Gender & Stratification: The Effects of Social Marginalization Research Paper Starter

Gender & Stratification: The Effects of Social Marginalization

A myriad of studies indicate American women do not enjoy the same opportunities to attain high status positions as do American men. As researchers seek to understand how gender impacts social stratification, they often overlook the fact that workplace status is not a valid indicator of a woman's social class. Social stratification of women encompasses a complex mix of factors including her spouse's socioeconomic status, how she handles her private realm responsibilities, her personal workplace status, and how she has been socialized to a position of marginalization or empowerment during her adolescence. This paper focuses on the impacts of the marginalization of adolescent girls.



Stratification & Class in the U.S. > Gender & Stratification: The Effects of Social Marginalization


Myriad studies indicate American women do not enjoy the same opportunities to attain high-status positions that American men do. This is no surprise as power, privilege, and status have most usually been rendered more available to men across time, countries, and cultures (Marini, 1990). Researchers continue to work to identify why status differences continue to exist despite various attempts at equalization. Primary contributors to this phenomenon are believed to be biological differences, assigned social roles, and the division of labor. Researchers argue over how these three factors can be used to adequately measure status differences based on a person's sex. Many scholars hypothesize that women's status is on the rise; women earn a larger percent of higher education degrees than in the past, women can increasingly be found in high-status occupations (albeit in low numbers), men are reported to take on relatively larger portions of private realm duties (e.g., child care, house cleaning, etc.), and leaders are more careful to include both genders when speaking publicly (Chafetz, 1984; Marini, 1990; Sanday, 1973; U. S. Census Bureau, 2006). Yet, arguments remain that women are not attaining equitable opportunities for status as quickly as previously anticipated.

Status Attainment & Workplace Status

In seeking to explain why higher status appears to be an elusive goal for women, researchers have sought to understand intersections between biological differences and gender status in the workplace (Friedl, 1975), societal structures/barriers and gender status in the workplace (Chafetz, 1984; Sanday, 1973), and the impact of how women perceive their societal roles (Gilligan, 1982). Many well-meaning researchers have simplistically equated status attainment solely with workplace status for women, thereby confounding their own studies of gender stratification by attempting to shoehorn women into a male-oriented model of status attainment (Irigary, 1985). Women gain and lose status in American society in ways that are more complex than their male counterparts, due to the secondary role assigned to them within the societal structure. A woman's status is easily affected by the person she marries and by how they maintain their private realm duties as they juggle their responsibilities in both the private and public realms.

The workplace cannot be deemed the sole reliable measure (nor a realistic indicator) of status stratification for women for several reasons (Zipp & Plutzer, 1996). One reason is that the status of a woman's husband has historically had a parabolic effect on whether a woman even entered the workforce. This meant that women with husbands of low socioeconomic status often lacked the skills to enter the competitive workforce while women with husbands of high socioeconomic status were afforded the opportunity to decide to remain at home to pursue personal interests and rear their children. Single women and women with husbands whose socioeconomic status were somewhere in the middle of the range were those most likely to enter the workforce as viable competitors for high-status workplace positions. Low numbers of women married to both high-status and low-status husbands, were not in the competitive job market, and high numbers of all women were in-between in the job market.

Similarly, female homemakers who are widowed or divorced might find themselves thrust back into the competitive workforce. Although they may possess high levels of training and experience that were accumulated prior to their child-bearing years, they often experience bias due to their decision to remain at home and tend to private realm duties (e.g., caring for children, keeping the household running properly, etc.) prior to the life change. Their often high levels of training and job experience are dismissed as being "old," or they are viewed as holding a low level of commitment to their public realm duties due to their years of absence from the workplace.

However, research conducted in the 2000s has called into question the degree to which a spouse's socioeconomic status matters in determining a woman's status. Damaske (2008) found that a contemporary American woman's intergenerational and intragenerational social mobility depended more on her own career initiative and efforts than those of her spouse, especially as most women surveyed married after having attained their present social status.

Researchers have not paid much attention to the effects of women and girls being socialized into marginalized positions in society via exclusionary language, their experiences within organizational structures, and the behaviors of significant adults during their early adolescence. Each of these factors needs to be more fully examined to understand the gendered social stratification extant in American society. This paper will explore the latter of these three factors.

Marginalization of Young Women

Marginalization appears to be potentiated by many variables. Its roots are often deeply embedded within a society, and many times, the oppression is felt but not acknowledged as such by those who are marginalized (Friere, 1971). When considering the process of marginalization, it is important to be cognizant that the process is both ambiguous and complex.

During adolescence, girls work to create a self-identity, a sense of hope, and their potential places in society. Adolescence is informed by the wealth of their individual childhood experiences. These foundational experiences shape many of the responses, thoughts, and actions of each girl. When marginalization informs adolescent development, girls often do not feel valued, included, listened to, or intelligent during the junior high/middle school experience. Some girls discover alternative paths to self-empowerment; other girls may not fare so well. Educational ambition and performance often decline by the time girls enter high school if they have not established a sense of hope, self-efficacy, and empowerment (Gariglietti, McDermott, Gingerich, & Hastings, 1997). This may impede their ability to attain high social status as adults.

However, girls should not be viewed as victims of marginalization. A victim role assumes the girls have no recourse in the situation and implies these girls must be rescued when, in fact, girls are quite capable of rescuing themselves if provided a little support. Girls first need to become cognizant of the ways in which they are marginalized and then they must choose to eradicate the marginalizing variables. They can only become empowered through consciousness of marginalizing factors coupled with personal actions and decisions (Friere, 1971).

Socialization of Girls

Three fields of influence tend to inform the ways girls are socialized to a marginalized place in society. They include:

* Attitudes appearing to originate in the society in which she lives;

* Factors embedded in the culture of the educational system; and

* Self-limiting views or temperaments.

Attitudes Appearing to Originate in the Society

Parental and societal actions and ideologies affect a young person's self-image and conceptualization of his or her ability to succeed. Girls often look to their mothers or other women in the community as mentors. These women have the power to instill either a sense of hope and self-efficacy or despair in girls' perceptions of their abilities and societal value (Gariglietti, McDermott, Gingerich, & Hastings, 1997). Parents' gendered communications with their adolescent children tend not only to reinforce body consciousness and the importance of niceness and pleasantness in girls, but also to encourage egalitarian gender roles and, to a lesser degree, toughness. Boys, on the other hand, are reminded less often of egalitarian gender roles but more often of body consciousness, toughness, and interestingly, niceness and pleasantness (Epstein & Ward, 2011). Epstein and Ward (2011) posit that the niceness and pleasantness messages aimed at boys are interpreted as more...

(The entire section is 3941 words.)