Academic journal article International Education Studies

Rethinking Mindscapes and Symbols of Patriarchy in the Workforce to Explain Gendered Privileges and Rewards

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Rethinking Mindscapes and Symbols of Patriarchy in the Workforce to Explain Gendered Privileges and Rewards

Article excerpt

Abstract

In this article the authors contend that gender inequalities in occupational divisions of labor are better understood in reference to the concept of symbolic patriarchy. The conceptual framework is informed by social constructionist theories that view gender not merely in light of sexual or biological differences but as interwoven, fluid, and contesting boundaries of authority. The goal here is to locate the labyrinths of power and unequal treatment of women, evidenced through the "gender pay gap" and derived from the social landscapes and mindscapes of inequality. The study concludes that workforce-based privileges and rewards for men seem to be sustained and reinforced by patriarchal socio-cultural systems of inequality and domination that maintain visible and invisible mechanisms of power, privilege and influence in symbolic, figurative, and metaphoric cultural forms, rendering them the norm.

Keywords: symbolic patriarchy, gendered privileges, feminized labor, masculinity, intersectionality

1. Introduction

Even though women in the workforce earning wages or a salary are part of an established modern phenomenon, many of the biggest workplace challenges facing working women worldwide orbit around "gender" (Butler, 1997). Specifically, gender inequality in the workplace presents women with stubbornly persistent challenges with respect to scale and form of employment and remuneration. To shed light on the quandary of privilege and rewards among working women and examine links between symbolic patriarchy and gendered privileges, this study situates differences between the sexes within "gender" discourse (Butler, 1993; Sunderland, 2004; Tannen, 1994) in order to better understand the ways in which gender inequality and patriarchal ideologies in a given society are perpetuated within historical periods. We asked: How do "gender pay gap" and "rewards" infringements manifest socially, culturally, and politically in the workplace? In this study, rewards refer to "a sum of money or other compensation offered to the public in general, or to a class of persons, for the performance of a special service" (Phelps & Lehman, 2005).

A look at gender discourse considers "masculinity" or the symbols of manhood as socially produced subject positions while the rewards derived from this status indicate the ways in which male-constructed stereotypes discriminate against women by giving them less pay than men for equal work. Symbols of patriarchy include objects, people, and events in the so-called "gendered world" (Wood, 2001), serving to classify and organize the world into meaningful categories. But symbols of patriarchy can also reference imaginary things and fantasy worlds, or abstract ideas that are not in any obvious sense part of our material world (Johnson, 2001).

We argue that gender inequalities in occupational divisions of labor will be best understood in reference to the concept of symbolic patriarchy, which shifts from the dichotomized vision of gendered individuals of women and men, and instead focuses on the intra-familial power relations of father or oldest male as "symbolic fathers" and "father figures" (Gordon & Hunter, 1998). By extension, the term symbolic patriarchy also refers to a system of government by males, and to the dominance of men in social or cultural systems (Meade & Haag, 1998). In this way, patriarchy imposes masculinity and femininity character stereotypes in society, which strengthen unfair power relations between men and women. Imposing male-dominated stereotypes illustrates the mental frames of metaphoric structures and the deep-seated psyche of mindscapes that pervade the symbolisms of gendered patriarchal privilege and its influence on the social order. However, for the purposes of this study, the concept of patriarchy was useful precisely because it kept the gaze directed toward social relations rather than individual men or fathers who are motivated to dominate (Stern, 1998). …

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