Readings In Inequality 14 Oct 2012

While segregation has been mostly and forcibly eradicated in education, categories of segregation (or queues) have not been eliminated in the work place (Manza, et al: 415).  Primarily in the control of the employers’ and their representatives, they stereotypically categorize women and minorities in various rankings of lesser importance, visualizing the segregation and prejudice as a “normal feature of society”. They perpetuate their individual prejudice on society, thinking that their point of view is reflected in a majority of the wider society in much the same way that the media (Hollywood and Advertisers) and major corporations will reflexively categorize women and minorities in advertising and other media to create a shorthand of easily recreated stereotypes that most recognize immediately.  This obviously needs to change, but doing so requires pressure from above and below of various sorts.

Some of this segregation prejudice can be eliminated with legislation, but ideals and ideals cannot be legislated completely.  Work has to be redefined and revalued where all jobs are as equal and important in terms that are equitable from housework to the boardroom, because all of us have expressed prejudices about one extreme or the other and even some in between, devaluing their importance based upon personal prejudice and environment.  This segregation cannot be completely dismissed as “natural segregation” of boys and girls on a schoolyard (Manza, et al: 550) or the bias that men are the main or only income earners in a family.  That day, if it ever existed, has long passed.  This, like the segregation above, is probably used to “explain” the income gap that has remained steady at 76% on average.

While gender discrimination has had it’s ebbs and flows, class discrimination in the workplace is higher than it ever has been since WWII, and compounds the former issue even more when class is considered.  When taken out of context, only analyzing the highest education levels, the discrepancies between the sexes become less but they are still there and constant.  But when we analyze class in the mix, the discrepancies become more extreme as stated above.

Homophobia, however seems to be diminishing in teenagers less influenced by the social constructs of previous generations.  But, according to McCormack, until sexuality and gender cease to be a discourse used to stigmatize, identity politics will continue to rightfully contest these prejudices.  The study of homosexuality and homophobia has evolved from Freud’s ideas that sexuality is taught by the environment to feminist theory challenging the idea that “homosexuality is a fundamental practice of patriarchy” to oppress and control it (McCormack 2012: 30).  Thus the power wielded by that hegemonic patriarchy manifests itself into control of race, class, gender, and sexuality, controlling and influencing the vocal minority and silent majority.

That silent majority lives under the burden of homohysteria which McCormack explains is simply the fear of becoming homosexual (McCormack 2012: 44), but this could also include equal doses of fear of the different and unknown that creates generalities and prejudices that Hume discussed in Treatise of Human Understanding.   This fear is also enforced in the high school as well, using violence to reinforce that fear, utilizing AIDS and religion.   McCormack, however, argues that this is beginning to change, arguing that British youth culture is no longer homohysteric (McCormack 2012: 57).  This may also be the case in the United States given the sexual orientation equality laws, but has it changed individual mindsets and fears?  Given the rise of LGBT rights movements to introduce the element that one group is not that much different than the “other” and the rise of the Internet for LGBT youth in isolated areas to explore their sexuality online instead of in front of their local peer, minimizing their risk of homohysteria.

Manza, J., & Sauder, M. (2009). Inequality and Society: Social Science Perspectives On Social Stratification. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

McCormack, M. (2012). The Declining Significance of Homophobia: How Teenage Boys Are Redefining Masculinity and Heterosexuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA.