Should we be Concerned about the Gender Pay Gap at the BBC?

The BBC recently revealed the salaries of stars earning more than £150,000, and two-thirds of them are male, only a third female. So the very high income earner male-female ratio at the BBC is 2:1.

BBC gender pay gap

Where the highest incomes are concerned, there is an enormous disparity between the highest earning male and the highest earning female: Chris Evans is the top-paid male, earning between £2.2m and £2.25m, while Claudia Winkleman is the highest-paid female celebrity, earning between £450,000 and £500,000.

A recent edition of Radio 4’s Moral Maze explored some of the moral arguments for and against this pay gap, focusing on the following questions:

  1. Do these pay inequalities, between elite men and women at the BBC, actually tell us anything about gender pay differentials in wider society? Or is this sample of very high earning celebrities just so unique that it tells us nothing at all?
  2. Why do women earn less than men? To what extent is the biological fact that women are the child-bearers explain the differences? To what extent is it sexism in wider culture?
  3. What more could or should companies, government and society reasonably do about gender disparities?
  4. Finally, is viewing society through the prism of gender an unhealthy obsession and an unhelpful distraction from the job of tackling wider inequalities in wealth, health and education?

In case you’ve never listened to it, the format of the moral maze consists of a panel who e start off by briefly presenting their views on topic under discussion, and then listening to evidence from a number of witnesses and critically questioning them, before summing up their views at the end of the show. 

Michael Buerk
Michael Buerk – old, white, male, privately educated and host of the BBC’s Moral Maze

I thought it was useful to provide a detailed account of this episode of the moral maze because it includes summary of views of some of Britain’s best known contemporary Feminists and their critics on the issue of the pay-gap in the UK, an issue which is obviously highly relevant across the A level sociology syllabus. 

It’s also probably quicker to read this rather than listen to the pod cast, and I thought it’d be useful to link it up too. 

A summary of the views of the four person panel

Priest and Guardian pundit Giles Fraser – thinks that the fact that BBC appears to value men more than women is a moral outrage

Claire Fox, from the Institute of Ideas – describes Giles Fraser’s moral position as ‘tone deaf’ arguing that it’s ludicrous for a very high income earning women to see themselves as victims of Patriarchy, even if men in similar positions earn more them. She also says she finds it insulting to the memory of what fighting for women’s rights was all about.

Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter-Religious Studies at Edinburgh University – disagrees argues that we should be comparing ‘like for like’ – if men and women are in a similar environment, they should be receiving the same pay and those women are right to fight for it.

Historian and Blogger Tim Stanley – elite celebrity presenters are all grotesquely overpaid and this issue is a distraction from the e world and serious violence women face in other parts of the world and the UK, and also some of the systemic problems facing young men today.

The Four Witnesses

The Witnesses are Emily Hill, Nikki Van De Gaag, Sophie Walker and Dr Joanna Williams – below I summarise their views on the gender pay gap at the BBC and more widely in the UK, along with their responses to the various questions asked of them by the panelists. 

Dr Joanna Williams

Dr Williams is author of Women Versus Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars

  • women versus feminismShe argues that the pay of 96 elite people tells us very little about the issues of pay and inequality in wider society, because these 96 people are not doing jobs in which the pay is determined by standardised promotion and pay-scale procedures
  • She also points out that they are doing jobs which are not comparable – even where presenters co-present on the same show, one of them might well be doing additional presenting work elsewhere which could explain their higher pay.
  • The moral outrage over the gender pay gap at the BBC misses the point because the gender pay gap overall in the UK is at an all time low.

Giles Fraser responds to the above by suggesting that, irrespective of what’s going on in the wider society, where women are paid less for men in comparable jobs, this is a basic moral outrage. In response Williams says:

  • The real moral outrage is that other workers at the BBC (male and female alike) such as cleaners, editors, even producers, are earning so much less than these 96 ultra high-income earners.
  • These wealthy women have more in common with their wealthy male colleague and the focus on the ‘elite gender pay-gap’ is a distraction from the wider issue of social class.
  • She finds it nauseating that these elite women are calling for equal pay at the BBC, and claiming to do this for ‘all women – a campaign to equalize elite pay is going to nothing to help women lower down the pay scale – because at minimum wage level, there is no gender pay-gap.

Giles Fraser criticizes this view because it sounds like it’s blaming the victims of unequal pay. 

Mona Siddiqui tries to make the point that what is going on at the top of the BBC does in fact reflect a problem found in workplaces across Britain – which is that if women don’t kick up a fuss about it, they will be paid less than men. In response to this Williams says:

  • The average pay gap at the BBC is 10% compared to 18% in the country as a whole, suggesting the BBC is actually a relatively good on equal pay where gender is concerned.
  • Where you look at men and women in comparable ‘ordinary’ jobs, the gender pay gap is practically zero.
  • Women in their 20s earn more than men in their 20s.

Mona Siddiqui wonders what we’re aiming for in all of this – do we want equal pay by gender, or a world of work in which women race ahead of men, in which case we just end up with another pay-gap issue. In response Williams says:

  • the real issue is social class – people at the bottom need to be paid more
  • by focusing on the gender pay gap, we distract attention away from the real problem in society which is pay inequality more broadly – and to get better pay, women in lower paid jobs need to work alongside their male colleagues.

