Conclusion: Two centuries of progress with more to go

Equal rights for everybody!At the conclusion of the week-long discussion concerning inequality between women and men, we were to write a summary of the discussions and replies along with our conclusions. Here is my wrap-up…

Most of the class seems to feel that there is inequality among men and women in the United States. While it is an established part of society, it is not necessarily a “normal” part of it. As several students point out, since the 1800’s, we have made tremendous progress toward equality: universal suffrage, women entering the workplace, and many laws requiring gender blindness by employers and government. Some students, like Michael, feel that such progress has resulted in reverse discrimination against males in certain areas.

Many of the students point out that equality is not the same as identicalness. Men are generally stronger, bigger, and more athletic than women, and women are more emotional and nurturing. These are seen as acceptable, or even desirable, variations on a theme, rather than justifications for inequality. Gladys relates it to pears and kiwis, stating, “inequality is a difficult concept to grasp, it makes the ‘unequal’ part sound bad.”

What is not desirable is disparity in pay for comparable work. Allison stated that “women make on average 75% as much as men.” Women also are expected to be caregivers and manage the household, regardless of whether or not they work outside the home.

The cause for some of this inequality may come from the women themselves. Sierra wrote “intellectually, women may believe they’re made for housework and mothering, thus they may not strive for an education. Socially, women may take a role of submission, leaving the choice of friends and activities up to her husband or dominant male-figure.”

Geography also plays a role. As Justine mentions, “Much of gender inequality depends on where you live, your occupation, and the way you were raised.” People familiar with the attitudes prevalent in the Southern U.S., were quick to point out that inequality is more evident there than in more progressive parts of the country. I also pointed out that cultural backgrounds can make a major impact on how women are perceived within the community.

It was almost universally stated that such inequality leads to stress in women. Additionally, stress can lead to depression, anxiety, and anger. Sometimes health care providers even contribute to the problem by passing along prejudiced views. Julie responded to me with an anecdote about her doctor intimidating her and refusing to “tie [her] tubes with the comment that [she] was a ‘perfect baby maker’.”

In conclusion, I was pleased to see that people in the class were mostly optimistic about the situation. They seem to feel that we are about where we should be as a country, though we could still progress. I feel that we must keep watch, or the rights could disappear.

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