Gatekeeping Young Women

Gatekeeping Young Women

A previous post (490) was sent to an Assistant Professor of Sociology.  I asked his opinion for the accuracy of the post.  This is his response:

I will be somewhat broad and brief since this is a rather complex issue.

At the heart of the problem is the notion of patriarchy and power.  In other words, it is a man’s world, hence men rule.  This idea is inculcated through socialization, i.e. brainwashing of both girls and boys who are told in many ways that there are certain realms that they should “roam around in” in order to be good citizens.  This is reinforced, not only in the mass media, but also at home, school, the workplace, and society in general.

In regard to historical male-female disparities, women have lagged significantly in terms of wages.  In 1960, the percent of men’s income that women earned was 61%.  In 1965, it declined to 58%, increased to 65% in 1985 and 71% in 1990.  Around 2000, it declined to 65% and as it stands now, it is at 78% (U.S. Census Bureau).  Those numbers are significant over the course of a lifetime.  As one goes up the salary hierarchy, across the board, the actual earnings are even more dismal for women.

Statistics for this article.
Statistics for this article.

Another factor that could bolster the argument is the fact of tracking at the early points in a child’s life.  Basically, educators and the educational system begin to sort students into different educational programs (or tracks) on the basis of real or perceived abilities and characteristics.  This practice is common based on the race and gender of the child.  There are two tracks or ability groups—the academic track and vocational track.  Those in the former go on to community colleges and universities, and the latter, end up learning skills and trades that allow them some mobility, but significantly less than those who move on to higher education.  The gatekeeping dynamic continues on at the university level—students are tracked into majors sorted by gender.  [Remember the brainwashing stared early, continued at the parochial levels, and is set by higher education.]

When we examine the field of study and gender, we observe the following for women versus men: 73% vs. 27% in Psychology, 36% vs. 64% in Mathematics, 31% vs. 69% in the Physical Sciences, 28% vs. 72%, and 21% vs. 79% in Engineering (Statistical Abstracts, 2005).  Additionally, when we look at the starting salaries in some professions, a clear picture emerges: in Computer Science, the average is $52k, Chemical Engineering: $51k, Mathematics: $44k, and the Social Sciences: $32k (Statistical Abstracts, 2003).  Remember, women are tracked into the “helping” professions, which tend to pay less (teaching, for example) and men are tracked into the more lucrative majors and professions.

The “glass ceiling” (i.e., the invisible barriers that deny women the opportunity to move up) is built into the system.  Note this is not natural, but an artificially created condition (by men).  In the professional world, women are put on the “mommy track” and men are put on the “glass escalator” that puts them on the fast track to the top where the rewards are to be had: higher-level positions, more desirable work-assignments, and higher salaries.  This is still quite poignant as I write this.  People point to the exceptions—women who have made it—and generalize.  However, when one examines the hard facts, things are a bit different.

How does this all relate to marriage and divorce?  Simply put, men enter with more resources than women, even at the professional level.  When a divorce occurs, men leave in a better position than women because they have already accumulated a key capital that allows them more life chances—education.  In addition, the legal system gives preference to women’s desires in regards to children.  This is another manifestation of the patriarchal system—women are viewed as more competent caretakers (again, this is not true for either sex).  The result is that women are burdened down by childcare responsibilities and costs, and businesses are less tolerant of single parents or females with children.  [Remember the “mommy track?”]

What does it mean for girls at a young age?

1)  My recommendation would be for parents to recognize their complicity in inculcating and reproducing the system of domination they take for granted.  Change the practice of buying certain things for boys and certain things for girls.  Be aware of the double standard that they practice everyday when they interact with their children.

2)  Most importantly, strongly encourage females to get into professions that will allow them to pursue higher incomes that will allow them to be independent of men in their adult life.

The more controversial recommendations for females, in particular, would be:

1)  Do something that will provide a financial basis for the future by doing something that will get you there—not necessarily doing something that you love to do.  As a whole, people have been taught to follow their hearts and dreams—do what makes them happy.  This is part of the brainwashing in the system.  Think about it this way, encourage your daughters to become lawyers, doctors, businesswomen, etc. even if they do not want to do.  After accumulating what is desired (say after 10 or 15 years), do something that will make them happier.  They will have the finances to pursue what they love instead of struggling.  In the long run, they will be able to create a basis that can be transferred across generations.   Delayed gratification goes a long way.  [How do you think the rich remain rich as well as their descendants?  They do what is necessary to maintain a lifestyle, and yes, they are happier and healthier as well as their future generations.  Don’t fall into the trap that rich people are miserable.  That is what they want you to think, which means there is more for them and less for you.]

2)  Delay marriage until after getting graduate degrees and starting a career.  Again, the better base one has, especially women, the better off life may be in the event of divorce.

3)  In regard to finances, a) Save money.  Do not impulse buy.  b) Maintain a separate saving account that only you have access to even when married.  Think logically, not with emotions, on this account.  In the workforce, people are exposed to a variety of individuals from the world over, especially, in large corporations that require travel.  Unintended and intended things do happen when people begin to move up the socio-economic ladder.

4)  The Cinderella story is a myth.  A prince is not going to come along and sweep you off your feet.  You are not a princess.  Marriage should be a rational decision, not based on some romantic ideal.  Evaluate the person objectively and then make a sound decision.  What does he have to offer?  What do you have to offer?  This may sound harsh, but why do marriages fail?  One of the primary reasons is money.  Love is a fleeting emotion.  Finances are objective and measurable.

5)  In cases of abuse, females must divorce their husbands.  “He will change” is wishful thinking.  Do not stay in a marriage because of children.  They will be worse off.  Again, awareness and logic will go along way in making a better life.

There are so many theoretical and practical aspects of this, but this will have to suffice for now.

Best,
Davison Bideshi, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Western Illinois University

Graphics done by M. Rane
Scientific Illustrator

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