Gender and Disability, Essay Example

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Essay

One has to ask whether this is a synopsis of a gender or of havinga disability? Is there a difference?  Males have typically been thought of as the heads of the households, the leaders of business, and of those most in-need of educational advantages. The world, at least to the middle of the 20th Century, was for men, by men, and systematically operated by men (Meloy & Miller). It was for the most part, to the exclusion of the female gender. What then were the tasks of the female, and most importantly, what special skills did they need? At least to the beginning of the Women’s Movement in the middle 20th Century, the task of women were taking care of their families, finding small, obscure jobs, sometimes as school teachers and nurses, but more often as waitresses, secretaries, and store clerks. Professional women, such as those school teachers and nurses, were often told their jobs were predicated on being unmarried. Lesser paying fields permitted women to be married, but they were almost never paid on a level equal to male employees holding the same jobs. Males used to say that women who were working for a paycheck, were “working for pin money” (Fraisse, Duby, Perrot, & Goldhammer). In other words they were working to pay for the costume jewelry their husbands either refused to give them, or could not afford. Thomas (p. 50) points out that disability was not the lack of an arm or a leg—not a physical disability—but rather, the inability to get the same treatment in employment, education, housing, transport systems, cultural arenas, and elsewhere. Since the Women’s Movement, these areas in the United States have changed—slowly—but still changed. However, in many other countries they still exist.

In the United States, the courts have passed laws guaranteeing women equal salaries for equal employment (Meloy & Miller).  There have been some concerns from their male counterparts; often job descriptions label women’s tasks as equal to men, when in-fact they are not, and some men have argued, although usually losing the argument, that they are entitled to additional compensation (Longmore). For instance, right after the beginning of the Women’s Movement some of the companies employing heavy labor would issue job descriptions stating that factory machine workers, whether male or female, would get the same pay. So then, men hired for their brawn would carry hundred pound materials across the factory floor while women would be employed removing labels from boxes. Indeed, was the pay fair? As time has gone by, employers have begun to write better job descriptions, not to remove fair labor from women, but to ensure that individuals doing the brunt of the work, regardless of gender, are getting paid more than those employed doing less labor (Remick). Sometimes in modern day manufacturing concerns we find women doing those tasks of men and likewise, weaker men doing more of the tasks previously assigned to women. So again, salaries are no set by gender, but by the work involved.

Regarding employment: What about other countries, for instance, like China? China is a very patriarchal society; that is, it is male dominated. It has been this way for many years, in an era when Chinese government and Chinese living were created by Confucius. Like many pre-20th Century leaders in all countries, Confucius saw the female as the weaker member of society and unfortunately, this living style is still present in modern-day China (Ramusack & Sievers)..

Throughout her paper on disability, Ghai speaks about disabling conditions in India. There are millions of Indians who are disabled, and as such they are denied housing, employment, and all those things which allows them to become integral parts of the society in which they live. But in the case of India, Ghai did not expound heavily on gender. To be disabled in India is to be the cesspool of life: It does not matter whether the gender is male or female. Granted, in any country, women are more affected than men, but in India both are afflicted almost equally. The avenues of redemption open to a handicapped Indian male are only slightly better than those same avenues open to a handicapped Indian female.

Our reading did not cover the Arabic nations, but in those countries women are almost totally removed from their male counterparts. Many of the Arabic nations expect their women covered from the tops of their heads to the bottoms of their feet. In some countries, women may have their eyes exposed. In other Arabic nations, even the eyes are covered with a gauzelike material so that women can see where they are walking, but “their world” cannot see them. These women suffer even more so in employment. If menial tasks like baking bread in clay ovens require them to be slightly more exposed that is permissible. But in almost all cases they are completely “sealed off” from their male counterparts, who, at least in social settings, pay little if any attention to their presence (Roald).

In the United States, in the very early 19th Century, Thomas Jefferson influenced the passage of laws allowing women (girls) to attend school. These were not necessarily for entrance into college, but at least so that women could read important news and compute monetary demands for their family. Eventually, females were allowed to attend high school and later still, college. However, even in the early 20th Century, women in the United States were still discriminated against for entry into male-dominated professions. For instance, women could become nurses, but they could not become doctors. If a woman did obtain a medical degree from somewhere, most people in need would not visit their offices, thus forcing them in some instances to take lesser jobs working as nurses for male physicians.

