Patriarchy: Literally, rule by father, this concept is used to refer to a system that values men more and
gives them power over women. Sexual division of labour is a system in which all work inside the home is either done by the women of the family, or organized by them through the domestic helpers. Gender division is a form of hierarchical social division seen everywhere, but is rarely recognized in the sociological studies. However, it is not based on biology but on social expectations and stereotypes.

Boys and girls are brought up to believe that the main responsibility of women is housework and bringing up children. This is reflected in a sexual division of labour in most families: women do all work inside the home such as cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, tailoring, looking after children, etc., and men do all the work outside the home. It is not that men cannot do housework; they simply think that it is for women to attend to these things. When these jobs are paid for, men are ready to take up these works. Most tailors or cooks in hotels are men. Similarly, it is not that women do not work outside their home. In villages, women fetch water, collect fuel and work in the fields. In urban areas, poor women work as domestic helper in middle class homes, while middle class women work in offices. In fact the majority of women do some sort of paid work in addition to domestic labour. But their work is not valued and does not get recognition.

Sex refers to the permanent and immutable biological characteristics common to individuals in all societies and cultures, while gender defines traits forged throughout the history of social relations. Gender, although it originates in objective biological divergencies, goes far beyond the physiological and biological specifics of the two sexes in terms of the roles each is expected to play. Gender differences are social constructs, inculcated on the basis of a specific society’s particular perceptions of the physical differences and the assumed tastes, tendencies and capabilities of men and women. Gender differences, unlike the immutable characteristics of sex, are universally conceded in historical and comparative social analyses to be variants that are transformed over time and from one culture to the next, as societies change and evolve.

Gender relations are accordingly defined as the specific mechanisms whereby different cultures determine the functions and responsibilities of each sex. They also determine access to material resources, such as land, credit and training, and more ephemeral resources, such as power. The implications for everyday life are many, and include the division of labour, the responsibilities of family members inside and outside the home, education and opportunities for professional advancement and a voice in policy-making.

From primitive to modern societies, it is found that division of labour is a universal phenomenon. Earlier, it was highly based on sex & age, and today in modern times, it is based on talents. If division of labour in considered a biological concept, then it will be termed as a sexual division of labour. Is it is socially and culturally derived & decided, then gender based division of labour. It has been a proven fact that almost all societies have been patriarchal, that is male dominated, which means that in all kind of decision making, they (men) are playing a very important role and so it can’t be denied that in the formation of division of labour i.e. who will be given what kind of role. Patrarchy had played a vital role. Nonetheless the view points for both of them are provided by thinkers which can be seen in the following ways:

Theoretical Perspective:

The prominent figures in providing the theories for sexual division in labour are :

