How do various social institutions reproduce gender discrimination in the US?

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Gender discrimination is reproduced by many of the social institutions of American life.  Sociologists tend to say that there are five main social institutions.  They are:

  1. Family
  2. Religion
  3. Education
  4. Economic system
  5. Political system

We can argue that at least the first four of these reproduce gender discrimination to some degree.  Let us explore how this can happen.

  • Family.  Families can reproduce gender discrimination by treating children of different sexes differently and/or by having a father who clearly dominates the mother.  When these things happen, it teaches children that males are more important than females and that they should have more power.
  • Religion.  Some religions explicitly teach that men should be dominant in any relationship.  This can be taken to mean that women are meant to be subordinate to men at all times, thus reproducing attitudes that lead to gender discrimination.
  • Education.  Most grade school teachers are women while more men teach at higher levels.  Girls and women are sometimes steered away from math and science.  These facts can send the message that there are some jobs and fields that are for men and others that are for women.
  • Economic system.  Our economic system often penalizes women, keeping them out of the highest positions with the highest salaries.  This is partly because women sometimes have to leave their jobs for a time to have children.  Whatever the cause, the “glass ceiling” and differences in men’s and women’s pay reproduce gender discrimination.

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