Although the development of feminist movement contributed to the reduction of gender inequality in some states and communities, the disparities plaguing women are maintained and supported by traditions, social norms, and cultural values in a large number of regions across the globe.
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For centuries, women suffered from discrimination that caused a lot of social, legal, psychological, and medical problems for them. In the mass consciousness, the gender discrimination is usually reduced to a stereotype of physical abuse of women by men, but such perception is narrow and one-sided. Based on the motives and consequences of gender inequality, the mistreatment of women is a social-cultural phenomenon. Although the social position of women has improved in some states due to globalization and development of awareness of the given problem in the international community, gender inequality is still present in multiple aspects of life: political, economic, religious, and household.
Cultural and Social Prerequisites of Gender Inequality
Gender differences are substantially predetermined by the social and cultural factors. It means that women discrimination is defined by both cultural contexts and the characteristics of males and females in terms of their social roles. The problem is that the majority of customs, laws, and institutions influencing women’s positions and representation in the society are based on male-centered ideas (“Women’s Rights” para. 2).
Religion and culture play an essential role in how women are treated. Honor killing is one of the best examples of how women discrimination is supported by the culture and traditions. This customary practice still occurs across many Muslim countries, and the majority of victims of this tradition are women while males represent in the role of killers (Mirza 1). The act of honor killing demonstrates that Islamic women are frequently treated like property, and such an attitude is hard to intervene as it is justified by the numerous local social and religious traditions which encourage females’ social exclusion and dependence on men.
Men’s domination over women is not limited to the hierarchical pattern of relationships in multiple social institutions such as family, but it also influences the political, financial, and legal institutions. For instance, one of the recent studies reveals that the current political system is male-centered and that women’s political presence is affected by the multiple ideological and contextual factors. Cickaric claims that the political systems have a tendency to exclude the women’s interests and demands, and it helps to keep the number of female representatives in politics low (44). Besides this, in many states women are deprived of the opportunity to be financially independent, they live in poverty and have limited or no rights. Based on this, it is possible to say that in the traditional social worldview, women have a secondary status in the society while men have the primary status.
The Impacts of Feminist Movement on Gender Discrimination
In the past, the US women also were treated as property. They had no rights, were subject to male authority, and enjoyed lesser freedom than men. Due to the movement for gender equality, the situation has slightly improved because open and direct cases of mistreatment are now publicly criticized. More women are now economically active and feel they have greater control over their lives. Nevertheless, although a variety of reforms were adopted by the politicians and the male domination has drastically decreased since time, the low female political representation, the cases of violence against women, gender pay gaps, and other disparities prove that the gender discrimination still exists in the American society (“Women’s Rights” para. 5).
As in the case of many Islamic countries, legal systems establish a less privileged status for women in terms of civil rights, education, labor, and property rights, etc. For instance, the findings of Younis’s study on gender gaps in employment, education, health, and other aspects of social life in the Arab World reveal that most of the Islamist political officials lack knowledge and willingness required to provide all citizens with the equal rights due to the ideological preconceptions and the failure to consider diverse opinions in the political and legal decision-making (51). He observes that some improvements have been achieved in the education system and, nowadays, women can have education similarly to men. Nevertheless, the inequality in job opportunities remains drastic. Therefore, the advancement of the current policies is required. To achieve this, the government should take into account a women’ interests.
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The literature review makes it clear that gender inequality is predetermined by the historical and cultural development of the global society and are implicitly supported by the carriers of traditional cultural values and social norms through the exercise of commonly accepted social practices. However, nowadays, it became apparent that discrimination influences society in a negative way and some changes are required.
It is possible to presume that the deeper integration of feminist concepts and values into the social consciousness may be beneficial because it promotes gender neutrality and equality. The provision on equal rights for women may have many positive effects on both genders and the social development as a whole. And the realization of the equal rights and equal access to labor and education will contribute to economic growth and the expansion of scientific and academic knowledge.
Cickaric, Lilijana. “In/visibility of Women in Politics.” TEME: Casopis za Drustvene Nauke, vol. 39, no. 1, 2015, pp. 43-59.
Mirza, Syed Kamran. “Islam Condones Honor Killings.” Islam, edited by David Haugen, Susan Musser, and Kacy Lovelace, Greenhaven Press, 2009, pp. 123-129.
“Women’s Rights.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, 2015, Web.
Younis, Ahmed. “Gender Justice.” Harvard International Review, vol. 35, no. 1, 2013, pp. 50-55.