Understanding society: Families
Understanding society: Families

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Understanding society: Families

1.3 How work is divided in different families

The extract stated that the way the chores are divided depends partly on ‘the beliefs the partners have about the role each should play’ that is, what we call their ‘gender ideology’. In other words people have ideas about what is the appropriate and ‘normal’ way to divide work between men and women. These ideas may be traditional; which in this case means believing that men and women have different roles to play and that it is women's role to take most responsibility for what happens in the home. Or they may be egalitarian; which in this case means believing that men and women should share the work in the home and that there should be equal opportunities to enter and succeed in the paid work force. Whichever are held, these ideas or beliefs can be very strongly rooted. They may be ideas about gender which people grew up with, which are supported by families close to them, or ideas they share with work mates or colleagues. They are part of a way of looking at and making sense of the world and, most importantly, they result in quite significant differences in how families divide up the work. We cannot ignore the inequalities that may be a product of the traditional ideologies, but being aware of gender ideologies does help us to understand why change might be slow moving or resistant to change.

Gender refers to the expectations of a particular society or group in relation to the attributes and behaviour of men and women.

Gender is different from sex, which refers to the biological differences between men and women.

Recognising that people from different groups in society (whether these relate to age, social background, ethnicity, occupation or even geographical location) may have different ways of thinking and consequently behave differently, takes us to one of the most important social science concepts of all; that of culture. But first there is another reason for being careful about making generalisations about family life and the way work is divided.

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