Sophie Walker 

Sophie Walker is leader of the Women’s Equality Party and argues that:

  • What’s interesting about the BBC Explodes the myth that if women try harder they can have equal pay. This list demonstrates that even the wealthiest, white, privileged  women are still paid less men, and if they’re being paid less
  • One of the main aspects of the pay gap is occupational segregation which starts with boys and girls in school making gendered subject choices -because we teach boys that they are good at science and engineering and we value and pay those jobs highly; while we teach girls that they are good at caring and teaching and we value and pay those jobs lesson.
  • The ‘care burden’ within family life falls disproportionately on women – women in their 20s may well earn more than men, but later on in their working lives, women pay a ‘motherhood penalty’ – within 12 years of having children women’s pay is about 30% lower than the men they work with.

Tim Stanley rejects Sophie Walker’s analysis arguing that the pay gap is generational and is disappearing for the young. He cites a recent report by the Resolution Foundation found that the gender pay gap baby boomers is 16%, among women born between 1981 and 2005, it is 5%, and for women in their early 20s, the pay gap doesn’t exist, in fact women in this age bracket earn more than men. He also points out that women outperforming men in education, especially at university.

Ultimately, the two talk at cross purposes – they disagree about how we should be comparing men and women – Tim Stanley wants to take generations as the base for comparison and measure the pay gap by comparing what the same aged men and women earn doing the same jobs, while Sophie Walker wants to make a broader comparison, factoring in use the ‘typical jobs’ men and women do and the even how the social roles men and women fill influence the amount they earn.

Another reason they talk at cross purposes is that Stanley just sticks to the stats on pay for men and women in their 20s, Walker is imagining what’s likely to happen to the pay gap in later life, based on past evidence. 

Claire Fox – asks if focusing on 96 elite women isn’t a distraction away from the the more significant problem of social class inequalities. Sophie Walker responds by saying that:

  • The advantage of looking at inequalities through the lens of gender shows that all women, of all classes, are underpaid compared to men.
  • She also argues that exploring class through the lens of gender is an effective way of analyzing pay injustice in society.
  • She also points out that there are different reasons for the pay gap at different class levels – for example at the top end, it’s maybe something to do with how men and women are treated differently by their agents; while at the bottom end, the fact that we have nurses (a female dominated profession) reliant on food banks is more to do with us not valuing women’s caring roles highly enough.

Claire Fox now turns to the question of why women earn less than men. She asks whether Sophie Walker thinks women are deliberately treated like second class citizens in today’s labour market. Walker suggests there isn’t conscious bias, but the following things might explain the pay gap:

  • Unconscious bias by white men who, when looking for the best candidate for a job, end up choosing not the best candidate.
  • Structural barriers, particularly lack of access to decent child care.
  • Ultimately Walker argues that such gender stereotypes and structural barriers harm men just as much as women, by effectively denying men the opportunity to spend quality time with their children – so closing the gender pay gap should benefit both men and women.

Emily Hill

Emily Hill is the commissioning editor of the spectator and responsible for an article entitled ‘The end of Feminism‘.

  • End of FeminismShe starts off by pointing out that she may have wrote that article, but someone else was responsible for the title, and that she does actually regard herself as a feminist.
  • Emily Hill subscribes to kind of Feminism developed by Germaine Greer and Camille Paglia
  • She has however have a problem with some younger, trendy columnists who have changed the agenda of feminism.
  • She suggests that what used to fight for equality and freedom has now become a fight for censorship and special treatment.
  • Women have won key battles such as they are doing better in school and university, and when they grow up she believes they will earn equal to men.
  • She does not believe that women today are victims of Patriarchy, which is thanks to previous Feminists having fought to overcome this.

Mona Siddiqui thinks the above view only applies to middle class white women, and women lower down the social class ladder are still victims of Patriarchy. 

Giles Fraser backs up the idea that women are still disadvantaged through ‘everyday sexism’ – such as waiters handing the bill to men rather than women as default, and such things as harassment on the street, and especially social media abuse.

  • Emily Hill’s response to this is that women just need to get over these things, and she seems to be suggesting that these aren’t really systematic structural barriers to women’s progress.
  • Women need to stand up to men harassing them, and tell them to ‘F off’, knee them in the balls or just simply tell them their not taking it.
  • She suggests young women read Feminism and recommends looking at Germaine Greer putting down Norman Mailler.
  • In response to the view that women are more likely to get abused on social media, she cites research which suggests men are just as likely to suffer abuse, and stands against censorship, suggesting that satirizing offensive comments is the best way to deal with them.

Nikki van der Gaag

Nikki van der Gaag is Director of Gender Justice at Oxfam and author of No Nonsense Feminism: Why the World Still Needs the F Word.

  • Van der Gaag starts off by arguing that even in the UK structural discrimination against women still exists.