  1. Tiger & Fox
  2. G.P. Murdock
  3. T. Parsons
  4. John Bowlby
  1. Tiger & fox argues that human behaviour is based on human biogrammer. The biogrammar in a genetically based programme which pre- disposses mankind to behave in certain ways, because of this tiger & fox argue that compared to women, men are more aggressive and dominant. Their characteristics are genetically based, in particular they result from difference in male & female. Their differences are due partly to genetic in inherent men’s primate ancestors, partly to a genetic adoption to a way of life. And in that way, male dominance is a sex-linked characteristic. They have studied hunting societies and found such experiences. They argue that male and female, adopted to a sexual division of labour in a hunting society in a different way. Compared to cultural change, genetic change is slow – thus male & female biogrammar of a hunting society is in existence. Therefore, the division of labour is sex based
  2. G.P. Murdock: he finds biological difference between men and women are the basis of the sexual division of labour in society. He says that men with their superior physical strength can better undertake the most strenuous task as mining, land clearance and house building etc. Not handicapped as in women, by the physiological burdens of pregnancy and nursing, he can take on the activities to hunt, to fish, to protest, while women can take on its activities of gathering food, cooking, washing, manufacturing clothes etc. Murdock surveyed 221 societies ranging from hunting and gathering bands to modern nation states and finds that the sexual division of labour is present in all societies in his sample.
  3. T. Parsons: Parsons has described two important functions in isolated nuclear family:
    • Primary socialization of children
    • Stabilization of adult personality
      • For socialization to be effective, a close warmth and supportive group is essential. Parsons characterizes women’s role in family as expressive. It means she provides warmth, security and emotional support to her husband as well. Men’s role is instrumental which leads stress and anxiety, the expressive female relieves the tension by providing him with love, consideration and understanding. Parsons argues that for the family to operate effectively as a social system there must be a clear cut division of labour.
  4. John Bowlby: He has provided the explanation as Parsons. According to him, it is essential for the mental health that the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother. Bowlby’s argument implies that there is a genetically based, psychological need for close and intimate mother-child relationship. It means, the division of labour is sex based.
  5. Ann Oakley : According to Oakley, “the division of labour on basis of sex not universal, and, there is not any reason, why it should be”. Human cultures are diverse and endlessly, variable. They are the creation of human inventiveness rather than invincible biological forces. Since human cultures are changing, so there is a change in whole lifestyles, which eventually changes division of labour in society. If we suppose division of labour, a fixed phenomenon, owing to its dependency in sex, then insipite of its changes in culture, the division of labour should not be liable for change, but since such change is happening. It shows the division of labour is not sex based.
    • While criticizing Murdock interpretation she says it is biased because he looked at other cultures through both western and male eyes. Similarly, she attacks on Parsons view, arguining that the expressive housewife/mother role is not necessary for the functioning of the family unit. It merely exists for the convenience of male. Therefore, she concludes that gender roles are culturally rather than biologically determined.
    • Biological features do not bar women from particular occupation. The role of mother is a cultural construction;……. evidence from several societies indicates that, children do not require close, intimate and continuous relationship with a female or mother figure. SHERRY B. ORTNER claims that it is universal devaluation of women that, and is not biology as such that ascribes women their status in society. But its way, in which every culture defines and evaluates, women’s/female biology. Thus, if this universal evaluation changed, then the basis for female subordination would be removed.
    • ORTNER argues that women as universally defined are closed to nature because their physiology and its functions are more concerned with the natural process, surrounding the reproduction of species. And so they are concerned with the child care and primary socialization. They develop more personal and intimate relations with others specially their children by comparison; men have wider range of contact and less personal and particular relationship by engaging in politics, warfare and religion. Thus men are seen as being more objective and less emotional. In this way, it can be said that subordination of women-nothing to do with biology as such, but rather to the cultural evaluation of their biological make up.
  6. Sylvia Walby:
    • The idea of patriarchy has been central to many feminist interpretations of gender inequality and sexual division of labour. Sylvia Walby is on theorist who believes that the concept of patriarchy is essential to any analysis of gender inequality. In theorizing Patriarchy (1990), Walby presents a way of understanding patriarchy that is more flexible than its predecessors. It allows room for change over historical time, and for consideration of ethnic and class differences.
    • For Walby, ‘patriarchy is a system of social structures and practices, in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women. She sees patriarchy and capitalism as distinct systems which interact in different ways sometimes harmoniously, sometimes in tension depending on historical conditions. Capitalism, she argues, has generally benefited from patriarchy through the sexual division of labour. But at other times, capitalism and patriarchy have been at odds with one another. For example, in wartime, when women have entered the labour market in great number, the interests of capitalism and patriarchy have not been aligned.
    • Walby identifies six structures through which patriarchy operates. She recognizes that a weakness of early feminist theory was the tendency to focus on one ‘essential’ cause of women’s oppression, such as male violence or women’s role in reproduction. Because Walby is concerned with the depth and interconnectedness of gender inequality, she sees patriarchy as composed of six structures that are independent, but interact with one another.
      • Production relations in the household: Women’s unpaid domestic labours, such as housework and child care, are expropriated by her husband (or cohabite).
      • Paid work: Women in the labour market are excluded from certain types of work, receive lower pay, and are segregated in less skilled jobs.
      • The patriarchal state: In its policies and priorities the state has a systematic bias towards patriarchal interests.
      • Male violence: Although male violence is often seen as composed of individualistic acts, it is patterned and systematic. Women routinely experience this violence, and are affected by it in standard ways. The state effectively condones the violence with its refusal to intervene, except in exceptional cases.
      • Patriarchal relations in sexuality: This is manifested in ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ and in the sexual double standard between men and women (in which different ‘rules’ for sexual behaviour apply).
      • Patriarchal cultural institutions: A variety of institutions and practices- including media, religion and education – produce representations of women within a patriarchal gaze. These representations influence women’s identities and prescribe acceptable standards of behaviour and action.

