Ben Desai Maintaining Inequalities In Modern Society         “We Hold These

1151 words - 5 pages

Ben Desai Maintaining Inequalities in Modern Society "We hold these truths to be self-evident", Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, " that all men are created equal…" Jefferson's words still have the power to stir us, so much so that we often fail to notice what he left out! What the first line of the second paragraph of the famous Declaration should say is: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with the rights of life liberty and pursuit of happiness." How many of us have read the first of the two statements quoted here and never thought that one of the conclusions that can be drawn from it is that half the population are not created equal? The answer is that most of us have always taken this statement for granted and have, therefore, failed to notice the automatic dominance of men over women that it implies. The power of language to assist in maintaining gender inequalities cannot be underestimated. During the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70's many women and some men struggled against the ability of language to maintain dominance of one sex over another. This was an important effort, but such effort might have been more productively spent by looking at the institution of the family which is an even more powerful machine for maintaining the inequality of the genders. In the following essay we will look at the ways in which the daily realities of family life maintain the inequality between the genders and also between races, economic groups (class), and sexual preferences. There are many types of family structure but the dominant form in North America is the nuclear family with a mother and father and their children in the same household. In the typical nuclear family the father is the breadwinner. His control of money places his wife in a subordinate position because she always has to go to him to ask for money for family needs. In two income families, the wife's income is almost always lower so that the wife still has to go to the husband to ask for money for certain expenses. The father is also the authority figure for disciplining the children. This means that the mother must go to him to report problems with the children. This is all very well when father has to set standards of behavior for the children or when punishment is required, however it also means that the mother is really the second in command. In some societies (eg, Pakistan) women still may not own property. This means that the father has title to everything the family owns, and, once again, if mother wants to sell the house and buy another, or to move into an apartment, she must go to father to seek permission. Not too many years ago the dominant position of the father was supported by popular culture. It was acceptable and considered amusing to tell wife jokes that made a target of the woman of the family. A similar device was once...

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