Claire Fox asks Van der Gaag what she thinks of the view that contemporary Feminism is ‘victim feminism’ – casting women as hapless, hopeless and in need of protection. Fox has a problem with the kind of Feminism that suggests that women in particular can’t cope with offensive words and ideas and demands that women have ‘safe spaces’ from offensive ideas and which no platforms (or censors) ideas they find offensive – she argues this kind of Feminism constructs women as people who simply can’t cope. 

Fox suggests that when women in the west say they need protecting from offensive words in order to protect their mental health, this trivialises the much more serious problems some women in the west face, and which many women in developing countries face – such as being victims of violence and being treated like second class citizens. 

  • In response Van der Gaag suggests that Claire Fox is the one trivialising  mental illness, pointing out that women suffer severe abuse online, such as death threats (Even female MPs) and the effects on mental health are very real.

Giles Fraser now simply asks whether Van der Gaag thinks the disparity between men and women is a product of nature or nurture. 

  • Van der Gaag responds by pointing him in the direction of two books – one by Cordelia Fine – Delusions of Gender and the other by Lise Elliot – Pink Brain Blue Brain
  • Together these two books suggest that about 95% of gender differences are explained by nurture, the other 5% by nature.

Reflecting on the 5% of natural differences Giles Fraser asks to what extent the biological fact of women being the child bearers explains gender disparities. Van Der Gaag responds by basically saying it’s got very little to do with it. 

  • The problem women are still expected all over the world to do unpaid work on top of their paid work, and this is an issue all over the world including in the UK.
  • The solution is to value unpaid work as much as paid work, to redistribute it so that men do more unpaid work (which is happening with the younger generation), and to reduce the unpaid care, which machines can help with.

In Summary 

Either the gender pay gap at the BBC is symptomatic of wider gender disparities in British society, or it’s a nauseating distraction. 

For Mona Siddiqui the real issue is how do we see women in terms of what value they bring to the work place?

Claire Fox finds the whole issue distasteful because the BBC gender pay gap took over some of the more socially relevant issues that we should be discussion – we should really be thinking about social class inequalities, not pay inequality between men and women at the BBC.

Giles Fraser thinks that The BBC gender pay gap touches a nerve because firstly we don’t think that people should earn that much, and secondly, we also find the idea of gender inequality unfair – the two things together – class and gender inequality offend our British idea of justice, and we can care about both at the same time (it is not a binary issue).

Tim Stanley reiterates his point that the gender pay gap in wider society is no longer really an issue – he argues that our whole take on it is 40 years old: male bosses no longer deliberately discriminate against women and technology has changed the nature of work, giving women more opportunities which they are taking.

Claire Fox points out that what no longer happens is that patriarchal bosses say ‘you’re going to have a baby, see you later’, but was does happen is that women take time off work when they have babies and go back to work part-time and lose income because of this.  The problem is that there is not enough child care provision for working people, and given that women are the primary child carers this disadvantages them more than men where pay is concerned.

She also argues that overstating the gender pay gap is not helpful, what we should be doing is focusing on positive solutions to overcoming it.

Mona Siddiqui points out that prejudice may play a role – in that male bosses are reluctant to hire women in their early 30s because of the increased possibility of them having children in the near future, and the ‘hassle’ this will cause.

Giles Fraser suggests that the stereotypical representations of men and women in higher and lower paid jobs remains a problem for parents bringing up children.

There’s general support for Emily Hill’s view that thanks to Feminism, there have been huge gains in gender equality, and for the fact that contemporary Feminists blackballing people like Germaine Greer is a problem.

The last word goes to Giles Fraser who suggests that ‘power looks after itself’ and so we cannot be complacent.

 

Radical Feminism Applied to Globalisation, Gender and Development

Radical Feminists point out that Globalisation may actually be leading to new forms of exploitation of women, and that, despite globalisation generally improving the lives of women, there are still significant areas for improvement. Two examples of this include the emergence of the global sex-industry and the persistence of violence against women despite globalisation.

Globalisation and Modern Slavery

The most obvious example of globalisation opening up new forms of female exploitation is the rise of modern slavery, and especially the global sex industry.

The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 2.5 million trafficking victims who are living in exploitive conditions and another 1.2 million people who are trafficked across and within borders. These numbers include men, women, and children who are trafficked into forced labour or sexual exploitation, and appear to be on the rise worldwide. Women account for more than 50% percent of all trafficking victims. Globalization has provided for an easier means of exploiting those living in poverty who are seeking better lives, it also has provided for dramatic improvements in transportation and communications with which to facilitate the physical processing of persons.

Women are generally lured into slavery through promises of employment as shopkeepers, maids, nannies, or waitresses in developed countries. Upon arriving, these women are then told they have been purchased by someone and must work as a prostitute to repay the enormous debt they suddenly owe. To ensure that these women do not flee, their “owners” often subject them to beatings, take their documents upon arrival, and keep them under conditions of slavery. These women then either physically cannot go to the authorities or are fearful of being deported, especially if they do not have their documents or the documents were fraudulently obtained through their trafficker.

