Continuity, Change, and Gender
The persistence of gender inequality despite the numerous efforts to correct it has baffled many sociologists, as despite societal changes, as well as the rise of a more tolerant and accommodative society, gender inequality still persists. Ridgeway (2011) attempts to explain the persistence of gender inequality through various social and economic reorganization, highlighting how she believes the inequality that usually accompanies how the two genders relate to each other, is able to survive even within the most modern of societies. Ridgeway chooses to focus on the how, rather than on why gender inequality persists, providing a number of theoretical explanations, such as the expectation states and the status construction theories among others. The gist of her argument is however that the “tipping factor” which to her, is mostly already existing gender inequality, usually influences new forms of interaction.
It is indeed interesting that inequality has persisted over time, regardless of how hard society tries to reorganize itself. Ridgeway (2011) explores a phenomenon that could actually prove key to understanding the enigma that is gender inequality. With the existence and establishment of proper understanding, resolving the problem or developing effective strategies to resolve it become a bit easier. Ridgeway raises very interesting claims and produces compelling evidence to back her claims, especially the “tipping factor” claim. This is in my opinion the most compelling explanation for the persistence of gender inequality despite social and economic reorganization.
This explanation fits the widespread nature of inequality across different settings. Not only does inequality exist within the family set up, but it also spreads to the work place as well as within institutions such as the church. The explanation that previously existing states of inequality usually influence new interactions is quite valid. The manner with which Ridgeway is able to tie in various theories of social interaction, as well as Erving Goffman’s theories on the factors that influence interaction to her argument regarding the “tipping factor” is quite remarkable, and serves to make her explanations quite candid and plausible. Ridgeway (2011) outlines how individuals usually approach new interactions, as well as how pre-existing conceptions usually shape our first interactions. The transfer of gender inequality into new situations is therefore mainly explained by this transfer of old conceptions even to new settings. It is in my opinion quite probable that most women and men are already set in their belief of the superiority of the male gender, as well as in their conceptions of the gender roles to the extent that regardless of engaging in new interactions, within new settings, a majority of the interactions start off based on the old conceptions. The agreement over which group is more influential is therefore usually based on prior existing attitudes regarding gender roles, further allowing the survival of gender inequality despite social and economic reorganization.
The biggest contributor towards gender inequality is therefore, in my opinion, old conceptions that serve to influence new interactions. This also explains the existence of a glass ceiling that most women battle to overcome. Studies that indicate the existence of significant gender disparities in certain fields such as politics, highlight the lack of belief even amongst the women themselves, further perpetuating inequality. Key to resolving the inequality would therefore be reeducation of most stakeholders to ensure attitudinal changes hence lead to the complete disarming of the “tipping factor.”