Part 2 The usefulness of the term “patriarchy” for understanding gender relations Walby describes patriarchy as the husband’s control over hisproperty, and the woman’s subservience to him negates her having her own property, and her exclusion from paid work is the mechanism by which she remains under his control. The term “patriarchy” connotes the domineering role of men over women. Ostensibly, patriarchy is the means by which women were subjugated into roles of childbearer and child rearers. Bradley (date) admits that many contemporary marital unions are described as companionate rather than patriarchal, but still asserts that family life is still largely androcentric (p.
152). Even in Asian cultures, patriarchy enforces gender inequality. Afshar and Agarwal (1989) classify the Tamil society as strongly patriarchal, with the father’s dominance expressed in the family values and behaviour patterns of his wife and children (p. 182). Division of labour related to constructions of gender Bradley states that the capitalist relations are gender-stratified. Gender construction being intimately related to the physical differences between men and women, the women’s role of childbearer and, thereafter, child rearer, confined their perceived capacities to be nurturers and, as such, responsible for the care of the family and for meeting their needs.
Thus, work is segregated according to gender in line with preconceived notions of what skills are classified as “male” and which “female”. In Afshar and Agarwal (1989), sexual division of labor was seen to play a strong reinforcing force confirming the primacy of men and submission of women. Women in Tamil society may work as tea-pluckers, rubber-tappers or coconut plantation workers, but they were still responsible for attending to the needs of the family.
Household work is taken over by the daughters as they grew up, as it is considered the purview of women since cooking, cleaning, laundry and caring for the children was considered “natural” for women (p. 183 ) Significance of class for analysing gender Class appears not to be closely related to gender discrimination in the minds of American students (Chancer & Watkins, 2006). This is because in the American psyche, class distinctions do not play a strong role, which Chancer & Watkins calls as being “in a state of denial”.
Quoting Aronowitz, Chancer and Watkins avers that “class may be rendered ‘unconscious’ in the American social psyche even though ‘in every crevice of everyday life, we find signs of class difference; we are acutely aware that class plays a decisive role in social relations”(p. 78). Thus, it is not that class is not significant to the understanding of the gender divide, but that class is anathema to the social psyche of Americans, because the idea that certain advantages are attendant to those born rich, and disadvantages to those born poor, is not acceptable to the highly individualistic American consciousness. It is different in the context of a country that acknowledges a strong distinction between the classes, such as the Sri Lankan caste system, reinforced by religious beliefs.
Afshar and Agarwal (1989) point out that the values of caste ascribe to women an inferior status to that of men. Materialist approaches to gender and its limitations Walby (date) depicts the importance of labour power and the income produced thereform. The husband, she explains, is in control of his labour power for which reason he exercises control over the material fruits of his labour.
On the other hand, the wife is seen as rendering labour subservient to the husband in his home, for which she is not paid and is therefore not in control of the fruits of her labour. Afshar and Agarwal (1989) relate conditions of wealth and poverty to gender differences, insofar as Tamil women have no control over the family resources. Nevertheless, it is noticed that in south India, women of higher caste were less outspoken and forthright than women of lower class.
Because of their greater finesse, they had less control over their material resources. On the other hand, lower-caste women would be less schooled in the niceties of social graces, and because they tend to nag their husbands more, they are able to force their husband to relinquish some measure of control over the material resources, allowing the wife to exercise some discretion particularly where the needs of the household have to be met. From the ideological viewpoint, it is a further limitation that the Marxist approach is very simplistic and linear, in the sense that it describes certain phenomena according to the rise of other factors, and vice-versa, a fact that constricts the explanation of such phenomena.
Furthermore, it supports the materialist conditions that gave rise to ideologies, the converse of which could likewise possibly be true. In this matter, the approach proves itself by nature to be deterministic and generalizing. Conclusion In the study of gender inequality, the concepts of patriarchy, materialism, and division of labour play significant roles, although class distinctions may or may not be helpful depending upon the social attitude towards social stratifications into classes or castes.
Additionally, and more importantly, the connotation of patriarchy is of such breadth that it encompasses and is encompassed by other concepts as well. These other concepts, which include race, class, ethnicity and sexuality, may interchangeably overlap with gender. Finally, materialist approaches are likewise significant, because they imply power relations and structures that themselves give rise to other power relations.
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