Essay On Gender and Division of Labour

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A global dis-course of human rights and increased focus of State interventions on feminism has resulted to its re-shape. Women’s rights are now considered human rights and feminists activity has turned away from being viewed as an autonomous separatists group and has been mainstreamed into the society and the state This is as a result of the transition in the gender regime and globalization. Globalization has facilitated development of new institutions, spaces and an increase in the use of rhetoric where human rights are a powerful justificatory principle. It has increased the political and economic opportunities and resources available to women. In the past, division of labour was absolute: women worked in the private and unpaid sphere and men in the public sphere. However, a call by liberal feminist to women has increased their entry into the public sphere and paid workforce. Changes in the gender division of labour have however, been observed (Allison, 2002, p.33)

Feminists agree that there exists a clear definition of what the society regards as a men’s job and what is regard as a female’s job. For example, if one was to say, ‘nurse’ most people would immediately think of a woman. If one was to say ‘police officer’, the same people would think of a man.this is an obvious gendered division of labour where men and women are naturally expected to fulfill certain roles. For example, during war, feminists suggest that women are essential (Allison, 2002, p.37). Men mobilize the fight and women act as a labour reserve. Women only provide support services. They maintain the domestic industry and have no chance of actively participating in the war. Liberal feminists argue that times of war are an important stepping stone for women in advancing their interests (Alcoff, (1988) 2005, p.427). They have proved capable of performing the jobs of men and are now allowed to join defense forces like the army. The coming forth of women armed with good academic qualifications and enthusiasm to pursue careers as a result of new and independent sexual identities makes female participation in the workforce as an important feature of the economy’s success.

Historically, women have not held positions of power although there are obvious exceptions. This is because the behavioral traits and characteristics of a leader do not fit in the negative stereotypical and socialized image of a woman in the traditional society. Men’s traits are synonymous with power, dominance and strength and are considered superior to women traits of being weak, emotional and dependent. The feminine traits have been considered incapable of functioning in a leadership capacity. Transition in the gender regime has created political opportunities for women. They have been incorporated in governance and are participants in the formal and state electoral politics. This is a new move to enhance gender equity even in leadership and both genders are seen as active participants in the society (Walby, 2002, p.533).

Globalization has impacted on the nature of feminism by creating changes in the political opportunities available to women. Globalization refers to an increase in the frequency and density of international social interactions and relative to the national ones. It has led to changes in the economic, cultural and political has restructured gendered political resources and opportunities (Abu-Lughod, p.486). New political projects have been designed in line with women’s interests. This is a dynamic move by the society and has improved gender representation in the political front and policy making.

The economic development led to increased feminists mobilization of women. Women were encouraged to study and get into the public spheres through employment. This increase in their education and employment changed their interests and increased demand for state services. It influenced the transition of the gender regime from a domestic to a public form granting the women access to economic and organizational resources (Walby, 2002, p.542). This move increased their presence in trade unions and their governance has resulted to women becoming independent and self-reliant. Some have become ‘breadwinners’ in their families. The change has given women a chance to contribute actively in the growth of the economies of their nations and improved the living standards of their families.

An address by the governments in the ‘advanced democracies’ in the west entails what is regarded as a new sexual line with the post-feminist guise of equality, young women are attributed with capacity (Alcoff, (1988) 2005,p.430). They are urged to become aggressive across the sites of their new found visibility. They are open to sexual freedoms previously the preserve for men. The sexual contact also covers the fields of education and employment. The women can get into the careers they choose, earn wages and become self-reliant in a bid to perfect their lives. However, this could be an economic rationality which changes a woman into an endless-working self, for whom there can be no space in the busy course of her working day for renewed feminist politics. It however, brings back the old mode of politics that is male dominated and hence no development or equal representation of genders in the politics of a country. (McRobbie, 2007, p.719)

Education has been used as a mark of capacity in women as a result of the liberal feminists’ activity. As women emerge from an education system, unlike their male counterparts, they are associated with qualifications gained. The success of the women in school is a key feature towards attaining visibility. The result is that a woman is viewed as bearer of qualificatons.Women from higher income families can attain more quality education than women from low income families. (McRobbie, 2007, p.721). This makes those from high income families a part of the competitive elite and the women from poor families have to struggle in the universities to get a degree in order to position themselves at levels of competence and competition within the labour market. It also results to singling out of girls who leave school with no qualifications as academic failures .The acquisition of qualifications now becomes a gendered axis of social division.

As a result of the feminists’ movement, women play a dual role; raising of children and playing an active role in their workplaces (Brodie, 2008, p.147). They are forced to a compromise that leads them to a reliance on the government to support them as working mothers. In effect, the government acts to protect masculinity by supporting women in their double responsibilities though this does not help much in reducing the workload on women. Social compromise now becomes a key element in the new sexual contract. Success of women with children in the workplace is reduced due to the sheer inevitability of the dual responsibility. Jobs that are compatible with the demands of the home and in the workplace are more preferred over those that are more advantageous career ladders. Allison suggests that men should become more accountable to gender inequities in the household, which are the forces that bring re-emergence of gender inequality (Allison, 2002p.42).

