Evaluating political systems by how happy the citizens are

Evaluating political systems by how happy the citizens are
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Assignment type : Essay
Format MLA

Volume of 5 pages (1375 words)
Equal Opportunity for Females in Gendered Families
The gendered family is a marriage with a husband and wife in which the husband is the primary income provider. Many feminists assert that gendered families radically limit equal opportunity for women and girls of all classes. This paper will argue that gendered families do not radically limit the equality of opportunity for females of all classes. Radically limited denotes women in gendered families are completely restricted in their equality of opportunity in labor, wages, and divorce, which is a false maxim. Moreover, socioeconomic classes vary in their limitations, thus not all women suffer the same way from exiting gender families. Finally, the supposition that girls of gendered families are also radically limited is based on the assumption of marriage and old societal norms which has changed significantly.
Though equality of opportunity for women in gendered families may be limited, the premise of their equality of opportunity is radically limited is erroneous considering changes in society. The percentage of stay-at-home mothers in gendered families has decreased significantly from 40% in 1970 to only 20% in 2012 (Cohn, Livingston, & Wang, 2014). This indicates more women in gendered families are entering the workforce, becoming less financially dependent on their husbands. Furthermore, it shows they are not completely restricted to doing housework. Research shows that during the latter portion of the 20th century, while the employment rate of women in gendered families increased outside of the home, their amount of household work inside the home decreased (Cunningham, 2008). That contradicts the argument that their equality of opportunities in the labor market is radically limited due to their unpaid household responsibilities.
In addition, liberal feminists, such as Susan Okin, argue that a woman’s role in a gendered family home radically affects her role at work causing the wages of her labor to be disproportionate to her husband’s (1989). She explains that because a woman must take time off for child care, she is unable to maintain a higher paying profession. Although it makes sense that the lower wage earner would be the one to take time off of work to care for children, the assumption that this is the cause for a wage gap between males and females in employment is faulty and unsubstantiated. Yet feminists continue to argue that motherhood consistently lowers a woman’s market value and wages (Folbre, 1994). If this is true, these are constraints set forth by the institution of business and policies, not the institution of the gendered family marriage. In fact, the same could be said about women in egalitarian families, homosexual families, and single parent families. Thus, the wage disparity is not a radical equal opportunity limitation created by gendered families.
In addition to that, gender feminists also argue that women are made more vulnerable post-marriage, as males have more opportunity for increased wages while females are left taking jobs in positions that “hold no prospects for advancement” (Okin, 1989). However, in the last 30 years laws regarding division of marital assets and child support have changed to benefit the primary residential parent which is more often than not, the mother. As the ex-husband’s wages increase, so does his child support obligation (2016). Child support is calculated not only by both parents’ wages, but the number of children, the number of days spent with each parent, health care, and child care costs (2016). If the mother has a low paying job and the father has much higher wages, then he would end up paying her significantly more in child support. Although the amount of child support will vary from state to state, women exiting the marriage are no longer solely responsible for bearing the full weight of support for the children. In this respect, financially they are not radically made vulnerable upon exit of the marriage nor are they forced to stay in the marriage in fear of not being able to financially provide for their children. Although a woman may be paid less than her ex-husband, the child support she receives from her ex-spouse assists in subsidizing her income. A woman may be limited in her equality of opportunity in terms of income post-divorce, she is still not radically limited.
It must be noted, however, that there are varying limitations in the different classes of women that must be taken into consideration when examining the vulnerability of women in gendered families in divorce. For example, women from the upper wealthier classes are less likely to become vulnerable in their exit of a gendered marriage as opposed to women in the middle or lower classes. As laws have changed in regards to family law and divorce, women are entitled to alimony based on standards of living and in the divorce any assets accrued during the marriage will be liquidated and divided equally (2016). Therefore, after divorce a woman from a higher socioeconomic class would not be as poverty stricken as a woman would be from a lower socioeconomic class. Hence, the limit of equal opportunity for women is not the same for all classes.
