Sociology-Social Class Essay
“ I got to figure. We all got to figure. There’s some way to stop this. It’s not like lightening or earthquakes. We’ve got a bad thing made by man, and by God that’s something we can change. ” John Steinbeck. This excerpt from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath is talking about the ‘bad things’ that we deal with in our society. Two bad things that are extremely pressing in society today are the growing gap in the social class system and gender inequality.
Both social class problems and gender inequality affect the way members of our society live their daily lives but are commonly overlooked or underestimated.
Social Class is a way of categorizing households into groups of similar occupations, education levels and general income levels. The gap between the rich and the poor in theses classes cause problems in many different areas of our society from physical health to family stability to justice and education. The class system in the United States consists of First, Second and Third Class.
Social Classes are by no means a homogeneous group they can each be further split into ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ (i. e. Upper Second Class) but there are still major gaps in each group.
Social Class can effect the health of an individual in many ways. People who are in the First-class have enough money to afford the best doctors and medical services whereas the third-class often cannot even afford medical insurance. “Ones health condition during the first five years of their life will determine how healthy they will be for the rest of their life” (Eitzen). If one cannot afford health insurance their children are therefore predestined to have poor health. On the Titanic only 3 percent of first-class women were lost during the sinking where as 45 percent of third-class women were lost (Eitzen 260).
This shows how, whether subconsciously or not, the first class is put ahead of third class. The justice system is also affected by class. Everything about the justice system is expensive. First-class criminals can afford to post bail, have the best lawyers who, if needed, will endure lengthy appeals processes. The Justice system of course offers a free lawyer to those who cannot afford one, but they are often over worked and have little incentive to defend anyone who cannot provide monetary perks.
To make the situation even worse, students from third-class families often get put into ‘tracks’ in which they will not make it into levels of higher education. For example, wealthy students can afford tutors and prep sessions to get them ready for SAT tests or even Advanced placement courses which will lead to getting a college education, whereas poor students can barely afford school supplies. The class system exists here in the United States for many reasons. Probably the biggest reason for its existence is the flow between generations.
Each new generation gets the money left to them from the previous one, plus they money they will earn during their privileged life. For the poor this does not happen because they often have negative wealth and may end up dying with debt leaving each new generation to start off new again. Politics do not help the situation when politician campaigns are payed for by the rich, but one way to stop the growing gap between the rich and the poor is to set tax rates based on wealth.
It would be more fair to base taxes on wealth than income because it takes into account all money, even generational gains. Gender inequality, also known as gender stratification, is the placement of genders that leaves women with unequal opportunities, resources and power. Women in society are often looked upon as inferior to men. Children are taught at very early ages that both women and men have different places in every aspect of society, from the home, to the workplace or even religion.
A women who performs the same occupation as a man often receives a lower salary, even though they work the same job. Masculinity is something that we relate to being strong and powerful, where often Femininity can be seen as fragile. The United States is a capitalist patriarchy, this means that men hold power positions allowing them to to keep women in inferior roles, and because of this women are subject to discrimination in the workplace where they earn a lesser pay scale than that of men in equivalent jobs. Women in the work place are often seen as out of place.
As a women in an engineering firm, my mother was criticized for returning to work after having a baby rather than staying on maternity leave. The men in her department felt as if a women should stay home from work to take care of the baby, because after all she was a mother and maternity leave is clearly for the mother and not the father. According to a study performed in 1972 by Weitzman, even picture books portray women in inferior roles. “Boys were active in outdoor activities while girls were passive and most often found indoors. The activity of the girls in some way typically was in service to the boys”.
When we teach our children at such a young age that women are not as strong and important as men it makes it much harder to change the way our system works. Religion is also a defining factor in the way women are viewed. “In most religions practiced in the US the clergy is made up of mainly males where as the followers are mainly women. Although men and women are equal in the eyes of the deity, women are subordinate to men” (Eitzen 336). Although women are still constantly struggling to gain equal rights, there are many small things they can do to fight the inequality.
Many organizations have started to offer courses for women on how to negotiate salaries in order to make sure they get the best wage possible. Also there are grassroots feminist movements popping up across the country to help gain equality. Although the growing gap between social classes and gender inequalities are very troublesome at the moment, there is definitely a growing fight against them. “ Never doubt that a small group of thoughful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” ~ Margarter Mead