Gender Inequality : Gender, Agency And Structure Within Institutions Essay

Gender Inequality : Gender, Agency And Structure Within Institutions Essay

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Gender theorists and researchers analyze gender partly to understand the perpetuation of inequality and propose changes to diminish inequality. A central question researchers explore is whether challenges to gender inequality need to occur at the interactional or institutional level. The status characteristic and doing gender approach investigates power, agency and change within social interactions. Gendered organizational theories examine power, agency and structure within institutions. Each approach shifted research and theory on gender in interactions and institutions, and challenged the notion that gender is static. The two approaches scrutinize the social construction of gender, biological determinism created by the sex binary, the difficulty of intersectional approaches in gender research, obstacles to gender equality and potential ways to reduce gender inequality.
Early gender theory and research designated sex is determined by biological sex at birth. Gender is a status in social groups and institutions which has cultural expectations rooted in the differences between the biological sexes. West and Zimmerman’s 1987 article restructured gender as an action performed by individuals, and accomplishing gender is done in regards to the context of the interaction or institution (126). Doing gender, as a performed action rather than displayed status, utilizes symbolic interaction theory to shift the focus of gender research. The work of West and Zimmerman has initiated inquiry into how we perform gender, how to not perform gender and how challenges to gender norms in social interactions can serve to diminish gender inequality.
Gender as a situational accomplishment acknowledges the expectations o...


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...Doing, undoing and redoing gender all establish the power of the social group and institution over the individual. Within all these concepts challenges to gender inequality occur within social interactions and not at the institutional level. Each concept regarding the accomplishment of gender in interactions identify the potential for cultural changes through interactional shifts, but find institutional challenges to gender inequality are also necessary to create change. Ridgeway’s concept of gender as a frame for identity in interactions analyzes the reproduction of cultural norms and expectations in institutions and pinpoints the significant role of institutions in perpetuating inequality. Gender as a frame emphasizes that changes should occur at the institutional level to challenge gender inequality in the cultural knowledge institutions adopt and reproduce.

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