Feminist Theories: The Oppression of Women at Home and in the Workplace Due to Gender Stratification
“One is not born a woman, but instead one becomes a woman,” claims sociologist Simone de Beauvoir (as cited in Zaretsky). Similarly, sociologist Judith Butler argues that “gender is less a biological fact than a social fiction” (Zaretsky). Another sociologist, Berk, makes a similar claim, arguing that the family is where you first learn how to do gender in compliance with societal norms; the creation and functioning of a family perpetuates society (Berk). These arguments, based on the works of Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault, are rooted in the idea that “what we assume to be essential human characteristics are instead malleable traits fashioned by social habits,” or the idea that characteristics we assign to gender are socially-constructed, as opposed to biologically predetermined (Zaretsky).
With these culturally constructed gender roles, however, comes gender stratification. In the United States, for example, women are generally free to do as they please as it is becoming less the social norm to participate in traditional gender roles, though there is still a double standard in society and the workplace. Even the act of marriage itself has rituals that assign specific gender roles, including the bridge being ‘given away’ to her husband, and her being expected to take his last name. This also continues into marriage, where the wife is traditionally assigned to the home, and in charge of doing the cooking and caring for the children. In other countries, such as India and Saudi Arabia, however, women are discriminated against by the government, which aids in the maintenance of strict gender roles in society. Using the structural-functionalist, conflict, and Neo-Marxian world systems perspectives, this paper will look at feminist theories and the gender oppression and gender inequality of women’s roles in society, specifically in the home and in the workplace.
According to Ritzer, “Feminist theory is a generalized, wide-ranging system of ideas about social life and human experience developed from a woman-centered perspective” (Ritzer, 307). Feminist theories identify women as the objects and subjects of their investigation, and often share a common interest in how power relationships are defined, shaped and reproduced on the basis of gender differences (Ritzer, 307). They seek to have women’s lives and experiences represented more in sociological studies, as well as for women to have a better role in society. While each feminist theory differs slightly in its perspective, all feminist theories believe that not only does society oppress women, but so do most sociological theories (Ritzer, 307).
Early feminist theory focused on challenging socially-constructed definitions of gender, while trying to redefine it; thus began three waves of feminism. The first wave of feminism began in the...