Comparing women’s rights from the 1800s to the present, equality for women has significantly improved. In the United States women use to be only viewed useful for work at home like child rearing and today women in the US are more accepted into the workforce. Even while this is true, women still do most of the housework and men are left to dominate the workplace. Women have gained huge milestones in politics as well as the workforce. This topic takes heart to me because I am a feminist and I strongly believe in equality for women and men. I hope for huge movements forward for all feminist activists.
Despite many improvements, there are some who still believe in the stereotypical “housewife” and that women do not belong at work. Although women’s rights have improved since the 1800s, women still remain at a disadvantage with their roles in the workplace, at home, and in politics. It was a fight for women just to be able to get a paid position with an employer. Men wanted to be the patriarchs and leave the women to raise the children. Even once women were being accepted into the workforce, they were not allowed to do men’s work and women were not getting paid equally as the men.
In her article, Rosemary Radford argues, “When women gain the right to enter a profession, it is still very hard for them to compete with men on an equal footing, since they are also presumed to being charge of this domestic support system” (Radford, 2). The wage gap between men and women has not changed much. Men are still making hundreds of thousands of dollars more than women that have the same credentials, experiences, and any other qualification that may be similar. Not only is there is there a continuous wage gap but there is also a difference in employer benefits packages.
Men receive better benefits than females typically do. Part of the issue for the wage gap ties back to gender stratification theory. Gender stratification theory states, “Inequality between men and women is reflected in differences in income, responsibility for housework, and more”. Even if women are more than capable of performing the same work and tasks as men, those in authority will diminish the value of a woman’s work or declare that a task is for a man to do and the woman should stick to work that fits a “lady”.
Larber states, “In a gender-stratified society, what men do is usually valued more highly than what women do because men do it, even when their activities are very similar or the same” (27). This issue also leads to women not getting promoted or a pay raise. Single mothers (especially those of a minority) are even less likely to get a raise or a promotion because of lack of childcare, and for minorities they get double the discrimination. Women also get stuck with positions of employment that have no means of advancement.
Maids, nannies, and secretarial positions are jobs considered to be feminine, are paid less to women, and are looked down upon as unworthy work in the eyes of men. This is an example of social conflict approach. Social conflict approach brings gender separation and conflict between what men have and women do not have. If women’s rights in the workplace are still limited today, then women’s roles inside the home have not improved as much either. According to Marianne Ferber, “In recent surveys, men are more reluctant to accept a larger role for themselves in the household than they are to accept women’s greater role in the labor market” (5).
Men are more comfortable with their wives going to work than they are willing to help out at home more. In the 1950s, women were expected to be good housewives. Women were not to go college and if they did it was only to meet their future husbands. Women were expected to stay home and do housework and take care of the children. Ferber says, “Housework and childcare continued to be viewed as the women’s responsibility whether or not she also had a paid job” (2). Mothers today are arguing back and forth over the “Mommy Wars”.
The “Mommy Wars” is where working mothers are criticizing stay at home mothers for not working and in turn, non-working mothers criticize working mothers for not spending enough of family time together. Rather than debating the “Mommy Wars” some women are complaining of having to work “the second shift” once they get home from work. The second shift refers to when a mother has worked a full day and then goes home to do just about the same amount of work by cooking dinner, doing laundry, cleaning the house, and taking care of the kids.
Ferber says, “Women do fifty-two hours a week in housework and child rearing while the men do eleven hours a week” (2). Men should be contributing to the housework more, regardless if the wife works or stays at home. The resource theory, proposed by Robert Blood and David Wolfe, “Focuses on the importance of accumulated resources of a spouse as the source of power within a marriage, which is likely to be used to make the other partner do more of the housework” (3, Ferber). The more control women have at work the more control they have at home.
Today there are a growing number of women who are taking on political control by holding more government positions. In the early 1800s women had no role in politics. Women did not hold office in government, women did not vote, and women did not speak about politics. All politics were left to men. It was not until 1920s that women gained the right to vote, with the passing of the 19th Amendment. What followed were movements for equal rights in pay, the right to not be discriminated against, and a growing number of political influences.
Women’s votes have been influential over a number of elections since gaining the right to vote. Women have slowly begun to gain political influence. According to Cookie Roberts however, “The most influential woman in the country is the first lady” (3). Women like Hilary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Condoleezza Rice are just a few of today’s US female leaders. Rosemary Radford postulates, “Generally we find women excluded not only from political leadership (although there may be place holders for male heirs) but from those professional roles in culture and religion that buttress political power” (3).
Men still outnumber women in politics, however if more women continue to join political parties, then perhaps one day there will be a balance in women and men in office. There are three major political views that involve gender inequality: conservative, liberal, and radical. The conservative view believes that, “gender inequality is thought to weaken family and parenting methods” (ch4ppt). The liberal view is for equality in pay and treatment. The radical view believes every aspect of the social structure needs to change. My viewpoint on gender inequality would go along with the liberals.
Equal pay for men and women would be the first step towards complete gender equality. The next step would be to stop labeling jobs as men’s work or women’s work. All jobs should be classified as gender neutral. The largest task would then be to see gender equality for all across the globe. Women are not totally equal to men yet; however, they have made large movements forward in the workplace, with their roles at home, and in politics. Perhaps in the next 100 years women can overcome the glass ceiling and close the gap between women and men.