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Deana A. Rohlinger

Subject Sociology » Sociology of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, Stratification and Inequality

Key-Topics power

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


There is a historical and cultural tendency for dominant groups to institutionalize discrimination against subdominant groups. Discrimination is justified by arguing that members of the subdominant group are deficient in some way when compared to members of the dominant group. The idealized characteristics of the dominant group are intertwined in social, cultural, and legal institutions and ultimately work to advantage, or privilege, members of the dominant group and disadvantage those of the subdominant group. Sociologists most often discuss privilege in terms of gender (how women are subordinated to men), race/ethnicity (how people of color are subordinated to those with white skin), and sexuality (how homosexuals, bisexuals, and transsexuals are subordinated to heterosexuals). In the United States, gender roles and expectations have been governed by the doctrine of the separate spheres. This ideology holds that women are virtuous, nurturing, and frail and therefore unable to contend with the demands of politics and commerce. Men, in contrast, are aggressive, competitive, and strong and, thus, better suited for public life. Even as these beliefs were challenged throughout the twentieth century, the inequities between men and women persisted. Sociologists identify male privilege as being both embedded in the structure of complex organizations and reproduced in social relations. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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