Here you will find a detailed study of Colonial and Capitalistic Perspectives of “Gender” in Gender Studies. Let’s discuss the colonial perspective first.
Colonial Perspective of Gender
During the 18th century, women’s roles and work were extremely difficult, and exhausting, and society was unappreciative. For poor families in colonial times, women’s full-time job was homemaking. Poor housewives had to cook meals, make clothing, and doctor their families.
On top of cleaning, making household goods to use and sell, taking care of their animals, maintaining a fire, and even tending to the kitchen gardens. Middle-class and wealthy women also shared some of these chores in their households, but they often had servants to help them.
Both men and women had great social pressure on them to marry. Young girls were often married by the age of 13 or 14 and if women weren’t married by the age of 25, it was socially humiliating. Marriage was mostly for economic benefits, not romantic situations. Widows were also pressured to get married as soon as possible.
Even in some states, laws were proposed that would force widows to marry within 7 years after their husband’s death. Widows, however, were often married within a year if not sooner. Once married, they legally became one with their husbands.
Married women had no control of their earnings, inheritance, or property, and also could not appear in court as a witness nor vote.
Their husbands, therefore, were responsible for all aspects of their wives including discipline. Widows were better off. They had control over their property, but could only receive up to one-third of her late husband’s property.
A widow could also vote in some areas, but often widows were not aware of this fact or chose not to. Husbands could legally beat their wives. If a woman ran away from her husband, she was considered a thief because she was stealing, the clothes she was wearing and herself. If a man murdered his wife, he would be hung. If a woman murdered her husband, she would be burned alive.
The Revolutionary War brought women into many new causes. Although women’s organizations had begun to appear in the late 1600s, it wasn’t until the mid-1700 that these organizations involved politics. In 1766, “Sons of Liberty” and “Daughters of Liberty” started to appear throughout the country. Right away, the Daughters of Liberty was very active.
When Americans began to boycott British clothing and materials, these women’s organizations spun clothing for their community. Also, when tea was taxed, women began a boycott and even went on to form anti-tea leagues. In January 1770, 538 Boston women signed an agreement, vowing not to drink tea so long as it was taxed.
These women’s organizations also played a large role during the war. Clothing and other materials were needed to clothe Patriot soldiers, so women got together to spin and sew uniforms. Women also wrote pieces in the local newspapers about the war, held scrap drives, and even made cartridges.
Sybil Ludington, the 16-year-old daughter of a patriot general, commanded a Patriot militia unit and rode over 40 miles in the dark of the night to wake the minutemen. Women loyalists also played some part in the war. One loyalist women’s organization raised enough money to buy a ship and outfit it as a privateer to fight against the Patriots.
With all the war, violence, and fighting between the French, English, Americans, and Native Americans, men and women alike had to learn and use some sort of protection. Colonial women knew how to threaten force and even kill someone in defense. Guns were owned by just a few, so women grew accustomed to using axes, knives, gardening, and household tools for defense.
After the war was over and the government began to write laws and the Constitution. Women began to focus on changing the common law of total male superiority. Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband, who was in the Continental Congress.
The letter pleaded for Congress to “Remember the Ladies” when writing to new Constitution. Her husband insured her that the ladies would be taken care of, but the common law would not be changed.
Although colonial times were hard on women, they prepared them for the coming age. Women were ready for change.
Now let’s discuss the capitalist perspective of Gender.
Capitalism is the social system that now exists in all countries of the world. Under this system, the means for producing and distributing goods (the land, factories, technology, transport system, etc.) are owned by a small minority of people.
We refer to this group of people as the capitalist class. The majority of people must sell their ability to work in return for a wage or salary.
The working class is paid to produce goods and services which are then sold for a profit. The profit is gained by the capitalist class because they can make more money selling what we have produced than we cost to buy on the labor market. In this sense, the working class is exploited by the capitalist class.
The capitalists live off the profits they obtain from exploiting the working class whilst reinvesting some of their profits for the further accumulation of wealth.
The Profit Motive behind Capitalist Perspective of Gender
In capitalism, the motive for producing goods and services is to sell them for a profit, not to satisfy people’s needs. The profit motive is not just the result of greed on behalf of individual capitalists. They do not have a choice about it.
The need to make a profit is imposed on capitalists as a condition for not losing their investments and their position as capitalists. Competition with other capitalists forces them to reinvest as much of their profits as they can afford to keep their means and methods of production up to date.
Today, due to the American capitalist economy, women consistently find themselves at a disadvantage in terms of wages while facing conflicting social expectations. According to the text, a women’s current income averages $0.77 for every $1.00 her male counterpart earns.
This inequality has its roots in the establishment of the family wage by Henry Ford in the early 1900s. The family wage was a fairly lucrative wage for the period, intended to support a male employee as well as the housewife and children.
Since the family wage was not offered to females or unmarried employees, it served as a means of reinforcing the traditional nuclear family and the wife’s dependency on her husband. Despite progress since the 1900s, women still face gender bias in the workforce.
In addition to comparatively lower wages, American women are also part of a trend in increased work hours due to the capitalist society, but they do not encounter any decrease in social responsibility.
Thus, while working more and being paid less on average than men, women are still expected to care for the children at home. The text refers to this phenomenon as “post-feminist expectations for family and work – Judith Stacey’s term for modern women’s desire for an egalitarian marriage, motherhood, and a successful career.
However, patterns of female employees are more affected by the presence of children than male employment, as evidenced by the National Longitudinal Survey of Young Women.
In this study, the number of children a woman had demonstrated a significant difference in her wages; the study offered race and education as contributing factors to this discrepancy. Kathleen Gerson and Jerry A. Jacob’s “The Work-Home Crunch” explains that when children enter into a family, mothers cut back on work hours, but fathers do not. Also, single women work more than mothers, but the work hours of fathers do not appear to change due to the presence of children.
While a more progressive policy has emerged to reduce the pressure on working women, the United States still lags behind other industrialized nations. For example, Italian women receive 20 weeks of paid maternity leave, while Americans under the Family and Medical Leave Act only receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave, from which part-time workers are excluded.
However, while maternity leave does reduce the pressure on working women, does it also further promote the social expectation of women as primary caregivers? If so, should paternity leave be offered to counter this possible gender bias? Furthermore, our policy changes are the only solutions for the gender gap. What explanations exist for the continuation of the current gender gap, and why would it be difficult to change the present situation?
For a Critical analysis in CSS examination, these gender perspectives are very important to understand.
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