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Socially Constructed Notions of Gender

In his ninth chapter, Macionis' discussion of some aspects of socially constructed notions of gender seem to be expressions of points of view rather than analyses of what is actually said by the theorists. The account of social-conflict analysis of gender is an example of this. Macionis recounts Engels' view of the evolution of gender inequality in which "social equality and communal sharing" in hunter-gatherer societies "gave way to private property and, ultimately, a class hierarchy" at which point men "gained pronounced power over women"--as in ensuring the legitimacy of their offspring by controlling women's sexuality (237). Engels argued that this domination was reinforced by capitalism since men were the primary owners of both the means of production and their own labor, while women were cultivated as consumers and more closely bound to the home in order to free men to work at wage labor. Capitalism exploits men and women "in paying low wages for male labor and no wages for female work" (237).

In his "critical evaluation" Macionis first states that social-conflict analysis is also "decidedly critical of conventional ideas about gender, claiming society would be better off if we minimized or even eliminated this dimension of social structure" (237). But who makes this radical claim, and how is it made? Engels is the only such theorist cited and there is no indication of this idea there. Macionis' critique consists of citing arguments against social-conflict views of gender inequality. First he states that the "approach sees conventional families as a social evil" (237). But the same questions apply. Who says it and how do they say it? What does a "social evil" mean--is it really opposed to something that is "morally positive" as these unnamed "traditionalists" conceive of morally positive? Macionis also contends that social-conflict theory "minimizes the extent to which women and men live together cooperatively, a...

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Socially Constructed Notions of Gender. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:14, September 22, 2014, from