Privileges, discrimination, and gender as based on “The Men We Carry In Our Minds” by Sanders This paper argues that the argument that women have been denied the power and privileges traditionally given to men, and that this has negative consequences, only makes sense within more privileged social classes. In other words, this work illustrates that only upper social classes have the possibility of observing the discriminatory position of men towards women. The lower classes’ representatives (both males and females alike) are too preoccupied with earning enough money to survive to concern themselves with bias towards women at work or home. Scott Sanders, in his brilliant work titled, “The Men We Carry In Our Minds” discusses his personal observation of the conflict of gender equality that grew in his mind after seeing the harsh lives of his surrounding class of people. He reveals that the men in this class had no alternative over their own destiny in life. Their only ways of making money to barely survive were as factory workers or soldiers. In his childhood, Sanders imagined his own destiny as ultimately becoming one of these two oppressive identities. He had envied women for what he thought as a pleasant lifestyle, spent in the home looking after the children, compared to the difficult lives of the men having to work at the factories and go to war in the foreign land. Due to his early opinions of gender roles famous in his class, he was “slow to understand the deep grievances of women” (Sanders 510). Even after he had grown up, escaped his harsh surroundings, and attended college, he often had to deal with the concept of discrimination. In his lifestyle the options of each gender were bleak.
In other words, the author along with many contemporary critics ague that the issue of discrimination against women comes far beyond the class differences into our individual culture, developed from our past, and in effect turning into an important part of the modern culture. To continue, no sphere of life was more jealously guarded by the early twentieth-century working man than his relationship to wage work (Kessler-Harris 23-27). His ambition threatened by the loss of entrepreneurial opportunities as capital consolidated, his skill devalued by the relentless ascendancy of new machinery, a working man measured his worth by the dignity of his job. Outside the workplace, a skilled craftsman could hold his head high in the political arena: inside it, he retained his manhood as long as he could evoke discipline and solidarity among his fellow craftsmen. To defend their rights to work, men organized collectively around notions of solidarity and brotherhood, advocating a notion of free labor that was both racial and patriarchal (Kessler-Harris 23-27). Free labor was built on a concept of independence in which skill at craft work was equated with a manliness that would preserve self-respect while workers earned wages and that promised ultimately to release them from wage labor. It embodied a conception of male prerogatives rooted in an ordered and comfortable family life that relied on female labor at home. Its moral authority rested on its power to distance itself from symbolic and actual slavery by setting dignified terms of labor. It utilized these constructs to develop conceptions of equal rights for white male workers that were to guarantee effective self-representation and provide the basis for the perpetuation of a democratic republic (Sainsbury 45).
The idea of free labor thus embodied both the elusive privileges of whiteness and the notion of separate spheres for men and women. It derived economic power from its restrictions on labor imagined as neither white nor male. This included not only African Americans (enslaved as well as free) but recent immigrants from places like Ireland, and later Italy and most of southern and eastern Europe. The idea also explicitly excluded women, even wives and daughters, from wage work. Supporting the thesis of this paper stating that only upper social classes are able to spot discrimination and actually pay attention to such issues, we offer the following illustrations of the effects social conditions had on people’s realization of the bias against women. Neither in nineteenth-century liberal theory nor in practice did slaves of either sex or women of any race hold property in their own labor. The labor of slaves, male and female, belonged to their owners. Free women of every race were conceived as wives and mothers; their labor belonged to husbands and families. Both engaged in subsistence as well as wage labor without acquiring what more privileged men understood as “rights to work.” (White 93) Neither was expected to participate in the polity in the same sense as white men; nor was their wage work expected to lend itself to “head of household” status, with its implication of independent political judgment. Indeed, central to the male conception of republicanism was an ordered family life that incorporated male dominion over wives and children.
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In men’s eyes, the wage labor of free women, where necessary, ought to be dignified and to provide self-support, but it was not expected to lead to independence and self-sufficiency. Rather, just as men’s free labor was predicated on their capacity to support families, so women’s was assumed to sustain the family labor of men. Both racial exclusion and male gendered privilege participated in maintaining white solidarity, and both sustained the proto-right to work. Since the measure of manhood lay in self-sufficiency and independence, white men closely guarded their employment prerogatives. For if women’s wage work competed with that of white men or threatened to undermine men’s wages, it simultaneously challenged men’s access to citizenship. White women, who expected to participate in the polity through their menfolk, increasingly shared the expectation that any wage work women did would be a response to economic necessity and in subsidiary positions. Even though many people argue that the situation is different nowadays, women are still discriminated against and only the higher classes of society have a chance to argue or participate in the debate: others are simply working to make a living and do not have enough time or opportunity to even learn the facts of gender bias. In the modern world, the wage labor market still discriminates actively and persistently against women, and salary, social security, pensions and working conditions are often less favorable for women than for men. The world averages do, of course, conceal very great regional differences. Working women in manufacturing industries -- in Japan and the Republic of Korea, for instance -- take home less than half the wages earned by men, while women in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, El Salvador, Burma and Sri Lanka fare best, with average earnings 80 percent of those of men (Seagar and Olson 65).
In Afghanistan only 4 percent of girls are enrolled in secondary schools as against 88 percent in Australia. In Angola only I percent of women have access to contraceptives; in Belgium 76 percent do (Seagar 7). Comparing women’s status in the highest and lowest ranked countries in the world reveals a terrifying gap. Finally, the discrepancy between the numbers of women who participated in wage work and the widespread notion that women’s lives would continue to rotate around the home requires exploration. How is it that so many women of all classes and races sustained an ideology that excluded them from wage work’s most lucrative forms even as they continued to seek employment? How is it that both men and women supported a culture that located male prerogatives at home and in the polity in unrealistic conceptions of men’s opportunities in the workplace? Ideas about men as real workers and rationales for excluding women, constructing them as marginal members of the labor force, grew in tandem.
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