One of the main contributing factors to this increase in trafficking has been the widespread subjugation of women. Often ethnic minorities or lower class groups are more vulnerable to trafficking, because these women and girls have a very low social status that puts them at risk. Another contributor to the increase in trafficking is political and economic crisis in conflict or post-conflict areas. The breakdown of society and the rule of law have made these displaced populations vulnerable to the lure of a better future or an exit from their current countries.

Trafficking flourishes because it is a lucrative practice, generating from 7 to 12 billion dollars a year. In addition, the highly clandestine nature of the crime of human trafficking ensures that the great majority of human trafficking cases go unreported and culprits remain at large. There are reports that many human traffickers are associated with international criminal organizations and are, therefore, highly mobile and difficult to prosecute. Further complicating matters, sometimes members of the local law enforcement agencies are involved in trafficking. Prosecution is made difficult because victims of trafficking do not testify against traffickers out of fear for their and their family members’ lives.

South-East Asia and South Asia are considered to be home to the largest number of internationally trafficked persons, with estimates of 225,000 and 150,000 victims respectively.

Future for Women is a useful source for exploring this topic in more depth.

The Continuing prevalence of Violence Against Women

Radical Feminists also point out that physical and sexual violence against women also poses a significant threat to women’s health and safety.

In 2013, the WHO sponsored the first widespread study of global data on violence against women, and found that it constitutes a ‘global health problem of epidemic proportions.’ Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women, and 38 percent of all women who have been murdered were murdered by an intimate partner. Women who experience physical and/or sexual partner violence are also 1.5 times more likely to acquire a sexually-transmitted infection.

Some traditional cultural practices impose threats to the health of women, and may be more difficult to change through educational and preventative policies than unhealthy practices that are unrelated to culture, such as nutrition. The UN Human Rights Commission identifies the practices most threatening to women as:

  • Female circumcision, known as female genital mutilation to its opponents, which involves the excision of a woman’s external sexual organs
  • Other forms of mutilation, such as facial scarring
  • Traditional practices associated with childbirth
  • The problem of dowries in some parts of the world
  • Honour killings
  • The consequences of preference for male babies, such as parental neglect and infanticide of female babies.

Female genital mutilation is a special focus of many efforts to end violence against women, although the movement to view it as a violation of human rights meets some resistance to what some consider a violation of family and community sanctity. Amnesty International says,

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the cornerstone of the human rights system, asserts that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. It protects the right to security of person and the right not to be subjected to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment — rights which are of direct relevance to the practice of female genital mutilation. The traditional interpretation of these rights has generally failed to encompass forms of violence against women such as domestic violence or female genital mutilation.

To explore this topic in more depth see this page from UN women.

Related Posts

Modernisation Theory Applied to Gender and Development

Dependency Theory Applied to Gender and Development

Radical Feminism Applied to Gender and Development 

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Feminist Theory for A Level Sociology: An Introduction

Inequality between men and women is the most significant form of inequality

Anthropological evidence demonstrates that inequalities between men and women exist in every single society in human history, and in most of these societies women have an inferior social status to men. Feminism exists to rectify the Systematic injustices that women experience because of their sex

Gender norms are Socially Constructed, not determined by biology and thus gender norms can be changed

Feminism is a set of ideas which criticises the discrimination experienced by women based on their gender. Remember, there are few biological differences between men and women at birth, but the social norms associated with being a “women” result in discrimination against females. Children are taught “gender norms” from a young age i.e. what it means to be a “women” in terms of dress, language, expectations, roles within the family, how they relate to men etc. Gender norms are learned in the family, but reinforced in the school, at work and through the media.

Note, boys also learn gender norms e.g. assertiveness, confidence etc, but more importantly for feminism they also learn the behaviour they expect from a “women” based on female gender norms. Many boys will grow up watching gender norms being played out in the family and will therefore replicate the same roles with their own partners.

Patriarchy is one of the main causes of female disadvantage

‘Patriarchy refers to a society in which there are unequal power relations between women and men whereby women are systematically disadvantaged and oppressed’ (London Feminist Network)

NB – the idea of ‘structure’ is central to the concept of Patriarchy – Women are inferior because men are superior – For example, women end up staying at home looking after the kids BECAUSE it is assumed that men are the breadwinners, thus men are the ones who go out to work. Similarly, women dress up in high heels, make up and short skirts BECAUSE they have internalised the idea that that’s what they need to do to attract men. The idea behind patriarchy is that men gain and women lose from socially constructed gender differences.

Feminism is a political movement

Feminists emphasise the importance of political activism in order challenge gender inequalities. Feminism exists to rectify the Systematic injustices that women experience because of their sex. There is a lot of disagreement within Feminism over how to achieve this – strategies vary from doing research to highlight the extent of gender inequality, to having consciousness raising sessions with groups of women and men, to working with governments to create social policies, to more radical strategies such as political lesbianism.

