[Women Empowerment] Woman Status in India :Sociological Concept, Family and Women’s Work, Role of Women

1 Sociological Concept

1.1 Gender=“classification of objects roughly corresponding to the two sexes” as well as the properties of these two sexes. Differences in gender relate to socially and culturally determined. Sex is biological whereas gender is sociological, namely, the social meaning we
attribute to it.

1.2 Role and Status=these terms tell us how individuals and groups organise themselves as well as relate to each other. Role tells us about what is expected from an individual in a particular situation, while status deals with her or his expectations arising out of that situation. 

1.3 Traditional Expectations and Women’s Role and Status
= caste and religious conflicts, In many cases they occur because of differences in expectations. Occasionally there may also be cases of men of one group or caste molesting or raping women of another group or caste.  women are assaulted because it is expected that they will not strike back.

2. Women’s Status in Contemporary India=
some important indicators.= The form and extent of work and political participation, levels of education, state of health, representation in decision making bodies, access to property etc. Contemporary Indian society has been exposed to the broad processes of social transformation, agricultural modernisation and economic development, urbanisation and rapid industrialisation and globalisation. These processes have generated regional imbalances, sharpened class inequalities and augmented the gender disparities.  All these have affected adversely the various aspects of women’s status in the contemporary Indian society.

2.1 The Family and Women’s Work
i) Lineage, Residence and Women= Most families in India, irrespective of their caste and religion, are patrilineal. Under patrilocality a wife’s visits to her natal home are usually restricted to ritual occasions, and a child is socialised mainly according to the values of the father’s family. Even though a mother has a vital part to play in the child’s life, major decisions regarding his/her future and that of others in the family are taken by the men in the family.

ii) Gender Role Stereotyping and Household Chores= first idea on gender role differences which a child acquires is that of women of one’s family marrying and leaving their homes to live with different groups of people. Secondly, men appear to exercise far greater influence in decision-making and are far more visible and audible than their wives. Third, most of the tasks within the home are done by the mother, grand- mother, sisters and so on.

2.2 Women and Paid Employment=Not only is women’s productive work within the house unpaid, but also it often is not understood how multiplicity of roles may result in conflict in their performance.

i) Women’s Work Participation=what is particularly important here is that repeated under-representation of women’s work in census and other statistical exercises is a reflection of a combination of factors. Some of the important ones are women’s self-perception, employers’ attitude to women employees, traditional positions of authority in the rural and urban areas, and traditional role expectations.

ii) Women’s Self-perception=Once in a job how a woman relates to it depends on her primary socialisation. She is committed to the value system, which stresses that her energies and motivations are to be directed to making a success of her home and not her job. Once in a job, women rarely attempted to acquire further qualifications, which would help in promotions.

iii) Employers’ Attitude= women were discriminated against at the time of promotions and tended to be crowded into lower status clerical and primary school jobs. They were rarely promoted to executive and supervisory posts. Among skilled and unskilled workers, the reasons put forth for preferring men were their greater physical strength and lower rate of absenteeism.

iv) Traditional Positions of Authority in Rural Areas=  Where the ownership of land, means of production as well as decision-making are dominated by men, the division of labour within the family as well as in the employment market is weighted in favour of those in positions or authority.

v) Traditional Positions of Authority in Urban Areas= In the urban areas, the working class, and men in particular have a wider range of job options available to them. Men who had few options at home became more whimsical and choosy about jobs in the metropolitan city. Women could hardly take anytime off from work to look around for alternatives

vi) Working Conditions= When men and women work in the same occupation, female tasks are often the more arduous and time-consuming. For instance, in paddy cultivation they spend long hours in sowing, weeding and transplanting. when both sexes do identical jobs, women often get paid less than men.

vii) Traditional Role Expectations=  Irrespective of social class there is, at the level of belief, widespread commitment to the notion that a woman’s job must not interfere or compete with her primary role of wife and mother. Highly rated occupations for middle class women are teaching jobs at various levels, librarianship, medicine, particularly with specialization in gynaecology and paediatrics, health visitorships and so on.

3. Role Stereotyping: Impact on Women’s Health
3.1 Food Discrimination=men and boys eat first, and are given the larger and more nutritious portions. Traditionally, women eat after men in our society, and when there is limited food to be distributed, they automatically get less. It is assumed that men need better and more food because they work hard and are the bread winners. The fact that women may work as hard and earn as much is rarely taken into consideration.

3.2 Amniocentesis and Sex Discrimination=amniocentesis or the process by which the amniotic
fluid is extracted from a pregnant woman to determine the health of the foetus or unborn child. The aim of the test is not to ascertain the sex of the child, though it is now being misused for pre-birth sex determination. Most women who go in for the tests leading to abortion of the female foetus are from middle class homes, and may even have college education. Why is an unborn baby girl less valued than a male child?

3.3 Women’s Psychological Response=The incidence of a range of physical ailments, neurotic
disorders and spirit possession are manifestations of how women react, at one level, to their situation.

4. Role Stereotyping in the Educational and Socialisation Processes=
educational system to include what is taught in class, namely the syllabus, attitude of teachers and school and college administrators and the views put forth in textbooks. At the level of policy, there has been a certain degree of confusion regarding the right kind of education for girls.

4.1 Gender Differentiation in Courses of Study=
4.2 Biases in Textbooks
4.3 Differentiation in the Socialisation Process

5. Media, Women and the Changing Scenario=
Listening to radio programmes and watching the television and reading the newspaper reports you may feel that issues, relating to women are now receiving more attention.  At the same time the media through advertisements, television serials and other programmes continue to portray women as either weak, defenseless creatures, or as bewitching maidens, out to win the hearts of unsuspecting young men.

5.1 Women as Projected on Television=There has been gender bias in the television programmes.

5.2 Biased Representation of Women in the T V Serials and Cinema
=men characters were almost double that of women characters. In terms of occupation women appeared mainly as housewives. If employed, they were invariably school teachers, office workers and flight attendants.

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