Gender inequity

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Gender inequity relates to the issue of individuals being treated differently or unfairly due to gender. It should not be confused with gender disparity, which relates to the ways in which gender correlates with different performance on certain types of tasks.

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Part of the problem is the continued teaching of uninformed attitudes on gender in mainstream academia.

Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity by David D. Gilmore (ISBN 0300046464, 1990) makes a number of claims which were questionable even in 1990:

  • the male gender role is important in having a productive society
  • the male gender role must be instilled in young men by various forms of abuse, including ceremonies where parents whip their (male) children
  • ability to endure pain without showing it is vital to the male role; showing pain means you have failed and are inadequate to the role
  • anal rape is a sexual act, because rapists only rape people they are attracted to (untrue)

It also cites, as counterexamples, the Semai [W] of Malaysia and the "gentle, androgynous Polynesian Tahitians", "in whom the notion of masculinity as a test is virtually absent" -- inexplicably coming to the conclusion that these societies are somehow a result we want to avoid, even though (in the case of the Semai at least):

  • are known especially for their nonviolence
  • successfully run a society based on a gift economy [W]
  • have no police, no courts, and little formal government and no formal leaders
  • make moral decisions primarily on the basis of "public opinion" (possibly similar to consensus), rather than superstition or rigid systems of rules or morals
  • disputes are resolved by thorough discussion of the causes, motivations and resolution of the dispute by disputants and the whole community, often lasting many days, with final arbitration being made by the "headman" (in whose house the meeting takes place) -- who essentially decides which party (either or both) needs to stop doing what they were doing
  • children are never punished or forced against their will, although fear of danger (real or created) will be used as motivation when necessary
  • children are taught to fear their own aggressive impulses
  • children are taught, from a very young age, to 'give way' to others so as to preserve the peace and harmony of the village
  • children play non-competitive, non-injurious games

In other words, the Semai sound very much like the sort of society most of us would like to have, but the book advances them as an example to be avoided, even at the cost of deliberately training young men to be violent.

As of 2011, this book is still being taught in at least one course at Boston University as if it reflected current scientific thought on the subject of masculinity and gender in general.

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