IDST 3350: Final Research Paper
Research Topic: Sociological Perspectives on Gender Stratification
Gender stratification is a form of social inequality that involves the unequal distribution of power, privilege, and wealth between females and males in contemporary human societies. There are three major sociological perspectives on gender stratification. These include the functionalist perspective, the conflict perspective, and the symbolic interactionist perspective. Each of these major sociological frameworks contain their own theories and views regarding gender, and how gender relates to other aspects of society.
The functionalist perspective suggests that gender roles exist to maximize social efficiency (Ritzer & Stepnisky, 2018). Functionalist theorists view a gendered division of labor as important and necessary for the smooth functioning of society. Functionalist theorists believe that gender inequality, and thus stratification in society, was driven by socialization into prescribed roles that encouraged women and men to make different choices about family and work. For example, functionalist theorists see wage inequalities in the workplace as largely the result of choices women make about family-work balance. Many sociologists consider the functionalist perspective to be both outdated and sexist, as there’s compelling empirical evidence that the workplace wage gap is largely the result of deeply ingrained gender biases, rather than choices women and men make about family-work balance (Blumberg, 1984).
The conflict perspective suggests that men, as the dominant gender, subordinate women to maintain privilege and power in society (Ritzer ; Stepnisky, 2018). Conflict theorists focus on how the assumptions and biases about gender differences empower men, oppress women, and exacerbate structural inequality of women relative to men. For example, conflict theorists believe that wage inequalities that exist between women and men result from men’s historic power to devalue women’s work but also benefit as a group from the services that women’s labor provides (Blumberg, 1984). Both the functionalist and conflict perspectives are macro-level perspectives; that is, these perspectives broadly focus on the social structures that shape society as whole.
The symbolic interactionist perspective suggests that gender stratification is created and reinforced through daily social interactions and the use of symbols (Kendall, 2016). Symbolic interactionists focus on the everyday interactions that produce gender. Symbolic interactionists believe that gender is fluid and malleable (Risman, 1984). To symbolic interactionists, gender is something that people do or perform, not something they are. People perform tasks or possess characteristics based on the gender role assigned to them, which is termed “doing gender” (West & Zimmerman, 1987). The symbolic interactionist perspective is a micro-level perspective; that is, gender stratification is examined at the level of face-to-face interaction.
Interdisciplinary Analysis of the Sociology Discipline
The basic reasons for doing sociological research is to study society and social behavior (Kendall, 2016). In the sociology discipline, sociologists typically limit themselves to a specific research topic and conduct research in order to achieve a research goal or to answer a specific research question. Sociological research is planned carefully, and conducted using well-established methods to ensure that the knowledge gained is free of the biases and opinions of the researcher; that is, the gained knowledge truly reflects the social world.
Sociologists view and study society through three main lenses: positive, interpretive, and critical (Collins & Makowsky, 2010; Kendall, 2016). Positivist sociologists apply the scientific method to study the rules that govern human behavior in society. Positive sociologists believe that there are certain natural forces that work on societies, and they should be studied in a scientific manner. Interpretive sociologists seek to understand the subjective nature of human behavior and consider differing viewpoints when researching theories and making observations. Critical sociologists question conclusions in order to improve the credibility and quality of knowledge in the sociological field by disproving incorrect claims or uncovering new truths.
Sociologists collect four types of data in their research: quantitative, qualitative, primary, and secondary (Kendall, 2016). Quantitative data is numerical data, typically in the form of statistics. Qualitative data is descriptive, non-numerical data. Primary data is data collected by the sociologist first-hand. Secondary data is previously-collected data that sociologists use in the research process to generate primary data.
Sociologists employ several carefully-planned and rigorous methodologies to collect data. They will choose a specific research method based on the research questions to be answered, the backgrounds of prospective research subjects, the available resources, the researcher’s background and training, and ethical considerations (Ritzer ; Stepnisky, 2018). These methodologies can include interviews, surveys, experiments, participant observation, ethnographies, and cross-sectional and longitudinal studies (Kendall, 2016).
As with all academic disciplines, the interdisciplinarian must examine sociological research with a critical eye. An interdisciplinarian should consider clarity, depth and breadth, and logic when evaluating sociological research to gain a better understanding of its real-world relevance, its strengths, its weaknesses, and its blind spots (Repko, Szostak, ; Buchberger, 2017). The interdisciplinarian must answer several questions in her or his critical analysis of sociological research:
? Is the main thesis/claim/assertion clear? Does the researcher draw upon sufficient and credible evidence to support her or his main thesis?
? Does the researcher’s reasoning flow logically?
? Does the researcher make unfounded assumptions, based on generalizations, overgeneralizations, or stereotypes?
? Does the researcher point to documented cases/experiments/experiences of social phenomena that fit well with the author’s line of arguing/reasoning and strengthen the overall assertion/claim/ thesis?
Another way the interdisciplinarian can organize and make sense of sociological data is by using concept mapping. A concept map allows identification of concepts related to more than one academic discipline (Repko et al. 2017). Here’s an example of a basic concept map:
True integrative insight and understanding occurs when the interdisciplinarian can visualize and form connections between a concept and its supporting details while simultaneously being aware of the concept’s wider context within the real world.
For example, in terms of gender stratification and its impact on society, the interdisciplinarian must make several considerations. First, sociological research can be controversial as it affects those who have a stake in the topic being studied, i.e., women. The gender of the researcher can be a significant factor in sociological research, and the interdisciplinarian must decide if the researcher took the needed steps to prevent it from biasing her or his findings. The interdisciplinarian must also understand that gender can be an obstacle to conducting sociological research, especially when the gender of the researcher is different from the research subjects, and the topic under investigation is a sensitive one, such as sexual assault. Ethics should be a fundamental concern of the interdisciplinarian when it comes to establishing the credibility and quality of sociological research. And finally, the interdisciplinarian must understand that real-world situations often force sociologists to conduct research that falls short of the research ideals and goals. Therefore, the interdisciplinarian must identify gaps in the sociological body of research, and fill in the gaps with insights from other disciplines to gain a better, more comprehensive understanding of the real world and its seemingly infinite complexities.
Applying History and Writing Concentrations to the Research Topic
History is concerned with past events and is a systematic record of humanity. In terms of gender inequality and stratification, its study relies heavily on the historical study of cultures, governments, institutions, and religions. To understand gender inequality, the researcher must also understand the historical development of human society. The information about the past is critically important to the sociologist when studying gender stratification in the modern world.
Rhetoric and writing is the foundation of every academic discipline. Good writing is critical to effective communication and to the clear and concise presentation of concepts, data, facts, ideas, and theories. For the interdisciplinarian, context is everything in the writing field. Context refers to the situation within which language functions. Context includes culture, events, and social conventions that influence language use. Providing context helps to clarify relationships between differing concepts that allows the interdisciplinarian to gain a broader understanding and visualize the bigger picture.
Gender stratification is a form of social inequality that exists between females and males in modern societies. Sociologists study gender inequality from three sociological perspectives: conflict, functionalism, and symbolic interactionism. Each perspective offers its own theories on gender and society. Interdisciplinarians must draw upon sociological theories, as well as other insights from disciplines such as history, economics, and political science, and then find common ground among all of them, to gain a broader and better understanding of why gender inequality persists in the modern world and how to combat it. The individual disciplines are foundational to interdisciplinary studies; but interdisciplinary study is rooted in integrating the different bodies of knowledge from fields such as sociology, history, etc. to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the real world.