The New sexual contract has a provision that entitles women control of their sexuality and fertility (McRobbie, 2007, p.733). During the pre-feminism era, women had no control and this role was solely a man’s, who determined the family size. Access to education and women emerging as dynamic subjects of educational capacity has led to the expectation of long-term employment of women. Financial stability and career advancement has taken preference over motherhood resulting to postponement of child-bearing. Young motherhood is now associated with disregard for the wellbeing of the child and failed femininity. Single motherhood is seen as reckless and one is accused of denying a child its right to a father (Anderson, 2008, p.230). This has led to the emergence of Planned Parenthood and the concept of the marital couple being the preferred form of family life.

According to McRobbie, division of labour has led to re-configurations of normative femininity (McRobbie, 2007, p.734). Lesbianism and homosexuality have been re-configured as popular and acceptable according to the new modalities. On condition that the young woman does not reproduce outside marriage, she is granted prominence and is seen as a pleasure-seeking subject who possesses a healthy sexual appetite. She emulates the assertive and hedonistic styles of sexuality often associated with young men. She is seen to have attained ‘equality’ with her male counterparts, according to the new modalities of the current visibilities of the independent woman. The new position of the phallic girl involves taking up superficial confidence, aggression, boldness and even transgression (Anderson, 2008, p.233). Unfortunately, the new found enthusiastic capacity, visible luminosity and hyper-activity of the youthful females marks the contours of new dangers for women. This has come to be known as the ‘fall of the public woman’.

The liberalization of feminists activity has advancing of feminism and given rise to various forms of feminism, the latest being the third-wave feminism. Third-wave feminism, a new kind of feminism consequence of postmodernisation, is more inclusive and racial diverse than the second wave. (Snyder, 2008, p.176)It respects differences between women, not only based on religion, ethnicity, race, economic standing but also identities within a person. For example, you can be into beauty or sports and still be religiously devout (Abu-Lughod, p.486). The third wave is then seen as more progressive and inclusive compared to its predecessors making the feminists in this wave see themselves as superior to feminists of the past.

Third-wavers claim to have a broader vision of politics than other feminists. They focus on more issues than just women issues and have no party-line. They however has no single-issue agenda that distinguishes them from other social justice activists. These feminists emphasize that gender activism and feminism are only a part of a much larger agenda for social justice, environmental and economic justice. Third-wave feminists argue that it is not productive to isolate gender as a single variable. They include any approach as long as it favors social justice and pays attention to gender issues (Snyder, 2008, p.180).

Third wave feminism prides itself in the philosophy of non-judgment. It includes diverse views on sexuality and does not judge them at all. The feminists, through this, hope to avoid a contentious split. They are open to prostitution, pornography and sadomasochism. To them, feminism is about having control over life and one’s body. This position legitimizes potentially anything a woman wants to do as a feminist. (Snyder, 2008, p.183) The third wave feminism is seen to have morphed into being all about choice with little examination of how chosen desires are constructed or recognition of how an aggregation of individual choices can have a negative impact on gender relations at large.

The third-wave feminism is a clear indication of evolution of the society from the pre-feminism era to the present day. Feminists have somewhat achieved equality between men and women. The division of labour between genders has advanced and there is now no distinction between jobs for women and jobs for men. The revolution has clearly brought forth the pros and cons of feminism and the difficulty of achieving a collective action. There is however, no clear definition of what feminism entails and different contradicting views have been used to define it. No clear distinction exists on what is wrong and what is acceptable. In this messy contemporary life, one is left to make their own choices. Feminists should take a lead in demarcating and defining the content of feminism.


Abu-Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and its Others. Feminist Frontiers, Verta Taylor, Nancy Whittier and Leila Rupp, eds. Boston: McGraw-Hill, p. 484-93
Alcoff, Linda (1988) 2005. Cultural Feminism versus Post-Structuralism: The Identity Crisis in Feminist Theory. Feminist Theory: A Reader, Wendy Kolmar and Frances Bartowski, eds. Boston: McGraw-Hill, p. 426-436.Total pages: 631 ISBN: 13:978-0-07-282672-2
Allison, Dorothy. 2002. “A Question of Class.” The Socialist Feminist Project: A Contemporary Reader in Theory and Politics, p. 30-45
Anderson, Kim. The Construction of a Negative Identity, in Feminisms and Womanisms, p. 229-238.
Brodie, Janine. 2008. ‘We are all equal now: Contemporary gender politics in Canada’, Feminist Theory, 9(2): 145-64
Judith Butler, Gender Sex and Sexual Performativity in Lorber, 286-89
McRobbie, Angela. 2007. ‘Top Girls? Young women and the post-feminist sexual contract’, Cultural Studies, 21 (4-5) July/Sept: 718-737
Snyder, Claire. 2008. ‘What is 3rd Wave Feminism? A New Directions Essay’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 34(1), August: 175-96
Walby, Sylvia. (2002). Feminism in a Global Era. Economy and Society, 31(4),