“Destined for Equality” by Robert M. Jackson discusses the contemporaneous decline of gender inequality in society. The term gender equality refers to a state of parity of access to opportunities and resources by persons of opposing gender, which for the purposes of this discussion will only use the traditional definition of male and female.
Jackson suggests that gender equality is an issue that has longstanding historical roots. In the past, man’s social dominance was seen as a natural order whereas women in society often took on roles that were more domestic in nature, and their interests – political, economic, cultural and social – were often subservient to that of their male counterparts (Jackson, 2013). He suggests that this historical application of gender roles reflected a wide inequality and disparity between genders and argues that the past two centuries have marked a gradual but steady inflexion of societal notions of gender egalitarianism. Jackson suggests that origin of American gender inequality began with the nation-building men who signed the Declaration of Independence whose success subjugated factions of society like women, blacks and poor men (Jackson, 2013). However, in the past two centuries, due to push back and efforts from women who resisted prejudice and their subjugation, the levers of gender inequality have tilted more in their favor. In the nineteenth century, a cultural doctrine that men and women belonged to separate spheres empowered men with income-generating employment and emancipated women with domestic and household duties (Jackson, 2013). Consistent efforts to narrow gender disparity have however been largely successful over the past two centuries and have resulted in women occupying higher positions of power, higher levels of education and having greater autonomy over their sexual freedoms and reproductive control (Jackson, 2013).
The gist of the reading is that the current milieu of gender equality lies between the polarities of complete equality and extreme inequality. The former acknowledges the shortcomings of where gender inequality currently stands whereas the latter celebrates progress from an era of female emancipation.
Kathleen Gerson’s “Falling Back on Plan B: The Children of the Gender Revolution Face Uncharted Territory” discusses the current generation’s expectations and notions of family construct in response to the traditional definition of marriage, and how males and females define their aspirations and roles in this social contract. Gerson calls this shift a ‘gender revolution’.
Gerson explains that the traditional dual-earning family structure would involve an income-gathering, breadwinning male and a homemaking female (Jackson, 2013). The current generation’s however egalitarian ideals espouse female ambitions to establish a workplace identity, potentially at the expense of their male partners. The surveys conducted by Gerson revealed issues with the mode of childrearing, career pathways and work-family life balance (Jackson, 2013). While acknowledging that contemporaneous ideals of “self-reliant women” and “neo-traditional males” and understanding newer definitions of family unit such as cohabitation, single-parenthood and dual-parent income gathering, parents of both genders were unified in sustaining their combined roles in providing financial security, and economic and emotional support to their children (Jackson, 2013). The current generation thus conclusively works toward egalitarian ideals which empower women and decreasing their domesticity, while maintaining the traditional “marriage-like” partnerships involving paid work and family caretaking (Jackson, 2013).
However, skepticism of neo-traditional ambitions of marriage leads to the corollary of potential fallbacks. Gerson explains that women would likely fall back on domesticity, but harbor reluctance to surrendering their autonomy characterized in traditional marriages. Men would however be torn between their desire to succeed as breadwinners and pursuance of this egalitarian partnership (Jackson, 2013). The new male norm would thus embrace women earning income and thus establishing their identity at the workplace, without the onus and costs of equal parenthood falling on their shoulders.
Both readings similarly espouse on contemporaneous sociological issues: the former on the evolution of gender equality and the latter on evolution of gender roles in marriage. Both readings positively discuss development of their respective societal issues, and that both lie within their own spectra and yardsticks of progress.
In Jackson’s discussion on gender inequality, it is suggested that the current status and advancement of gender inequality can be compared to an ideal gender-equal future, and its abject gender-unequal history. The ambivalence of Jackson’s position might however ironically be characteristic of the modern male as described in his own analysis of gender inequality’s evolution. Throughout history, male passivity and lack of idealism and activism toward greater gender parity – one where women occupy “glass ceiling jobs”, do not suffer the fear of rape, earn comparable salaries to their male counterparts – is discussed as reason for coming short of equality. Taken further, a phenomenon experienced in many regions around the world would be that of male chauvinism. In male-dominated patriarchal societies common in Asia like China and India, women still lack exposure to education, job opportunities and experience extreme cases of rape. It is also discovered that female infanticide rates are high in these societies. Despite agreeing with Jackson that considerable progress has tilted the levers of gender inequality toward women over the past two centuries, I disagree with his ambivalence and half-optimism on the issue. Activism and holistic societal awareness on the issue, I find, are epochal to the push back of gender inequality.
On a similar vein to Jackson’s issue on gender inequality is the notion of increasing female egalitarian ideals. Gerson’s exposition acknowledges that the evolving egalitarian societal ideals have resulted in shifting mindsets of the family construct and gender roles in marriage. Contrastingly, Gerson’s study suggests bipartisan cognizance of women-empowering egalitarian societies and even assimilation of these societal cues. The reading by Gerson thus invokes a more promising outlook on the future of the ability of societies to take on changing notions of gender and their implications on societies.
- Gerson, K. (2013). Falling Back on Plan B: The Children of the Gender Revolution Face Uncharted Territory In Skolnick, A. S & Skolnick J.H. Family in Transition (17th Edition). Boston, MA: Pearson.
- Jackson, R.M. (2013). Destined for Equality In Skolnick, A. S & Skolnick J.H. Family in Transition (17th Edition). Boston, MA: Pearson.