Feminist Theory: A Criticism of Previous Sociological Explanations Gender inequality

Feminist theory arose as a reaction to the sexist, biological explanations for gender inequalities such as those of Talcott Parsons. Feminism actually sees sociology itself as sexist as all previous theories: Functionalism, Marxism and Interactionism have failed to adequately explain gender differences in modern society. Feminism is a huge body of theory. Below it is simplified into four main perspectives: Radical Feminism, Marxist Feminism, Liberal Feminism and Difference Feminism

Five Reasons Women Don’t Get Promoted

Paula PrincipleFive reasons why women are less likely to get promoted than men include discrimination, caring responsibilities, lack of vertical networks, lack of self-confidence and ‘positive choice’ – at least according to Professor Tom Schuller in his recent book ‘The Paula Principle: How and Why Women Work Below Their Level of Confidence‘.

The context of this research is that there are now nearly two women for every man in UK universities, which suggests increasing levels of competence among women compared to men, but this is not the case in the world of work – the rate at which women are catching up to men in the world of work (as measured by the pay-gap for example), and especially in the higher ranks of the professions, is not as rapid as it should be based on the relatively high numbers of female graduates.

Five reasons women are less likely to get promoted than men

  1. Discrimination – both overt and covert – here prof. Schuller reminds us that people are likely to employ people who are ‘like them’, and in most cases it’s men doing the employing to higher positions.
  2. Caring responsibilities – women are more likely to go part-time to care for children and increasingly for their elderly parents. here prof. Schuller points out that there is this tendency to see only full time workers as being ‘serious about their careers’.
  3. Lack of vertical networks – men tend to network more with people above them.
  4. Lack of self-confidence – women are more likely to feel they can’t move up the career ladder, whereas men just ‘go for it’.
  5. ‘Positive Choice’ – women are more likely to make a positive choice to stay employed below their level of competence. They simply make the rational decision that they are earning enough and are fulfilled enough where they are, and don’t believe the increased stress of moving up the career ladder to a job they won’t necessarily enjoy would be worth the extra money.

So which factor is the most important?

Tom Schuller suggests this will be dependent both on the sector, the employer, and the individual, but he would never say that it’s purely the fault of an individual woman for failing to get a promotion.

The above summary is based on a Women’s Hour interview with Tom Schuller, broadcast on Radio 4, Saturday 18th March.

Feminist Theory: A Summary for A-Level Sociology

Introduction – The Basics

  • Inequality between men and women is universal and the most significant form of inequality

  • Gender norms are socially constructed not determined by biology and can thus be changed.

  • Patriarchy is the main cause of gender inequality – women are subordinate because men have more power.

  • Feminism is a political movement; it exists to rectify sexual inequalities, although strategies for social change vary enormously.

  • There are four types of Feminism – Radical, Marxist, Liberal, and Difference.

5-feminism

Radical Feminism

  • Blames the exploitation of women on men. It is primarily men who have benefitted from the subordination of women. Women are ‘an oppressed group.

  • Society is patriarchal – it is dominated and ruled by men – men are the ruling class, and women the subject class.

  • Rape, violence and pornography are methods through which men have secured and maintained their power over women. Andrea Dworkin (1981)

  • Radical feminists have often been actively involved in setting up and running refuges for women who are the victims of male violence.

  • Rosemarie Tong (1998) distinguishes between two groups of radical feminist:

  • Radical-libertarian feminists believe that it is both possible and desirable for gender differences to be eradicated, or at least greatly reduced, and aim for a state of androgyny in which men and women are not significantly different.

  • Radical-cultural feminists believe in the superiority of the feminine. According to Tong radical cultural feminists celebrate characteristics associated with femininity such as emotion, and are hostile to those characteristics associated with masculinity such as hierarchy.

  • The various alternatives suggested by Radical Feminists include separatism – women only communes, and Matrifocal households. Some also practise political Lesbianism and political celibacy as they view heterosexual relationships as “sleeping with the enemy.”

Marxist Feminism

  • Capitalism rather than patriarchy is the principal source of women’s oppression, and capitalists as the main beneficiaries.

  • Women’s subordination plays a number of important functions for capitalism:

  • Women reproduce the labour force for free (socialisation is done for free)

  • Women absorb anger – women keep the husbands going.

  • Because the husband has to support his wife and children, he is more dependent on his job and less likely to demand wage increases.

  • The traditional nuclear also performs the function of ‘ideological conditioning’ – it teaches the ideas that the Capitalist class require for their future workers to be passive.

  • The disadvantaged position of women is seen to be a consequence of the emergence of private property and their lack of ownership of the means of production

  • They are more sensitive to differences between women who belong to the ruling class and proletarian families. Marxist Feminists believe that there is considerable scope for co-operation between working class women and men and that both can work together

  • In Communist society, Marxist feminists believe that gender inequalities will disappear.

Liberal Feminism

  • Nobody benefits from existing inequalities: both men and women are harmed

  • The explanation for gender inequality lies not so much in structures and institutions of society but in its culture and values.

  • Socialisation into gender roles has the consequence of producing rigid, inflexible expectations of men and women

  • Discrimination prevents women from having equal opportunities

  • Liberal Feminists do not seek revolutionary changes: they want changes to take place within the existing structure.

  • The creation of equal opportunities is the main aim of liberal feminists – e.g. the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act.

  • Liberal feminists try to eradicate sexism from the children’s books and the media.

