Gender: Modern Liberal Perspective

Topics: Gender, Feminism, Gender role Pages: 7 (2709 words) Published: October 14, 2012
Gender as a topic in political economy is seriously lacking. The role women play during different times in the society they belong to seem to be a topic that is rarely touched upon in works that we have read from many of the economists throughout history. Yet, women, and the general topic of gender, are very much relevant to every topic that relates to political economy whether it labor, unemployment, government, market, and education. I chose to focus on the topic of gender and women, because they are such an important segment in all populations, and therefore are significant topic to discuss within any type of forum. I am also interested in the topic of gender because and I am constantly reminded of the inequalities between the two sexes whether it be though social roles, wage gaps, and just the overall gender stereotypes that exist and perpetuate the discrimination of women.

The position I have taken when it comes to discourse of Gender is that of the Modern Liberal. Clark, in his chapter, The Political Economy of Gender, discussed the three historical phases of Modern Liberal Feminism. In the first phase, the feminist movement did not believe in equality between the sexes. Women, they had claimed, were less aggressive and individualist than men. And because of their given traits, women contributed to a, “decent society by promoting nonviolence, cooperation and civic virtue” (232). The second phase, which occurred during the 1960’s was characterized by the National Organization for Women (NOW). Feminists during this time sought to eliminate any law that perpetuated the stereotype of a woman just being a homemaker or caregiver. These feminists saw the women’s lower wages as a way to give another example of how gender stereotypes played a role in the discrimination of women in the workforce. Modern liberals were advocating for new laws and more government intervention to make, “capitalism more efficient and fair” (233). The third phase of Modern Liberal feminism, like in the first phase, had been about bringing out the differences in the sexes. A difference, according to Nancy Chodorow, that can be traced back to the early stages of a childhood development in the genders. As they develop their sense of independence and separation from others, boys will be ready for the business world, while girls, will be better mothers as a result of their greater sense of self and sympathy for others. (233).

To illustrate the inequalities that have existed between genders we can look no further than the work of Modern Liberal thinker John Stuart Mill and his work on the subjection of women in England. In his 1869 work, Subjection of Women, it concentrated on the role of women and men during that time. Men were of the bread winners and were the ones to hold high positions in parliament. “The subjection of women to men being a universal custom, any departure from it quite naturally appears unnatural” (128). Mills was very vocal in his opinion of women having the same rights as men. According to him, the things that had been keeping women from receiving the same rights as men were the construction society has of gender. Women had been seen as property of their husbands once they were married. The role of wife was raising the children and taking care of the household. Education was limited for women during this time. According to Mills and other Modern Liberals it was social conditioning of preferences that led women to have limitations of what they could and could not do. From a young age, women were set on a path to keep them oppressed. Mills stated that in order to advance in society (morally as well as intellectually) women needed to have the same rights as men. A great point is brought up by modern liberals who realized the power of parents, peers, and society have in influencing the types of aspirations and achievements girls will have. Though, this statement can be applied to both genders. Clark called this “educational...

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