 37-45.  {Also, Nussbaum, M. C. Martha C. Nussbaum And Her Critics: An Exchange [discussion of February 22, 1999 article, The Professor Of Parody]. The New Republic v. 220 no. 16 (April 19 1999) p. 43-5}
    • Timothy V. Kaufman-Osborn. "Fashionable Subjects: On Judith Butler and the Causal Idioms of Postmodern Feminist Theory."  Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 649-674
    • Veronica Vasterling. "Butler's Sophisticated Constructivism: A Critical Assessment."  Hypatia, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Summer, 1999), pp. 17-38
    • Barbara F. Reskin. "Including Mechanisms in Our Models of Ascriptive Inequality." American Sociological Review, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Feb., 2003), pp. 1-21

VII.  What is the role of sexuality?

Sexuality has been evoked in multiple ways in the study of gender inequality.  Some have considered it as a possible motivating cause for inequality, others have explored how gender inequality can mold the experience and practice of sexuality, and others have tried to theoretically incorporate sexuality as a peculiar tension between women and men that mediates both the causes and effects of gender inequality.  Essentially, everyone recognizes sexuality is critically important to gender inequality, but we lack agreement or clarity on how it matters.

  • Analytical Task
    • The general analytical problem.  Focusing on heterosexual behavior, it appears that men seek to have sex with women much more than women seek to have it with men, relative both to how often they have sex and with how many partners.  Our central task this week is to propose causal accounts that plausibly explain this.
    • Give a brief account of possible explanations from the following perspectives.  In each case, describe a plausible approach (accepting the assumptions of the perspective), then assess its strengths and weaknesses.
      • Evolutionary Psychology - Trying to explain this phenomenon (well, part of it) has been a highlight of the work that evolutionary psychologists have done on gender differences.  Provide an appropriate brief explanation of this sort, identify the fundamental assumptions it requires.  Also, consider the evidence and what might be important shortcomings.
      • Indirect biological - Formulate an explanation claiming some biological difference does not directly produce the inequality, but the biological difference has important effects or implications of some sort, and those effects that make likely or unavoidable the emergence and persistence of this sexuality difference.   Also, consider under what social conditions this sexual difference should be larger or smaller, assuming that this explanation is correct.
      • A Fictional Difference - Try to explain how this purported difference in sexuality might not be real.  This includes explaining why the fictional belief in this difference would arise and become prevalent.
      • Secondary effect of gender inequality - Consider how this difference can arise as a result of gender inequality.   Examine what social conditions must be true for this causal sequence to occur.
      • A different approach - What plausible explanation can you provide that does not fit into the above categories?
    • Can you provide reasoning or evidence to show that one of the explanations is better than the others?
    • Bringing it together

Gender and Division of Labor


There are a great many assumptions about the role of men and women in today’s society, and there are a great number of reasons for these assumptions. For example, in the world of work, it is often assumed, and has historically been the case, that men are the ‘breadwinners’ and women stay at home and raise the children. In this essay, I will explore the background to this, the change that has recently occurred, and some existing divisions.

Men are, in most cases, stronger than women. This is not universally true, but has historically been the case. Given this, it has seemed to make sense that men go out into the world to accomplish work that has largely been physical. What I mean is, it the early human societies, before office work and machinery, heavy work was heavy work. Women, the physically smaller sex, would traditionally stay inside, gather berries, and raise children. This model, with all of its faults and bad assumptions about gender, remained until around the first and second world war.

In a modern society, when much work involves the mind and not the body, and when physical exertion is mostly taken on by machines, there is no justifiable reason to divide labor into the old method, men earning money, women raising children. This fact came to be realised in the two world wars, because, with men on the front line, all of the regular work, and the production of munitions, needed to be completed by women. This led to a revolution, with women, and some men, recognising that division of labor need not be made on outdated gender lines. So, when men returned from the front line, it was to a female population that wanted its share of rights that come with earning money.

Now, although there are still some positions that are largely male, like construction work and the armed forces, women are much more integrated into the labor force, and gender is no longer assumed to determine strength or earning ability.

So, although things are by no means perfect now and women are still, on average underpaid in relation to men, labor is now shared among the genders. And this resulted from a situation that forced a change in society. There is, undoubtedly, more gender equality as a result.


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