The book "Thinking about Women" reveals permeation of gender differences in the lives of men and women. It brings out the concept of gender as socially construed, and that the understanding of the concept is transmitted from one generation to another. It also highlights the intersection of gender with other social factors existing in the society such as class, race, nationality, religion, age, and sexual orientation as well. In general, the text seeks to provide sociological perspectives of issues encircling gender in the society.
The purpose of this essay is twofold. First, it will provide a summary of chapter 5, which entails gender, work and economy. In this respect, it will give an insight of the historical perspective concerning women's work. It will also define work, gender, as well as class stratification. Other aspects that will be captured include status of women, poverty and welfare, work environment, intersections between work and family, as well as gender equity policies. Second, the essay paper will summarize chapter 6, which entails women and families. As such, both historical and feministic perspectives on modern families , diversity of modern families, race, gender and social problems will be highlighted.
Historically, women were not treated equally with their male counterparts. As such, women were in unequal role in the workplace. Women's work was considered to be reproduction, doing house chores, etc. Historians perceived the work of women to be domestic in nature. Nonetheless, pre-industrial era valued the work of women since both male and female labor was essential in subsistence production. All members of the family had an obligation to contribute to the family income, with women included. In addition, a number of societies were dominated by gender-related division of work. Women's work, therefore, entailed the production of consumption goods that were utilized by the household. This included making soap, clothes, candles, and butter, preserving food and vegetables. It is evident that women's work was dominated by consumption good production and parenting necessary for pre-industrial family economic viability. During the onset of industrialization, that status of modern women changed and women having work were coined as "working women." This owes to the fact that industrialization relieved women of a number of home productions reducing considerably the number of household tasks. This gave women the opportunity to pursue career like their male counterparts. Modern women exhibit equal abilities, both physically and mentally, with their male counterparts. As such, they compete with men in the job market for same and equal opportunities. The modern women also bear fewer children due to reduction in household tasks, as well as introduction of education system. Children are no longer production agents in the contemporary society; hence the decline in the number of children. Furthermore, the decline in women demands such as educating children due to increase in the number of public schools; thus relieved housewives get an equal opportunity with men to pursue their careers.
Throughout history, women perform inferior tasks compared to men. Men have a higher status, social and physical power as compared to women. This is attributed to characteristics such as masculinity and aggressiveness. Most societies have male dominance; hence termed as patriarchic. However, in the recent past, sociologists have made major strides towards gender equality. The contemporary society strives to eliminate inequalities evident in workplaces, education, and politics. Politics is founded on sexism and prejudice that men are better than women. This has affected women negatively; hence women avoide pursuiting careers that appear masculine. As such, gender inequalities are an everyday phenomenon that is present in different spheres of life. Sociological perspective asserts that society stratification is based on gender lines. In different respects, for instance, men earn higher income compared to women. This is because women are funneled to low paying jobs like child-caring or the ones in the education system. Furthermore, social and economic stratification occupy a fundamental position in society. It plays a vital role in organizing the modern society; as such, stratification in terms of race, gender and class. People are stratified as male and female, black and white, upper, middle and lower class.
Work can be defined broadly, as any activity performed by an individual that has an economic value. It also entails any activity that engages both physical and mental ability in order to attain a beneficial outcome. As such, for work to be done transfer of energy should occur. Physical work, that looks masculine are prefered by men. Women perform lighter tasks that require less physical activity and more of mental ability.
The chapter seeks to ensure that the work environments for women are better than that for men. Workplace should take into consideration the biological peculiarities of women, as well as their out-of-work responsibilities. In addition, poverty is an impediment to development, and should be elevated by work. Work should empower people economically in order to minimize the consequences of poverty. It should also look into the welfare of the workers, both men and women, in terms of health, safety, and accommodation. Sociological perspective maintains that a healthy worker is productive. In that connection, if the welfare of workers is taken care of, productivity will improve.
