Social Structures : Gender

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Which social structure do you think has been significant in Australia in the last twelve months and which social structure do you think will be significant in the next twelve months? Has its importance been consistent historically? – Gender

Social structures are what defines us within society, it is the definition of who we are, and the path we are influenced to follow. This essay will focus on how the social structure: gender, has been significant in Australia, throughout history and in the previous 12 months. This is then compared to its current status and its future expectations. The study will be done through examining new laws and government funding and exploring recent literature focussed on gender, and then comparing that to history’s perception of gender and how that has evolved.

Gender was the chosen social structure due to its importance within society, regardless of other social factors influence. Gender is the first social structure given to us the moment we are born and typically stays the same throughout life. Gender is a learnt behaviour which dictates how we respond to others, conduct ourselves, analyse information and how we present ourselves to the world (Jureidini & Poole 2003, pg. 158). A common misconception is that sex and gender are the same; sex is the “classification based on anatomical, chromosomal and hormonal differences in people” while gender is “based on physiological, cultural and psychological factors” (Jureidini & Poole 2003, pg.159). Throughout a lifetime, many of the specifics of belonging to particular gender are decided through culture, ethnicity and historical periods (Macionis & Plummer 2012, pg.390). One of the characteristics that have prevailed through time for gender is that females are the caring and nurturing species due to being the child rearing gender, and males are the provider, leader and generally the superior gender (Holmes, Hughes and Julian 2003, pg. 130). This is not always true to every culture and individual but still stands with a relatively high majority. There has long been the debate about which contributions to the definition of gender are determined by society or biological sex, which leads to the much noted nature vs. nurture segment (Jureidini & Poole 2003, pg. 161). With this topic still being of interest in modern times, it makes gender a priority in today’s social structures.

The study of gender was derived from the previous sociology study of ‘sex roles’ developed by Margaret Mead, from the 1940’s to the 1960’s (Jureidini & Poole 2003, pg. 158). ‘Sex roles’ accurately described the norms, rules and responsibilities of both men and women but failed to explain domestic violence, power distribution and inequality (Jureidini & Poole 2003, pg.158). Gender was created in the 1970’s, in sociology literature after feminists criticised the sex role theory. Back in 1775 a women’s legal existence was based purely on the status of her husband, where all of her possessions would automatically become his (Lieberman 1999, pg.1). During the 1800’s women were not considered individuals in a legal sense, meaning they could not be sued or be entitled to their own wages or property if divorced (Lieberman 1999, pg.2). A significant development in gender was the women’s movement, also known as the first wave of feminism, led by the liberal feminists during the American War on Independence of 1776 and the 1789 French Revolution (Jureidini & Poole 2003, pg 164-166). In 1791, the Declaration of Rights of Women and Female Citizen was published, which stated the need for education, ownership of property, freedom of speech and political and government participation for women Jureidini & Poole 2003, pg. 165). Education was a main priority for feminists, and that without it and participation in the public life, women would stay subordinate to men, stated in the study by Mary Wollstonecraft. In 1848 the first convention on...
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