Using a theory of race, gender, or culture, what are similarities and differences of families across societies?

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Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Race and gender are fluid, malleable, socially constructed identity markers. Race and gender are often interconnected with class, social standing, and social privilege. Cultural concepts regarding race and gender vary from community to community and are in a state of constant flux. However, certain qualities of gender tend to be universal within the family unit.

The feminist theory of gender suggests that gender is a necessarily hierarchical term in which certain individuals gain access to more privilege than others. In particular, the common gender binary of man/woman is nearly universally hierarchical in favor of those identified as male.  Thus, in the family unit, the man typically has greater access to money and resources, greater personal autonomy and freedom of movement, etc. The degree to which this is true, however, varies greatly from culture to culture.

In the United States and Western Europe, for example, women make less money than men and can experience some degree of economic dependency. Women's personal autonomy and freedom of movement are typically not restricted in these areas. However, in some areas of Southwest Asia and North Africa, the personal liberties of women are severely restricted. These restrictions might include limits on travel, education, social interaction and commerce.