In addition, the chapter provides an insight on the policies of gender equality. Gender equality dimensions are overlapping and they constitute the broader categories of policies. It points out those economic and social rights, human rights, prevention of violence, and participation in decision making constitute gender equality policies. When individuals are aware of their economic and social rights, as well as human rights, there is a greater likelihood that they will appreciate gender disparities among themselves. Economic rights provide men and women with equal opportunities of contributing to development. As such, gender-related gaps should be eliminated in workplace; workers should get equal pay for same work, and get the same access to education. Women play a vital role in the decision making process, and their involvement in the process will boost gender equality. It also advocates for the elimination of gender-based violation in order to reduce discrimination, and uphold women rights.
Chapter six captures women and families. In the beginning it provides a modern family inhistorical perspective. It maintains that modern families are shaped by historical factors. Modern families are characterized by diversity, which has existed since Biblical times. Laws and attitudes present in the past are still applicable to the current families; however, some family aspects have changed significantly. Traditionally, the community oversaw family relations, and at the same time, families were considered self-sufficient economically with a considerable number of functions. Predominant characteristics of traditional families such as predominance of premarital sex, social and gender stratification, as well as lower women's work status are still evident in the contemporary family.
The chapter provides a feminist standpoint on the issue of family. It maintains that feminists pay less attention to family. Feminists agree that, historically, men are considered as the head of the family, and in this respect, the head of the household; men are purported as the owners of their wifes and children. Furthermore, the perspective asserts that women's work performed inside the household carry the same value as the men's work that was done outside the home. In modern terms, it posits that men and women are equally qualified to perform both domestic and paid "outside" work. In addition, feminists do not consider themselves as men's property, but rather as domestic partners with equal human rights. It also highlights the diversity of modern families. The chapter points out choice, chance, demography, discourse, time, technology, immigration, multi-culturalism, material factors, and social policy as factors that have added to the elevating diversity of contemporary family. Furthermore, it establishes five different types of diversity in the modern families. This includes organizational diversity, ethnic/cultural diversity, class diversity, regional diversity, and international diversity. Organizational diversity is evident due to different family structure types. It also refers to division of labor among households. It can also be identified among individuals with different lifestyles such as people living alone. In addition, cultural/ethnic diversity present in modern families is a result of multi-ethnic societies and family structure. Some societies have higher divorce rates, as well as more single parents due to cultural values. Income and wealth plays a vital role in modern families' diversity. People have varying lifestyle possibilities due their class or status. International diversity is based on the family life. There is variation among working women, as well as co-habitation and marriage rates. This diversity results are due to increased number of choices available to populace (Andersen & Witham, 2008).
Women occupy a unique position in the society because of gender, race, and family. To understand the female essence one must analyze interconnection of the three factors. Gender is recognized as a determining factor in terms of the quality of life for girls and women. Historically, both genders did not access the same opportunities since men commanded more respect and value in the cultural patterns of the society. Feminism resulted in the emergence of women movement that championed for equity with the integration of race and family in order to achieve the mission. Race, gender and family form the underlying factors in the analysis of females; hence, they should be incorporated in the various practitioners' educational development strategies to gather for the needs of women at different age levels. Gender points out the prevailing variation in the status of women and men in society. Gender is used to define roles based on power relations, as well as sexual differences. The onset of industrialization-forced labor, families found it necessary for men to enter the job market, and this resulted in women being domestic work providers. However, women entered the job market, but their work characterized by disparities such as low pay, and poor working conditions. It can further be established that race is a primary factor in performing social stratification in society. The relation that exists in the workplace is based on the race of an individual. As a result, race functions as an identity factor during sex and gender socialization, as well as identifying families. Discrimination witnessed in the workplace is based on race; however, in the modern families', race variation sets an opportunity to foster diversity.
In conclusion, families, as social units, face challenges and social problems. The chapter highlights some of the social problems that face families in the contemporary society. Social problems are an impediment in the quench for human rights observant, and integrated society. Members of the society should coexist in harmony with the appreciation of weaknesses and strengths of others. As a result, chapter 5 and 6 captures the sociological perspective of gender and social institutions. Therefore, maintains a feminist perspective on issues related to women.