Gender refers to the roles and responsibilities assigned to men and women by society based on biological differences of being either male or female. According to Cynthia Fuchs Epstein categorisation based on sex is the most basic social divide and organisational basis of many institutions across the world. This gender divide is the maintainer of gender inequality because the roles and responsibilities defined for men and women are mainly decided and enforced by what Cynthia Fuchs Epstein refers to as “cultural entrepreneurs ” who define appropriate and inappropriate behaviour expected of men and women. These rigid definitions of roles and expected behaviour constrain both men and women with women being most adversely affected because women’s gendered roles are largely considered subordinate to men’s roles limiting their autonomy and their ability to participate in decision making processes in both private and public spheres.
This gender divide is therefore one of the root causes of gender inequality because it gives men and women rights, responsibilities and opportunities based on their biological differences which they have no control over and I would argue that this is the foundation of discrimination. Kimberly Crenston argues that men and women experience discrimination or benefits based on various factors or multiple identities that intersect such as race, gender, religious and cultural background among others. According to CEDAW inequalities can be either direct discrimination or indirect discrimination that are a result of gender laws and policies that seem to give equal opportunities to men and women but do not take into account the historical marginalisation of women as a result of socio-cultural practices and beliefs that supress women and also are blind to patriarchal social systems that make males the centre of authority and power and place a higher value on male traits. In order to achieve gender equality the gender divide must be transformed to ensure women and men have equality in opportunities regardless of their biological differences, have equality in accessing opportunities and equality in gaining results and benefits from these opportunities as required in CEDAW’s principle of substantive equality.
Power on the other hand refers to the the ability and freedom to make choices and take action based on those choices. Gender is about power because in most societies worldwide power is distributed based on the socially defined roles and responsibilities of men and women and with men often being accorded more power and privileges compared to women. Gender based violence is a product of imbalance of power between men and women. According to Jessica Norm violent extremism is an extreme expression of patriarchal power and from this I draw an understanding that gender based violence is one of the expressions of abuse of patriarchal power. This is in a sense reiterated by Jackson Katz in his presentation where he admits that men are a dominant and powerful group and that like other dominant groups for example dominant races they often go unexamined and are erased from conversations on transformation of social norms.
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