  • Liberal Feminist ideas have probably had the most impact on women’s lives – e.g. mainstreaming has taken place.

Difference Feminism/ Postmodern Feminism

  • Do not see women as a single homogenous group. MC/WC ,

  • Criticised preceding feminist theory for claiming a ‘false universality’ (white, western heterosexual, middle class)

  • Criticised preceding Feminists theory of being essentialist

  • Critiqued preceding Feminist theory as being part of the masculinist Enlightenment Project

  • Postmodern Feminism – concerned with language (discourses) and the relationship between power and knowledge rather than ‘politics and opportunities’

  • Helene Cixoux – An example of a postmodern/ destabilising theorist

Criticisms of Feminist Theories

Marxist

1. Radical Feminists – ignores other sources of inequality such as sexual violence.

2. Patriarchal systems existed before capitalism, in tribal societies for example.

3. The experience of women has not been particularly happy under communism.

Liberal

1. Based upon male assumptions and norms such as individualism and competition, and encourages women to be more like men and therefor deny the ‘value of qualities traditionally associated with women such as empathy.

2. Liberalism is accused of emphasising public life at the expense of private life.

3. Radical and Marxist Feminists – it fails to take account of deeper structural inequalities

4. Difference Feminists argue it is an ethnocentric perspective – based mostly on the experiences of middle class, educated women.

Radical

1. The concept of patriarchy has been criticised for ignoring variations in the experience of oppression.

2. Some critics argue that it focuses too much on the negative experiences of women, failing to recognise that some women can have happy marriages for example.

3. It tends to portray women as universally good and men as universally bad, It has been accused of man hating, not trusting all men.

Difference

  1. Walby, women are still oppressed by objective social structures – namely Patriarchy

  2. Dividing women sub-groups weakens the movement for change.

Related Posts 

Feminist Perspectives on the Family

Sources Used to Write this Post 

  • Haralambos and Holborn (2013) – Sociology Themes and Perspectives, Eighth Edition, Collins. ISBN-10: 0007597479
  • Chapman et al (2016) – A Level Sociology Student Book Two [Fourth Edition] Collins. ISBN-10: 0007597495
  • Robb Webb et al (2016) AQA A Level Sociology Book 2, Napier Press. ISBN-10: 0954007921

Sylvia Walby’s Six Structures of Patiarchy

To Sylvia Walby, the concept of Patriarchy must remain central to a feminist understanding of society. She argues that there are six patriarchal structures which restrict women and maintain male domination – the existence of these structures restricts women’s freedom and life-chances compared to men. However, she does recognise that women of different class and ethnic backroads and different sexual orientations experience these structures in different ways.

 Walby also recognises that patriarchal structures can change and they can be affected by the actions of both men and women – and in more recent works she talks of ‘gender regimes’ rather than patriarchy to reflect this greater fluidity.

 Walbys’ Six structures of Patriarchy

Paid Work

Walby believes that paid employment remains a key structure for disadvantaging women in Britain. Today, men continue to dominate the best paid jobs and women are still paid less than men, and do more part-time work. Many women choose not to work, or work part-time because of poor job opportunities.

gender-pay-gap-uk

Household Production

According to Walby individual men still benefit from women’s unpaid labour. Women still do most of the housework and childcare. However easier divorce means women are not as trapped as the once were by marriage and some black feminists see family life as less exploitative than the labour market, where there is considerable racism.

gendered-division-of-labour

Culture

Walby believes that that the culture of Western societies has consistently distinguished between men and women and expected different behaviours from them, but the expected patterns of behaviour have changed. The key sign of femininity today is sexual attractiveness to men, and not just for younger women, but increasingly for older women.

male-gaze

Also, the increase in Pornography increases the freedom of men while threatening the freedom of women. To Walby, the ‘male gaze’, not that of women, is the viewpoint of pornography which encourages the degradation of women by men and promotes sexual violence.

Sexuality

Despite the sexual liberation of the 1960s, there is still a ‘sexual double standard’ in society – males condemn women who are sexually active as slags and those who are not as drags, which males with many sexual conquests are admired.

sexual double standard.png

Walby also argues that ’heterosexuality constitutes a patriarchal structure’ – there is more pressure today for women to be heterosexually active and to service males through marrying them.

Violence

Like many other Feminists Walby sees violence against women as a form of male control of women, which is still a problem for many women today, although she concedes that it is difficult to measure how much progress has been made in this area, because of validity problems where the stats are concerned.

domestic-violence-stats

The state

To Walby, the state is still patriarchal, racists and capitalist. She argues that there has been little attempt to improve women’s position in the public sphere and equal opportunities legislation is rarely enforced.

women-politics

 

Explaining Increasing Female Crime in the later half of the 20th Century: The Liberationist Perspective

Freda Adler proposed that the emancipation of women and increased economic opportunities for women lead to an increase in the female crime rate. Her basic idea was that as women attain social positions similar to men, and as the employment patterns of men and women become similar, so too do their related crimes. Adler claimed to have found a cross-national correlation between levels of women’s economic freedoms and their crime levels.

adler-liberation-theory

One evaluation of Adler is found in the Marginalistaion Thesis which states that women’s Liberation has indeed lead to increased job opportunities for women, but women are much more likely to be employed in part-time and/or low paid jobs which are unrewarding and insecure. This has  led to the creation of a ‘pink collar ghetto’ – with women suffering higher levels of economic deprivation than men.

