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Gender Conflict Theory

Gender Conflict Theory

Author: Zach Lamb

This lesson will explain, define and discuss the key ideas and basic components of gender conflict theory, as well as the major contributions of gender conflict theorists Harriet Martineau and Jane Addams. 

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. Welcome to Sociological Studies. As always, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to study society. The topic of today's lesson is the gender conflict approach and feminism. The gender conflict approach assumes that the chief and central inequality in society is between men and women and that this is the fundamental discord in society as a whole.

So closely related to that, then, is this idea of feminism, which feminism is really just a position that supports the equality for men and women. Society has historically placed men in a position of power. Look at the home. Men have been regarded typically as breadwinners, as the heads of the household. And in the realm of work, men have historically earned more money than women and they had more prestigious jobs.

Also in our pop culture and in the icons that we venerate, such as today, rappers. It's a masculine field. There are hardly any women rappers. So if you're a sociologist working within the gender conflict approach, what kind of questions are you going to ask? What topics are you looking at? What kind of research are you going to do?

A friend of mine while I was getting my master's, she was doing her thesis on gender disparity in comedy. She wanted to know why are there no female comics? Because it's true. Relative to male comics, there are hardly any female comics. So what is it about comedy that is attractive to men or discourages women? Why did society produce more male comics than it does female comics? So these are the kind of questions that somebody within the gender conflict approach might ask. Why is one gender dominating an industry? Why are males dominating the industry and females aren't?

Now I'd like to shift gears and talk about Harriet Martineau, who was considered to be the first female sociologist. Martineau was a 19th century social thinker. She challenged the status quo and advocated for women's equality with men. And she was a revolutionary figure in this regard. She also advocated for female education so that women could have more to look forward to than being subservient to a man and just raising a child.

Again, remember that culture plays a part here because especially in Martineau's time, it didn't even occur to them to pursue a career. They were just expected to be subservient, to raise a child. So she came along and she said, no, this shouldn't happen like this. So she challenged this overarching ideology.

And now Jane Addams. She lived from 1860 to 1935. And like Martineau, Addams was not considered a sociologist at her time, but was later considered a sociologist by people who would look back on their work. So Addams is a shining example of what we would now call a public or an applied sociologist. And that is somebody with an outward focus who does sociology specifically aimed at improving the lives of people in society. And along with this, although Addams wrote sociological works, she chose a life of public service over being a university professor.

Continuing her public outreach then, Addams helped to found the Hull House in Chicago in 1889, which provided services and help to the laboring and immigrant poor. And in Chicago at that time, there were a lot of immigrants working in the meat packing industry which is famous for its atrocious, unsafe working conditions. All of this stuff is captured in the novel by Upton Sinclair called The Jungle which details in great degree just how nasty these factories were. Addams knew this and she had her finger on that pulse at the time so she helped all of these immigrants who were new to the country get going and so that's what the Hull House did in Chicago.

Both Harriet Martineau and Jane Addams then were prominent female sociologists working within the gender conflict approach. Well, I hope you've enjoyed learning about the gender conflict approach and about some contributors-- Harriet Martinueau and Jane Addams. Thank you for joining me and enjoy the rest of your day.

  • ​Jane Addams

    ​An applied sociologist and founder of the Hull House.

  • ​Harriet Martineau

    ​The first female sociologist; she fought for women's rights to education.

  • Feminism

    ​Support for the equality of men and women.

  • ​Gender Conflict Theory

    A specific variation of social conflict theory that prioritizes the inequality and conflict between men and women.