Inequality Class, Race, Gender
As we prosper through time, inequality is slowly less evident. A lot of people don't realize that although things are improving with time, inequality is still prominent in our society. The people that are failing to realize that there still is inequality are the fortunate ones. They rise well above the poverty line, and usually live relatively economically sound lives. They are the people who are supplied with our society's benefits. On the other hand, the people that are in pursuit of social change, and constantly bring attention to issues of equal rights and privileges, are often the people that do not have them. This paper will illustrate some of the sociological facets of class, race, and gender, and how they are interwoven with other dimensions of social stratification.
Some people believe that stratification has beneficial consequences. Of course, these people are on the higher end of the stratification hierarchy, which makes it easier for them to agree with that statement. "There seems no place where hierarchical status orderings aren’t discoverable."(Fussel, Class, p.9) They believe that the harder one works the more they will achieve, thus promoting production in society. However, individuals at the lower end of the stratification system disagree with that. Their social status prevents them from achieving their best because all of their benefits and advantages are given to those of higher status, "certain limits have been placed on their capacity to ascend socially..." (Fussel, Class, p.7) The lower class is instantly denied society’s privileges, which tends to discourage them, often leaving them feeling helpless. Unfortunately, this helplessness tends to be viewed by many higher classed people as laziness. What is not realized is that stratification is a character of society, and not just a reflection on individual differences. Stratification is universal but variable. It involves beliefs and persists over generations, even tough "Democracy demands that all citizens begin the race even. [Furthermore,] insists they all finish even." (Fussel, Class, p.8) The lower class often questions the point of its effort into an unforgiving society when the outcome is inevitable. This all ties in with the numerous reasons that cause poverty and homelessness. This ultimately creates a never-ending class system of inequality that so many are trying to dismantle. An example of this inequality is a class of students taking a quiz. The class is divided into different groups, and then each group is randomly given the amount of time they allowed for the quiz. As different times are announced the less fortunate students begin to complain, and the more fortunate students realize that their once equal peers, were now placed in an unequal situation. These students were forced in an unequal situation that was out of their control, much like social class.
Another element of social inequality is race. Race is still a major issue in the United States, even though we are supposedly a race-blind society. Given that African- American students no longer have to go to different schools, or ride in the back of the bus, or use different water fountains doesn’t mean that racism no longer exists. People of the world are part of different races, which share different biological transmitted traits that members of society deem socially significant. However, "There are no biological traits that mark all members of a particular race." (Gaskins, What Are You, p.48) No society is composed of biologically pure individuals because of the human migration and the interracial births. "The decisions about where to draw the lines dividing people are made on the basis of economic, social, and political considerations–and not science." (Gaskins, What Are You, p.48) Every year more interracial couples get married producing more interracial mixed babies. That is why people’s characteristics cannot be used in identifying someone’s race. "Skin color is a trait that varies so much within ‘racial’ groups that it’s meaning." (Gaskins, What Are You, p.47) People are inclined to conclude ones race from their physical features just for the simple reason that "People tend to want to label..." (Gaskins, What Are You, p.51)
Also a social inequality is gender, which is most of the time mixed up with sex. However, gender is a behavior not the actual sex. Many people don’t understand why anyone would want to be a transvestite or transsexual and they often times hate them because they are different. People think that there can only be two types of gender: masculine and feminine. People also feel that these genders most always correspond to a person’s sex. So if the person were a male, then most people wouldn’t accept that person into society if they acted feminine.
"For human beings there is no essential femaleness and maleness, femininity or masculinity, womanhood, or manhood, but once gender is ascribed, the social order constructs and holds individuals to strongly gendered norms and expectations. Individuals may vary on many of the components of gender any may shift genders temporarily or permanently, but they must fit into the limited number of gender statuses their society recognizes." (Lorber, "’Night To His Day:’ The Social Construction of Gender", p.107)
Many people don’t realize that gender is a socially constructed accomplishment. People make up methods in their minds about ways that others should be and if they don’t act that way, then they do not fit into that person’s reality. "Every society classifies people as ‘girl and boy children’..." (Lorber, "’Night To His Day:’ The Social Construction of Gender", p.101) People try to guess what gender a person is. If one doesn’t know and is unsure of another’s gender than they keep on looking at them trying to find evidence about that person’s gender. "Then we are uncomfortable until we have successfully placed the other person in a gender status; otherwise, we feel socially dislocated." (Lorber, "’Night To His Day:’ The Social Construction of Gender", p.100)
We must accept the fact that gender can be altered because it is only made up from what we believe. People must realize that they way gender is made is based upon the way they are treated are looked upon by other people and the way they show themselves to other people. People always try to determine a gender by a person’s sex but often find that they cannot, and can only classify a person by they way that they act. People in the United States often show much hatred towards transsexuals and transvestites because they are not socially accepted. "Modern Western societies’ transsexuals and transvestites are the nearest equivalent of these crossover genders, but they are not institutionalized as third genders (Bolin 1987)." (Lorber, "’Night To His Day:’ The Social Construction of Gender", p.102) The reason that transsexuals and transvestites are not accepted is because they are not understood. Society tends to dislike what they don’t understand. Which makes gender in inequality, because there are double standards. Until the day that it is accepted all over the world for a man to walk down the street in a dress and lipstick there will be no impartiality in gender.
Although society has changed from the days of extreme inequality, it still needs much attention to equalizing the privileges between the different levels of stratification. Society is a complex system characterized by inequality and conflict, which generate social change. Social class, race, and gender distribute power and privilege unequally. In the example of the class exercise, the level or stratification can be compared to the time given in each group. The more time the person had, the better chance they had at scoring higher on the quiz. The people who had more time on the quiz can be compared to individuals at higher levels of stratification. Most people look down upon lower classes, failing to realize that inequality deprives those people of the equal rights to prosperity. This occurs only in a few societies, but all around the world. Also the fact that people everyday are judged and categorized by their physical features is an inequality. Lastly, the fact that even today transvestites and transsexuals are still not accepted is an inequality. With any luck things will change in the future, and we will have more equal opportunity around the world.
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