NB The Marginalisation thesis might not actually contradict Adler’s Liberation Thesis – if you apply Strain Theory.

Is Kim Kardashian a Feminist Icon?

Just a brief post to get you thinking about different types of Feminism – is Kim Kardashian a Suitable Role Model?

kim-kardashian-feminist
Kim Kardashian – Feminist Icon?

Feminist and Labour MP Harriet Harman recently revealed that she was a fan of Kim Kardashian on Good Morning Britain – saying that she liked the way the Kardashians’ controlled their own agendas and made their own decisions.

 

She was soundly criticised by some who believe that Kim Kardashian simply encourages young women to aspire to only fur coats and cars,  and suggesting that flashing your crotch and baring your bum is a good way to get all that.

harriet-harman
Labour MP Harriet Harman – Kim Kardashian Fan?

A counter criticism is this – in contrast to many topless models who are controlled by an editor, the Kardashians do their own thing for themselves, they exploit their ‘erotic capital’ – and this is what many men have done in the past – such as Brad Bit and Zayn Malik getting their shirts off – and no one bats an eye-lid. So any criticism of Kim Kardashian is just a reflection of sexism – the policing of women’s bodies and not men’s.

The inaccessibility and vacuousness of the Kardashians is also a problem for many Feminists – this simply isn’t an accessible way for most women to make it in life: Kim Kardashian is a millionaire’s daughter and only gets attention because the media and fashion industry profit from it, not everyone can do this.

What do you think? Based on the above arguments, is Kim Kardashian feminist icon?

Postcript

It is of course possible that Harriet was just trying to give the impression that she’s down with popular culture – something which doesn’t always wash if you remember this painful media-event:

tony-blair-oasis
Tony Blair ‘smashing it’ with Oasis at Downing Street

 

12 Facts about Gender Inequality

Evidence from Kat Banyard  (2010) The equality illusion– the truth about women and men today, Faber and Faber.

book-equality-illusion

Today it is normal for women to worry about their looks. Girls have starkly different relationships to their bodies than boys – they put greater emphasis on how attractive their bodies are to others – for boys physical prowess – what he can actually achieve is more important than looks. Banyard cites the following evidence to support her view that women are more concerned about their looks than men –

1. 1.5 million people in the UK have an eating disorder – 90% of them women and girls

2. A survey conducted by Dove of 3000 women found that 90% of them wanted to change some aspect of their body with body weight and shape being the main concern.

3. One in four women has considered plastic surgery.

4. An analysis of animated cartoons shows that female characters are far more likely to be portrayed as physically attractive than male characters and those who are attractive are far more likely to be portrayed as intelligent, employed, happy, loving and involved in kissing and hugging.

5. In 2007 a survey of Brownies aged 7-10 were asked to describe ‘planet sad’ they spoke of it being inhabited by girls who were fat and bullied about their appearance.

6. A survey conducted in 2009 found that a quarter of girls thought it was more important to be beautiful than clever. – Youngpoll.com

7. The more mainstream media high school students watch,  the more they believe beauty is important according to the American Psychological Association.

8. The media furore over Susan Boyle was mainly because she didn’t conform to the female stereotype of beauty.

9. In 2009 the Bank of England held a seminar for its female employees called ‘dress for success’ – where they were informed, amongst other things, to ‘always wear make up’, there was no such equivalent for men

10. Some studies have shown that the more a girl monitors her appearance, the less satisfied she will be with her appearance.

11. Two thirds of women report having avoided activities such as going swimming or going to a party because they feel bad about their appearance while 16% of 15 -17 year olds have avoided going to school for the same reason.

12. One experiment found that female students performed worse in maths tests when wearing a swim suit compared to regular clothes while boy’s performance doesn’t decrease under the same conditions

Analysis – what Banyard actually thinks is wrong/ harmful about this situation…

‘The existence of a suffocating ideal of beauty has persisted and it has remained a gendered phenomenon. Women are judged on their ability to conform to a beauty ideal – there is a cultural pressure to manipulate their bodies to fit into a pre-existing ideal – to treat your body as an object that will be consumed by an observing public (This is known as objectification)

While some Feminists argue that the Feminine pursuit of beauty is simply a matter of choice – women freely choose to do it (Baumgardner) others (Jefferys) argue that the practise of beautification reflect and perpetuate gender inequalities – women put effort into displaying their femininity/ sexuality because they are relatively powerless – and those women that do engage in the practise of beautification perpetuate the idea that a woman’s value is in her beauty.

Millions of girls and women begin their days with beautification rituals because their sense of self hinges on the gaze of others. If your sense of self esteem depends on what you think others think of your appearance, can you really be said to have freedom of choice? Also, can you really say women are equal to men in this respect?

