The term gender refers to the socially and culturally learned expectations and behaviors associated with being male or female. It is how a male/ female has been shaped and socialized by the society.
The gender perspective looks at the impact of gender on people’s opportunities, social roles and interactions. Successful implementation of the policy, program and project goals of international and national organizations is directly affected by the impact of gender and, in turn, influences the process of social development. Gender is an integral component of every aspect of the economic, social, daily and private lives of individuals and societies, and of the different roles ascribed by society to men and women.
Sex refers to the permanent and immutable biological characteristics common to individuals in all societies and cultures, while gender defines traits forged throughout the history of social relations. Gender, although it originates in objective biological divergences, goes far beyond the physiological and biological specifics of the two sexes in terms of the roles each is expected to play. Gender differences are social constructs, inculcated on the basis of a specific society’s particular perceptions of the physical differences and the assumed tastes, tendencies and capabilities of men and women. Gender differences, unlike the immutable characteristics of sex, are universally conceded in historical and comparative social analyses to be variants that are transformed over time and from one culture to the next, as societies change and evolve.
Gender relations are accordingly defined as the specific mechanisms whereby different cultures determine the functions and responsibilities of each sex. They also determine access to material resources, such as land, credit and training, and more ephemeral resources, such as power. The implications for everyday life are many, and include the division of labor, the responsibilities of family members inside and outside the home, education and opportunities for professional advancement and a voice in policy-making.
For several years now, governments and development agencies have given top priority to gender issues in development planning and policies. Gender equity, concerning resource access and allocation as well as opportunities for social and economic advancement, has been a prominent item on the agendas of all recent international meetings, which have also investigated the basic link between gender equity and sustainable development, defining specific mechanisms and objectives for international cooperation.
The French philosopher Michel Foucault sees power as pervasive. Power according to Foucault “is everywhere and comes from everywhere” (qtd, Rabinow). However, there are other CDA analysts who do not accept Foucauldian notion of power. Norman Fairclough, for example, denies Foucauldian concept of pervasiveness of power, power for him is with certain specific group of people those who are in authority. According to him, power involves the control, by members of one group over other groups. Such control may pertain to action and cognition: that is the powerful group that limits the freedom of action of others and also influence their minds for instance, police’s violence against demonstrators, gender violence, racial domination between black and white in the society and so on. Althusser, was one of the first scholar to describe power as a discursive phenomenon and stressed the significant roles of ideologies in reproducing or changing political relations through so-called ‘ideological state apparatuses’, such as the church, the legal system, the family, the media and the educational system. Such structures according Althusser are both “agents of repression and inescapable: everyone is subjected to ideology”. (Althusser, 131) His conceptualization of ideology therefore, has become influential to Critical Discourse Analysis. John Scott makes a useful distinction between what he terms the ‘mainstream’ and ‘second-stream’ traditions of power research. The main stream tradition has tended “to focus on the coercive forms of the power of the state and its institutions”, (Scott, 174) whereas the second-stream has been mainly concerned with the significance of its persuasive influence. An Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, whose concept of hegemony highlights the mechanisms through which “dominant groups in society succeed in persuading subordinate groups to accept their own moral, political and cultural values and their institutions through ideological means.”(Gramsci, 192) Power is therefore not exercised coercively, but routinely. Like Althusser, Gramsci took the view that it is through the cultural formations of individuals, by the institutions of civil society, the family, the educational system, churches, courts of law, the media and dominant groups in society can gain a more stable position for themselves than through the repressive powers of the state. to Lukes “presupposes a power base of privileged access to social resources such as force, money, status, fame, knowledge, information, culture or in deed various forms of public discourse and communication” (126)
In social science and politics, power is the ability to influence or control the behavior of people
social power – the ability of an actor to change the incentive structures of other actors in order to bring about outcomes. Social power is a capacity to produce effects through another self.
Analysing power imbalances and empowering marginalised people is central to Reflect. Exploring gender inequalities is an essential aspect when looking at power. Gender relations and gender oppression were often sidelined in early Reflect projects and in other popular education programmes. Crucial questions about: power; access to, and control of resources; gender violence; and the sexual division of labour were overlooked. However, individual transformation is as important collective transformation, and this is particularly true when looking at gender.
The socially constructed segregation between men and women is perceived as natural because the organization of the social world is structured according to these dualistic gender principles which, through socialization, are incorporated into bodily behavior and into what Bourdieu calls habitus that is in the cultural schemes for perception, thinking, classification, and action As habitus ‘functions at every moment as a matrix of perceptions, appreciations, and actions’ (Bourdieu, P .1977), the male domination is thereby naturalized in social world and is incorporated into the habit us of the individuals. Thus, the dominated women use the same dualistic categories as the dominating men. That means that the women themselves view women as inferior. In this way, they contribute to their own subordination and reproduce the unequal gender relations. This form of dominance is what Bourdieu calls symbolic violence, which is not based on physical force or coercion, but is an invisible form of power where the dominated women are socialised into doxa, which means taking things for granted (Bourdieu, 1999, as cited in Ankerbo ; Hoyda, 2003).
Women have been facing biasness and discrimination in social, political and economic sectors since the time immemorial. Even today women in most of the societies of the world have been experiencing a low social economic status, oppression, exploitation and lack of self determination. Transmission of property through male line, providing importance to paternity lineage,
Maria Mies, in her book, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, depicts through micro analysis that the Stone Age, the hunting expertise of men made take control of the wild animals and even the young men and women when they came in his territory. Through such activities a man gradually took the supremacy and control over female. She stresses that men did not come to power just because of the physical strength but they were free from nurturing the fetus and young children which were done by women. The process of bearing and rearing of children made women depend upon male. This made men free hours to hours for other things making them rich and powerful.
Citing the examples from aboriginal societies in Australia, Robert Hughes however does not see women’s oppression arising due to class oppression but are based on deprivation of freedom and rights which make women treat like animals than men.
Mill in his book mentions that t because women were physically lacked strength it became easier for men to oppress them in all the sectors due to this difference in power. It made women “conditioned” to follow and believe that it was women’s responsibility to obedient to men. This resulted to institutionalization of male power and raised subjugation of women through customary relationship. (Mill, 1995, pg.16). He further more adds that even the subjugation of women arose from the forms of oppression, the voluntary acceptance by women made men control over the power creating inequalities,