Walby distinguishes two distinct forms of patriarchy :

  • Private patriarchy is domination of women which occurs within the household at the hands of an individual patriarch. It is an exclusionary strategy, because women are essentially prevented from taking part in public life.
  • Public patriarchy, on the other hand, is more collective in form. Women are involved in public realms, such as politics and the labour market, but remain segregated from wealth, power and status.
  1. Based on his Studies in Britain, Walby contents that at least in Britain, there has been a shift in patriarchy- both in degree and form – from the Victorian era to present day. She notes that the narrowing of the wage gap and the gains in women’s education demonstrate a shift in the degree of patriarchy, but do not signal its defeat. If at one time women’s oppression was found chiefly in the home, it is now located throughout society as a whole- women are now segregated and subordinated in all areas of the public realm. In other words, patriarchy has shifted in form from private to public. ……..As Walby quotes: liberated from the home, women now have the whole of society in which to be exploited.
  2. The present status of women is chiefly the product of patriarchal social arrangements. Women offer spend most of their time in domestic work and in rearing children. Most women do not get an opportunity to develop their own personality. They are made to believe that the proper sphere of their activity is within- their household and that they need not take interest in public life. From the beginning girls are taught to pay more attention to personal relations, not to personal success. Boys are taught to be film, assertive and aggressive, girls are taught to be obedient, shy and submissive. Boys are encouraged to become nurses or secretaries. The experience gained by women in their own professional life does not allow them to take up a political career.
  3. When Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) published her essay ‘Vindication of the Rights of Woman’, woman was not only restrained from voting, but was deemed unfit for education, was debarred from many occupations, and had no legal right to own property. She had no real right to divorce even if her husband inferiority and demanded equal rights for women. She argued that women, like men, are rational individuals and should have equal right. She established the principles on which campaigns for women’s right to education employment, property and the vote were later built up.
  4. John Stuart Mill (1806-73) in the Subjection of Women sought to demonstrate that women were in no way inferior to men in their talents, and pleaded to give them full legal and political rights.
  5. In the contemporary world, further advancement in technology, diversification of business, industry,
    administration, arts and professions, etc. and the increasing demand of new skills, talents, and professional competence, have given women the opportunity of proving their abilities. They have also been encouraged to acquire higher qualifications and training and to seek respectable careers. It is now realized that women are fit to perform most of the jobs that men do, and for which they were not considered fit earlier. Equal rights for women are no larger questioned in enlightened circles.
  6. The cultural valuation is the foundation for sexual division of labour. That is then reinforced by gender ideologies of male superiority and a high degree of sexual antagonism between men and women. Meigs (1990) describes a “chauvinistic” ideology that is rooted in men’s role as warriors. The division of work among mundurucu, an Amazonian horticultural society, where men hunt, fish and fell the forest area for gardens while women plants, harvest and process manioc. Men work at Mundurucu has more assigned value.
  7. As Murphy and Murphy (1985) state “Male ascendancy does not wholly derive from masculine activities but is to a considerable degree prior to them” Male domination is traditionally symbolic.
  8. According to Martin and Voortries (1975) the decline in female participation in agriculture is that the female domestic workload tends to increase when root crops are replaced by cereal crop and when animal labour a places manual labour.
  9. Many egalitarian societies in the contemporary world are characterised by a division of labour whereby men hunt and women gather.
  10. Goodye (1971) suggests that Tiwi culture emphasizes the equality of men and women in society. Among the Agta Negritos of north Eastern Luson, the Philippines women enjoy greater social and economic equality with their men compared to Tiwi of Australia. They make significant contribution to the daily food supply and also control the distribution of the food they acquire, sharing them with their families and trading them in the broader community. This challenges the widely held notion that in foraging societies pregnancy and child care are incompatible with hunting. They have developed methods of contraception and abortion to aid them in spacing their children.
  11. The abolition of landlordism and the breakdown of its socio-cultural milieus have affected women in a positive manner.
  12. Mencher and Saradamoni find that female income is essential for below poverty line houses. Most of the women are engaged in three types of work: (a) participation in the traditionally defined labour force (b) domestic work plus activities like alone. Even these women are victimized because of their sex and poor economic background
  13. Karuna Ahmad finds five trends in women’s employment : (a) clustering of women in a few occupations (b) clustering either in low women receive lower salaries than men, (d) high proportion of highly educated and professionally trained unemployed women. Studies suggest that women’s professional locations reflect their position in society in terms of caste and class backgrounds and educational achievements. Perceptions regarding status among women are shaped by modern education than the traditional values regarding marriage and family.
  14. Agnithotri and Aggarwal gave preference for Marxist approach in analyzing women. Aggarwal proposes that a number of questions which would have a bearing on gender relations will get obfuscated in the organization of production and relations of production. But despite the metaphor of reforms and individuation of women, emphasis on chastity, patriarchy, division of labour, sacredness of Marriage seclusion with the household has persisted.
  15. In horticultural societies, in which cultivation and farming is required by the use of hand-tool technology women play important roles in production. Lepowsky points to gender egalitarianism among the horticultural and matrilineal people of the pacific island of Vanatani. He says that the prominent position of women in Vanatinai exchange and other activities.

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