Inequity is a social institution. Judith Lorber contends that humans seek to organize and categorize, which leads to differentiation based on many factors, including gender. Gender categorization permits the division of tasks and roles between the genders (Lorber, 115). Ultimately, both the norms created by categorization, and the categorization itself, stratify society (Lorber, 116). The consequence: men are considered the dominant gender, while all others are devalued.
Inequity is found where you least expect it. Even within second wave feminist organizations, tension and inequity existed between women. White feminists, generally wealthy and privileged, invited black feminists to join their movement in sisterly solidarity (hooks, 133). bell hooks recalls feeling that it was presumptuous for those women to assume solidarity, given their own privilege, and also to “invite” black women to their pre-established club. Ignorance leads to inequality, and unfortunately, ignorance is quite widespread.
Inequity is unnecessary. Categorization might be human nature, but that doesn’t mean we can’t consciously and collectively make efforts to dump categories and ignorance in favor of spectrums and understanding. Fausto-Sterling suggests methods of literally eliminating categories from our lives, such as taking gender categories off of legal documents (111). She notes that gender equity is within reach, given improvements in public tolerance, political organization, and a fantastic “gender lobby” (124).
Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?” (2000)
bell hooks, “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity between Women” (1986)
Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender” (1990)