Gender Inequality and Discrimination: an Evaluation of Will Kymlicka’s Solution

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Gender Inequality and Discrimination: An Evaluation of Will Kymlicka’s Solution PHI 319, Professor Gilbert Harman
May 10, 2011
Word Count: 2000

The working environment in the United States is still not free of gender discrimination. There are still many cases of arbitrary discrimination that come to the attention of the public, such as Chrapliwy v. Uniroyal. The court case challenged the system of Uniroyal Inc. (a rubber company), which employed mostly female workers in their footwear production division, while males dominated the other lines. This segregation is arbitrary gender discrimination, for there is no biological reason as to why women are more suited to working with footwear as opposed to men. Furthermore, there is an inequality in pay rate between men and women. In an article about gender differences, Time Magazine found that for every dollar a man makes at a certain job, a woman makes only $0.79 at the same job. This may be filed under arbitrary discrimination, for the benefits of this position are brought about by irrational decision-making. The question of gender should have nothing to do with the pay rate in cases that deal with the same employment opportunity. Sex discrimination is commonly defined as the "arbitrary or irrational use of gender in the awarding of benefits or positions". In other words, even when a job does not relate to gender roles, the employer chooses to consider gender when hiring employees. For example, the job of a teacher is very gender-neutral; the job skills do not require anything special that only one sex provides. A construction worker, on the other hand, must be physically strong, and in this case, generally speaking more men are suited for this role. If a school principal were to hire a new teacher (from an applicant pool of both men and women) based solely on the fact that he doesn't want to hire a woman, this is an example of arbitrary discrimination. The logic behind the decision is irrational, for the woman may be more qualified than the man, but the benefits are not awarded to her only because of her gender. Kymlicka goes on to describe gender inequalities: these are already built-into jobs and positions so that women are at a disadvantage. Men have defined job roles and thus have made it more difficult for women to be suited for these roles. The most common example is of jobs that require the employee to be free from childcare. This means that the employee is not the primary, full-time childcare provider. For example, lawyers work full-time, which is near impossible with young children to take care of. The raising of a child in itself is a full-time responsibility, so it is difficult to balance with a demanding career. In this case, Kymlicka would argue that men would naturally be more suited to the job of a lawyer because men have structured this job “in such a way as to make [it] incompatible with child-bearing and child-rearing, and which does not provide economic compensation for domestic labor”. In other words, because society views childrearing as the female’s role, and childrearing requires much time and attention, a lawyer is a male-suited role because it requires much time, which males have. Although Will Kymlicka gives a good analysis of the gender discrimination and inequalities that happen in today’s society, his solution is not enough to answer the broader political and psychological question that society faces. Kymlicka argues, “Since the problem is domination, the solution is not only the absence of discrimination but the presence of power”. He says that if women could have the power to redefine the existing job roles (or if they would have had the power to define the job roles when they were created), “we would not have created a system of social roles that defines ‘male’ jobs as superior to ‘female’ jobs”. I believe that the real issue is not how women can redefine pre-existing jobs so that gender inequality is abolished; but rather, how can society...
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