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Problems in Gender Inequality

Problems in Gender Inequality

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize the connection between gender and sexual harassment, and the various types of sexual harassment that can occur.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on problems in gender inequality. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today as I break down problems in gender inequality, I'm really going to be focusing on two different things, feminism and sexual harassment. But first, as some context, let's start thinking a little bit about where gender inequalities happen. They can happen in a lot of different places. I have three bullet points there that I think are the three most common places that it can happen. But again, it happens in many other places-- are the workplace, politics, and education.

So a good example of workplace gender inequality would be that, on average, males are paid more than females for the exact same job. And a good example in politics is that even though the majority of American citizens are female, there are considerably less female representatives in the US Senate and the US House.

Education is another great example of some gender inequalities. While currently many females go to college-- in fact, I believe more females are now going to college and getting degrees than males-- after college is done, the number of people who stay in academics is predominantly male. So again, those are three just common places where you can start thinking about it in your head, start bringing to your mind different places where there is gender inequality.

I want to go in depth about a different place, actually, where gender inequality exists. And that's in fashion. Now, often, we don't necessary consider fashion as being anything more than wanting to look good. But there are some really interesting ways that this gender inequality can play out in fashion.

So one of the first ways that you can think about it is that there's really unequal expectations for looking good for males and females. It's much more socially acceptable for a male to wake up and throw on a T-shirt and go out and be OK. Females are expected to have their hair looking all proper, makeup on. The level of work that is necessary to be, quote unquote, "looking good" as a male and female is very, very unequal.

Now, specifically looking more closely at fashion, the fashion world can often treat women as sexual objects. So women's fashion is all about accentuating the beauty of females, which on it's own isn't necessarily bad. But it's very unequal compared to males.

Males are also supposed to look good in fashion. But they're not purely showing off their body. Fashion for females is much more likely to really accentuate their body in a way that actually ends up treating them as sexual objects. And there's some links to this that fashion and pornography-- this treating women like objects can actually lead to violence against women.

Another really interesting inequality that comes from fashion is this idea of this double bind for fashion of powerful women. So a great example of that is Hillary Clinton. She is someone who's very powerful, very smart. She's often criticized for dressing too much like a man-- having baggy pants, wearing a suit. She's criticized because that doesn't make her look that good.

But as a powerful woman, if she were to wear what is going to make her body look good, then would she really be taken seriously for the ideas she brings to the table? I think most people would argue that-- no.

I hate to say it, but the way that our world is set up right now is that powerful women-- they really have to be careful about how they dress to not appear too sexy. Because if they're too sexy, then they can't be smart. But if you're smart, then you're not allowed to look sexy. It's really a lose-lose situation for a smart, powerful woman.

Feminism really is the idea that we need to advocate. We need to have equal rights between men and women. So those examples you saw before-- well, feminists want to fight strongly against all those places where gender inequality is happening.

Now, a different way of looking at gender inequality is looking at sexual harassment. Both males and females can be sexually harassed. But it disproportionately happens to females.

And sexual harassment-- it can be a wide variety of things. But you can generally think of it just as an unwelcome sexual advance or something that is being said disparagingly regarding someone's sex or sexual preferences. And it doesn't have to be said. It can be gestures. It can be physical contact. Sexual harassment has a pretty broad definition. So a lot of different actions can be defined as sexual harassment.

But you can break it down a little bit into different types of sexual harassment. And this really comes from the workplace. But it could be applied to schools. It could be applied in other places besides just the workplace.

So quid pro quo sexual harassment is the idea that individuals receive benefit for saying yes to sexual advances or are punished for turning down those sexual advances. So an example could be you have a secretary. Her boss asked her out on some dates.

And if she gets benefits from saying yes to those dates, that could be quid pro quo sexual harassment. Or it could also be that she says no, and then she doesn't get the promotion, even though she deserves it. That is also quid pro quo sexual harassment.

The other type of sexual harassment is hostile environment. And that is really where just the general environment makes it feel unsafe and hostile based on that definition of sexual harassment.

So quid pro quo is specifically looking at people gaining benefit or being punished with the sexual harassment. And hostile environment is much broader. So just saying something that makes someone feel uncomfortable and making the environment feel unsafe-- they're not getting a direct benefit or punishment from that. Instead, that would be a hostile environment.

So today's takeaway message-- today we learned about sexual harassment. And that's just inappropriate and unwelcome sexual advances in many different forms. And we learned about feminism, which is the advocacy for equal rights between men and women.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know

The advocacy for equal rights between men and women.

Sexual Harassment

Uninvited sexual advances in the form of words, gestures, or contact.