Not only is there dispute over the radical limitations of women in gendered families, but the premise that girls of gendered families are left devoid of equal opportunity is also one of great contention. In Justice, Gender and the Family, Okin, citing a study, argues that high school boys were more likely to “aspire to the most prestigious occupations” than high school girls and “the girls who had such aspirations displayed a much lower degree of confidence than the boys about being able to attain their goals” (1989). Granted, in 1977, only 49.3% of female high school graduates enrolled in postsecondary education in comparison to 52.2% of their male counterparts, which supports Okin’s argument. Since then, however, according to the National Center on Educational Statistics, the percentage of female college enrollees has risen significantly while male college enrollees has decreased (2015). In 1992, 63% of female high school graduates enrolled in college while only 59.6% of high school males enrolled in college. By 2012, that percentage increased to 71% female enrollees, while high school male enrollment dropped to 61% (Lopez & Gonzalez-Barrera, 2014). By 2017, the majority of postsecondary students were females with 11.5 million female college enrollees compared to 8.5 million males (2015).
While gender feminists may argue that the statistics do not break down the amount of female students that come from gendered families, the data still negates the generalized argument that young girls do not have the aspirations that young boys do. In fact, a second study by Claudia Buchmann and Thomas A. DiPrete shows that young girls do have aspirations for more prestigious occupations and are also more inclined to enroll in college to achieve those goals (2006). Furthermore, their research found that “the female advantage in college completion remains largest in families with a low-educated or absent father, but currently extends to all family types” (Buchmann and DiPrete, 2006). In other words, the type of families these female college enrollees come from are those in which gender feminists claim caused them to be radically limited.
Regardless of what type of family the girls come from, the traditions of preparing young girls for the assumption of marriage and motherhood have shifted to preparations for more career oriented professions. The assumption of marriage is one of the main arguments of gender feminists as to why gendered families radically limits girls in equality for opportunities (Okin, 1989). Liberal feminists maintain girls recognize they will be the primary care providers for their children. As a result, they do not devote as much effort into establishing careers as they will expect their financial support to come from their gendered family marriage (Okin, 1989). However, as society has evolved over the last 30 years, the statistics show the goals and aspirations of young girls has evolved as well. As girls become more goal oriented and educated, their vulnerability through the assumption of marriage declines. Although girls may still desire to have a family, they are not eliminating their education nor side-barring their career endeavors.
In social and political theory, feminists have reasoned that gendered families radically limit the equality of opportunities for women and girls of all classes. Though women may be limited in equal opportunities, to suggest that they are radically limited undermines the progress of women over the last thirty years in employment. Moreover, new divorce laws enable wives to exit from gendered marriages with some financial equity, although not all women will leave on an equal level as different socioeconomic classes have varying limitations. Additionally, girls are focusing more on education and career oriented goals which defies the belief that the assumption of marriage drives them and reduces their career aspirations. There is no objection that equal opportunities for women remains a contentious issue, especially in terms of wages, power and politics. Although societal norms have advanced significantly in terms of gender roles, perhaps those in business and politics have yet to reconcile with these changes. Maybe the discussion should depart from the root cause of unequal opportunities for women being gendered families to a discussion on the continuance of unequal opportunities for educated females in the 21st century.

Buchmann, C., & DiPrete, T. A. (2006, August 1). The growing female advantage in college
completion: The role of family background and academic achievement. American
Sociological Review. 71(4), 515 – 541. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from
Cohn, D., Livingston, G., & Wang, W. (2014, April 08). After decades of decline, a rise in
stay-at-home mothers. Retrieved September 19, 2017, from
Cunningham, M. (2008). Influences of gender ideology and housework allocation on women’s
employment over the life course. Social Science Research, 37(1), 254–267.
Federal Child Support Handbook. (2016). Retrieved September 20, 2017, from
Folbre, Nancy, 1994, Who Pays for the Kids? Gender and the Structures of Constraint, New
York: Routledge.
Lopez, M. H., & Gonzalez-Barrera, A. (2014, March 06). Women’s college enrollment gains
leave men behind. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-
Okin, S. M. (1989). Justice, gender, and the family. New York: Basic Books a Member of the
Perseus Books Group.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). Digest of
Education Statistics, 2015 (NCES 2016-014). Retrieved September 21, 201 from


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