Gender or sexual equality is one of the most critical issues that we face in today’s society. This century is no longer the time when one can say that men come from Mars, and women come from Venus. Today, sexual equality is one of the basic human rights, but not just a problem of a group of females, and each act of gender injustice has to be explained. Despite a significant number of projects and policies defending gender equality, the progress is rather slow. This phenomenon is linked to the nature of human psychology, which is based on stereotypical thinking (Bohnet, 2016). Thus, this paper is dedicated to learning about the concept of gender equality and understanding the reasons for inequality. It also mentions which notions are a part of gender equality and which are not connected to it.
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Gender equality is a concept that means reaching equal rights between the sexes, in particular, family and civil rights. There have been numerous studies proving that women are equal to men in their intellectual development and capabilities (Kabeer, 2015). However, in many countries females still face unequal treatment, not getting the same rights and responsibilities that men are believed to have as a birthright. For example, in many professions, there is a significant prevalence of men or women, and both of them get unequally treated due to various reasons.
Gender equality as a principle consists of learning and removing all social barriers, which do not let a personality get chances for realization in all spheres, depending on the preferences of the individual. Gender identity is a set of human traits that define a person as a man or a woman, mainly in cultural and social contexts. It gets revealed through the roles defined by society, as well as through learned and expected models of behavior, which are associated with men or women. Gender inequality is a characteristic of social structure, which declares that men and women have distinct differences, which predetermine their unequal possibilities in society. The social psychology of gender is a limitless field for studying the misconceptions, discrimination, and appearance of social roles and norms. Gender inequality creates conditions in which the representatives of a particular gender are not provided a chance to take specific actions only for the reason of their gender identity. This problem again refers to both men and women.
Females make up more than 50% of the Earth’s population. Double standards regarding them cause harm to the whole society and negatively impact its economic development. The results of the research show that the countries in which men and women are treated equally are more economically advanced (Falk and Hermle, 2018). Such countries develop faster, and the economic situation in them is better due to applying more effective systems of state regulation, which is an important factor of growth and development. At the same time, providing equal rights to girls and women has to be treated as something that does not cause harm to the rights of males.
Explanation and Defense
One of the first philosophers who speculated on the topic of gender equality was Plato, who defended women’s rights and approved their participation in sports competitions, political life, and public institutions. He declared that women are eligible for taking important positions in government, including the leading ones (Kabeer, 2015). His works were revolutionary at that time, as ancient Greek society was under the pressure of centuries of traditional stereotypic thinking.
Gender discrimination in most cases is linked with erratic behavior based on stereotypic thinking. The beliefs about male and female role models cause an impact on what people believe is allowed and essential in their lives. Stereotypes provide an opportunity to realize some piece of information quickly, although, in many cases, these beliefs fail in their accuracy. People often make mistakes through stereotypic thinking, for they take their conclusions about the world as a must. In reality, the world, nothing and nobody in it is supposed to correspond to the stereotypical concepts of a person or a group of people. Psychologists say that this kind of thinking is typical for people and that each person tries to categorize the others. The nature of this thought process is unconscious; that is why it is so difficult to fight stereotypic thinking (Bohnet, 2016). Thus, once one learns the sexual identity of another person, biased thinking gets instantly activated in their head. Such brain functions are one of the reasons for unintentional discrimination.
This explanation of stereotypic thinking means that even though great media attention is paid to highlight the issues of discrimination by gender, race, or class, the progress in fighting it is not significant. The number of world countries involved in programs on fighting the issues of gender inequality is increasing. However, the impact of these programs, especially in societies with traditional thinking on gender roles is spreading slowly. Ideally, all communities and levels have to be involved in creating an environment through which all members of society could learn about the issues of gender inequality. Through social awareness about the traditional stereotypes on gender roles and understanding the physiology of the human brain, society can learn to combat this problem.
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One of the studies researched a computer simulation, which calculated the losses economy would have if women are excluded from the labor force. The results showed that the losses of GDP per capita would fall by 40% in the leading world countries (Falk and Hermle, 2018). Thus, fighting the issue of gender inequality promotes not only the healthy development of a person but the economic growth of the whole nation, which is beneficial for both men and women.
Objection and Response
The questions of equality of sexes remain hard to be addressed. The professor of Harvard University Iris Bohnet mentions in her book that gender equality remains nothing but a moral argument. She states that society must realize that treating genders equally is the right thing to do (Bohnet, 2016). However, equality between men and women does not mean that they can become creatures with the same physical and psychological capabilities. It only means that both genders may have equal opportunities and responsibilities, which do not depend on their sexual identity. Gender equality means taking into consideration the needs, priorities, and interests of the representatives of both sexes. This question is not solely a problem of women, but a concern of all civilized society, as it is one of the parameters defining the economic wellbeing of the community.
Those who criticize the concept of gender equality remark that it is linked with providing equal possibilities to each person. They claim that it is practically impossible as men and women have different physiology and mentality. Thus, they conclude that no equality can be provided. Men cannot feel satisfied if they have to do what women prefer doing. At the same time, women in most cases cannot feel happy taking men’s activities and jobs. For example, most men do not like shopping and cosmetics, while most women do not like motorbikes and fishing. However, those who defend the concepts of gender equality declare that this position is a result of the patriarchal education of many generations, as well as of many stereotypes. Some sociologists believe that the opinion of a person, its mental state, psychology, behavioral motifs, and way of thinking depend on sex. Distinct gender differences are hard to argue; however, gender equality primarily means providing a possibility of development of a woman as a woman and a man as a man. It means that focusing on physical and mental differences between the sexes is not a fair reason for providing unequal rights.
Also, those who oppose the principles of gender equality tell that it is impossible for a mentally developed proactive person to do nothing else but fight for equal rights. People are supposed to do their job and to realize themselves through certain activities. Thus, though most people realize that a certain degree of segregation between sexes is a core of human civilization, they do not focus on inequalities. Regardless of the possible biases, a person first focuses on achieving the set goals. It means that for a significant number of people the problem of gender inequality never raises.
Gender equality is one of the core problems of the current century. It means providing equal conditions for men and women. Even though addressed in many countries, gender stereotypes remain strong, as they are linked with the way the human brain operates. Gender equality means providing equal rights and opportunities for men and women and does not mean that men and women are individuals with identical physiology, mentality, and interests. Increasing awareness on the problems of gender mentality provides slow, but practical results in reaching equal rights for men and women globally.
- Bohnet, I. (2016). What works gender equality by design. New York, NY: Belknap Press.
- Falk, A, and Hermle, J. (2018). Relationship of gender differences in preferences to economic development and gender equality. Science, 362(6412). Web.
- Kabeer, N. (2015). Gender equality, economic growth, and women’s agency: The “endless variety” and “monotonous similarity” of patriarchal constraints. Feminist economics, 22(1), 295-321.