One of the reasons for the persistent problems of body image faced by females is that girls are taught from a very young age that their physical appearance is a reflection of their worth and value, and treated accordingly.

Feminist Perspectives on Society – A Summary Grid

feminism definition

Topic Area

Summary

A2 Main Ideas

Feminism the Basics:

  • Gender inequality primary lens for analysis

  • Gender is socially constructed

  • Patriarchy is one of the root causes of sex inequalities

  • Feminism is a political movement

Liberal Feminism

  • Socialisation main cause, not structures

  • What change within the system

  • Seek to eradicate discrimination and stereotyping

Radical Feminism

  • The structure of Patriarchy

  • Patriarchal ideology

  • Rape and Violence as tools of control

  • Radical Libertarian Feminists/ Radical Cultural Feminists

  • Political Lesbianism and Separatism

Marxist Feminism

  • Capitalism main source of oppression, capitalists the main beneficiaries

  • Women reproduce the labour force

  • Women take the shit

  • Men more dependent on wages

  • Ideological conditioning

  • Working class and women should work together

Difference Feminism

  • Do not see women as a single homogenous group

  • Criticised preceding feminist theory for claiming a ‘false universality’ (white, western heterosexual, middle class)

  • Sees Feminists theory – essentialist and part of the masculinist Enlightenment Project

  • Look at discourses and the relationship between power and knowledge rather than ‘politics and opportunities’

  • Helene Cixoux – a destabilising theorist

Research Methods Implications

  • Liberal/ Marxist – Prefer quantitative research – trends and bigger picture

  • Radical – mixture of qualitative and quantitative/ also consciousness raising and activism

  • Postmodern – Deconstruction and critique of male language/ researching and celebrating diversity to challenge gender norms.

How they understand family life

  • Liberal – Inequality is primarily to be tackled through improving equality of opportunity in work, politics and education, not the family

  • Marxist – the nuclear family structure and women’s oppression with in it primarily benefits capitalism, and stems from capitalism

  • Radical – The heterosexual nuclear family is one of the main structures through which men oppress and control women – through everything from the dual burden through domestic violence (see Germaine Greer as an example)

How they understand underachievement in education

  • Liberal – The gender gap in education is one of the strongest pieces of supporting evidence for Liberal Feminism

  • Marxist – Gender stereotypes in subject choice still result in a gender pay gap in later life as women go into lower paid jobs

  • Radical – Gender Regimes still make up part of the hidden curriculum – sexual harassment for example often goes unchallenged in schools (Kat Banyard)

Topic Area

Summary

How they understand crime and deviance

  • Hegemonic Masculinity is one of the fundamental drivers of crime (Messerschmitt)

  • Violence against women is one of the primary sources of control of women

  • The courts fail to prosecute and put the ‘victim on trial’ which perpetuates violence against women

  • Cultural norms around sexuality serve to control women – The Beauty Myth and the sexual double standard

Key Studies and Examples to use to illustrate

  • The correlation between economic growth and gender equality in wider society supports Liberal Feminism, and criticises Marxist and Radical Feminism.

  • The Equal Pay Act, Divorce Act, Equality Act and Maternity and Paternity Acts are all good examples of policies which liberal feminists support.

  • The gradual trend towards gender equality in the UK supports liberal feminism

  • The Gender Pay gap – and lack of women in control of Corporations supports Radical Feminism

  • The prevalence of the Beauty Myth supports radical Feminism

  • Stats on anorexia and ‘planet sad’ support radical feminism

  • Stats on Domestic Violence tend to support Radical Feminism

  • Stats on harassment from the Everyday Sexism Project supports radical feminism

  • The link between poverty, sex-trafficking and prostitution supports radical feminism

  • ‘Slutever’ is a case study supporting difference Feminism

  • Documentaries on ‘sex work’ support Difference Feminism

  • Bake off supports difference Feminism (and criticises Liberal Feminism

Evaluations

  • Liberal – Based upon male assumptions and norms such as individualism and competition, and encourages women to be more like men and therefor deny the ‘value of qualities traditionally associated with women such as empathy.

  • Liberal – is an ethnocentric perspective – based mostly on the experiences of middle class, educated women.

  • Radical – The concept of patriarchy has been criticised for ignoring variations in the experience of oppression.

  • Radical – Patriarchal systems existed before capitalism, in tribal societies for example

  • Difference – Walby, women are still oppressed by objective social structures – namely Patriarchy

  • Difference – Dividing women into an infinite number of sub-groups which weakens the movement for change.

Key Concepts

  • Patriarchy

  • Patriarchal ideology

  • Gender scripts

  • Hegemonic masculinity

  • The Beauty Myth

  • Dual Burden/ Triple Shift

Key Studies/ Evidence

  • The global gender gap

  • DV statistics

  • The Everyday Sexism Project

  • Pointlessly gendered products

  • The gender pay gap

  • Only 1/5 MPs are female

Related Posts 

Feminist Perspectives on Society (Summary Sheet)

Feminist Perspectives on the Family

A Liberal Feminist Perspective on the Family

A Radical Feminist Perspective on the Family

A Feminist Perspective on Education

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