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Furthermore, the increase in female employment has not been matched by a decisive decrease in horizontal (professions and sectors) and vertical (lower hierarchical levels) segregation (see OECD, 1985; see England and McCreary, 1988; see Stirati, 1990). Nor has there been a conspicuous decrease in the wage differential in all countries (see England and McCreary, 1988), that is, in the gap between women’s and men’s wages. And if, from this point of view, Italy and southern Europe represent virtuous cases, it is due to the substantial flattening of wages downwards. Here too, in fact, we move away from parity the more stable and highly professional jobs become (see Del Boca and Fornengo, 1992; see Rodriguez Rodriguez, 1992).
The scarce permeability of certain spheres of activity – and therefore the different presence in the workforce – therefore persists beyond the process of legal parity. It must be explained with a different impact on the two sexes of the life cycle and space, that is, with the stronger spanning of the phases and with the crucial incidence of the reproductive one, with the lower mobility of women than men on the territory. This different form of time and space affects the work activity of women and men, giving rise to intertwined paths in the gender structures of work (see Saraceno, 1992). So, in essence, it is still the diversity in the family activity of the two sexes that explains the diversity in the work activity for both. Whatever the ultimate motivation, the segmentations, the social gender fences show to last even longer. of those of race. They are therefore sturdy fences. We must now ask ourselves why they arise and where their strength comes from.
While the research and studies aimed at highlighting the how and how much of inequality are innumerable and sophisticated from a theoretical and empirical point of view, the explanations given on the origin of the phenomenon, or vice versa on the emancipation process, are interesting, creative, but not always convincing and sometimes dated.
Some explanations are non-specific, that is, they bring the reasons for female subordination back to the reasons for social oppression in general. Others are hyperspecific, that is, they explain through one aspect of the phenomenon – the will of males to control reproductive processes – what must in turn be explained: the ability to impose control in this as in other areas. Still others are specific but risky: they start from the weakness of female physiology and consider male political power as the institutionalization of a de facto power. This thesis, in other respects convincing, however, becomes disturbing when it suggests, as an adequate equal strategy, the overcoming of physiological specificities, on the one hand, or the separation between the sexes, on the other. Finally, there is a block of theories that are revelations rather than explanations: these are attempts to unmask the techniques or ways in which male supremacy is legitimized.
It is therefore clear that the feminist and Marxist scholars of the seventies reproached capitalism for the invention of domestic work split and contrasted with factory work, and devalued because it lacked monetary remuneration (see Benston, 1972; see Bimbi, 1977; see Dalla Costa, 1975 and 1977; see De Perini, 1977). According to this school, the assignment of women to family activities is necessary for the reproduction of the labor force required by a capitalist organization: the worker who must support the whole family with his salary is more susceptible to blackmail. As usual, Marxist explanations risk being capable of explaining a fact and its opposite. It could equally validly be argued that only a family in which both spouses work, and are even able to temporarily support each other, is functional to the elasticity of the labor force required by the changing demands of capitalist production. Marxist scholars (at least originally): here the salutary exercise of revealing the bias of public action, typical of this school, proves useful (v.