China, because it still follows Confucius, does not have schools that are set up for females. Although Chinese laws permit females to attend school for nine years, most Chinese girls attend school for only eight. Those females residing in big cities take jobs as store clerks and as uneducated midwives. In rural Chinese where the size of the landmass is considerably larger than in the cities, girls return to help their families on the farms, often doing the same work as the men. However, when the men finish their daily chores, women will continue to work, making meals, taking care of children, and doing assorted household chores.

India has seen many changes in the laws for women, most of these laws coming into place in the last 50 years, approximately the same time as the Women’s Movement in the United States. There is now school for women, up to and including professional school; many female doctors, practicing in India and in the United States, have received their initial training in India. The major difference in India, not only for females, but for males as well, is the salary differential between India and countries like the United States. Dell Computers as well has Hewlett Packard Computers have major manufacturing plants in India; the reason is the salary differential. An electrical engineer in the United States may make as much as $50,000/year while in India the same profession is making less than $10,000/year. When we place a woman into that same salary situation when, knowingly women usually make less than men, we find female physicians who have paid as much to attend medical school as their male peers, yet are making only 1/5th of what male physicians are earning.

In all countries of the world, including in the United States, housing has always been a male dominated area. Men can rent an apartment for themselves and for their families. Men can purchase houses, sometimes adding on extra floors for their family. For instance, in many Arabic countries, a man may live in the same house as his parents, and upon taking a wife and having children, an additional floor will be added to the same home. Regardless, of country, there has always been a difference for females. They may live in a rooming house, a hotel sometimes operated by a man, but for the residency of women. In many historical instances, women seeking an apartment of their own, were thought of, not as spinsters—unmarried women—but of women who were going to have many male visitors.

In the United States, women can usually purchase a car; the same holds true in some other parts of the world. But in China, and until a few years ago, India, a woman would never be able to have private transport for herself. In several Arabic countries a woman cannot own a car; worse, she is prohibited from driving a car. It should also be noted, that at least here in the United States, men were notorious for taking advantage of women, not only when selling them a car, but when fixing a car. It was thought that since women knew considerably less than males , these were easy places to take monetary advantage of females.

Finally, let’s look at clubs and other such agencies. Almost since the Founding Fathers started the United States, men’s clubs have abounded. These clubs might have been purely social, or were considered business clubs, which of course, were only open to men because women did not have active business interests. There were also, and still are male-dominated fraternities such as Masonic orders which prohibit female attendance, but to give the female gender a sense of equity, set up female appendages to their organization, overseen of course, by males.

This document has shown that females do suffer disabilities. But these disabilities are not physically related. Certainly, in some countries like India, physical deformities are commonplace among both genders. However, more often than not, female disability refers to the emotional and social exclusion of the female as she attempts to make a place for herself in a male dominated world. A second observance that should be discussed is that among the articles presented to our class, Longmore and McIllvenny present materials that speak about disabling conditions: blindness, and assorted crippling conditions. The two female authors, Ghai and Thomas, also speak about disabling conditions, but not from the perspective of physical disabilities. Ghai and Thomas see disabling conditions through the eyes of women. Those conditions are those that have, for many years, separated the two genders. When education and business advantages were available to men, they were closed to women. Some of the most modern things like the ability for personal transport are still closed to women in some countries, especially those residing in Arabic cultures. Disabling conditions vary by those who live them, and by those who report them!

References

Ghai, A. (2002). Disability in the Indian context: Post-colonial perspectives. Publisher unknown.

Longmore, P. (2003). The second phase: From disability rights to disability culture in Why I burned my book. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

McIlvenny, P. (2001). The disabled male: “Writes/draws back.” (Ch. 5). Bloomington, IN: Indiana Press.

Ramusack, B.; & Seivers, S. (1999). Women in Asia: Restoring women to history. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press.

Roald, A. (2001). Women in Islam. London: Routledge.

Remick, H. (1984). A want of harmony: perspective on wage discrimination and comparable worth. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Thomas, C. (2001). Feminism and disability: The theoretical and political significance of the personal and experiential. Disability, politics, and struggle for change, pp. 48-58. David Fulton Publishers.

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