Sample Essay On The Gender Dimension In The Discussions Of Globalization
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Gender, like other social categories (race, class and disability, among others), is a social construct, the product of society’s perception of what constitutes identity, success and superiority, etc. In the past, many just tended to accept the order of the day, accepting the social arrangements as they were, and not many- if any- trying to challenge the status quo. The routines of racial and gender discriminations were not discussed. They just happened. However, people now discuss these issues. They question the routines and make conscious effort to construct them the ‘right’ way. In the face of globalization, these discussions look into how the trends that mark this era are impacting on these social categories. These discussions vary in perspective. This paper focuses on how gender influences discussions regarding globalization .
Globalization is marked by various changes that are said to be altering the arenas of economies, politics as well as social life (Beck 7). Male social science theorists with influence focus on the meaning of globalization, as well as the processes involved and potential outcomes. However, there have been divisions too, disagreements over whether globalization is only another phase of capitalist development. Other discussions have questioned the totality of cultural and economic penetration of global capitalism, the fundamentality of the transformations of social and economic processes, the capacity of these changes to improve and/or undermine conditions of daily life, and the centrality of technological innovations to other social and economic changes, among others (Walby & Gottfried 13)
Traditionally, gender has been a major dividing point, perhaps even more so than race being that it cuts across all cultures and ethnicities. All- to dare say- societies have been and still are (although this now varies across cultural contexts) patriarchal. In these situations, men have always led, exercising monopoly over props to social and economic progress. Women have only had to be there and accept as the way it meant to be. But since the last century, when feminism took a major root and expanded to have an even bigger say on social, political and economic arenas, the world has had to give women a bigger space, and indeed women have come a long way. According to Beck (15), all these changes, while looking distinct from each others, are actually interrelated and also shaped by the ideological dominance of neo-liberal thought. So where does globalization fit in all this?
Globalization has been seen as an increased space for the neo-liberal thought to exercise even more power. The common discourse is that globalization stands for commonalities, that gender and race lines are now invisible. To a given extent, this is true. A The New York Times article by Susan Saulny is entitled ‘Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above’. In this respect, globalization is largely presented as gender neutral. But that is a matter of inter-racial marriages than globalization. Going further back, these intermarriages cannot be entirely attributed to globalization, although the very fact that different races have met at all, transcending geographical boundaries, can be. But that is not the story for this paper.
These arguments cite the implicit masculine foundations upon which theories of society (including economy and gender relations) stem, and that this makes it hard to have n adequate analysis of the impact of globalization in relation to gender. However, it is not all about the masculine ideological foundations that have constructed the social and economic pillars on which global economy is based, but also how they may impact on women, in the process revealing that globalization may still be far from what a gender-neutral platform that many assume it is.
King (1), for example, focuses on the need to look at gender dimensions in relation to globalization as, she says, it is essential to the efforts to promote fair globalization, create opportunities and enabled both men and women to achieve their aspirations for both democratic participation (that is, social power) and economic prosperity.
King (3) examines the various aspects of global economy and how these may impact on women. For example, ne area that she focuses on is whether the international trade and production systems that have accompanied globalization have generated better employment opportunities for women or whether they are only fuelling a downward spiral in women’s employment conditions. But the key related point here compares the position of women against that of the men, particularly whether the evident mobilization of women into the workforce has enhanced or worsened their economic opportunities when considered against that of men, as well as their overall position in the global and/or regional labor markets.
On this, Ozler (9) argues that globalization has indeed generated better employment opportunities as well as economic benefits for developing countries (where women are a lot worse off on social, political and economic fronts). Export factories as a result of foreign investments (including Multinational Enterprises) are said to offer jobs that are by far better alternative to toiling on subsistence farming or other informal economy. However, there have also been fear that competition for exports and foreign investments may lead to deterioration of work conditions and wages, and that this may fuel what has come to be called “race to the bottom” in the standards of labor. In the end, because women workers are concentrated in the lower ranks of global supply chains, they are likely to be the biggest victims of this race. For example, in his/her study of the creation and loss of jobs at factory level in Turkey’s export manufacturing sector, Ozler (5) finds that there were higher net job creation rates for women in unskilled jobs in the export industries, while men had higher job creation rates in skilled and non-production jobs. But in the end, women experienced higher rate of job loss. This trend may relate to what Barrientos and Smith (717) refer to as the notion of ‘feminine occupations’.
There have been efforts to find better framework for the governance of global supply chains and networks to prevent a race to the bottom in the standards of labor. These include international guidelines on corporate social responsibility, which governs MNE’s and global company’s policies on the standards of labor and codes of conduct. However, King (18) argues that the institutions and structures for the governance of global supply chains and networks lack the adequate capacity to the race to the bottom in standards of labor. In other words, globalization is still not likely to do much better for a lot of women, especially in the developing world.
In conclusion, this paper was not a discussion on whether globalization has improved or not improved the lives of women in relation to social, political and economic prosperity. Rather, the paper focused on how the debate on the impact of globalization adopts a new shade when examined exclusively from the gender dimension. Viewed generally, globalization looks to have worked for all, and to some extent it has. Globalization has particularly resulted in much progress for women across the world. This has been helped by the globalization of the neo-liberal ideologies that have pushed many governments to undertake certain efforts towards women empowerment. Regardless, as this paper shows, gender-specific debate on globalization paints a new picture. In this respect, the feminists, unlike most of other theorists, focus more on not what has happened, but also what is likely to come, and what implications these will have on the plight of women. Besides, the impact of globalization is only yet to be seen for what it s as the years move on. The developing world and the minimum wage employment in America will be a key arena for the evaluation of these impacts.
Barrientos, S.; Smith. “Do Workers Benefit from Ethical Trade? Assessing Codes of
Labor Practice in Global Production Systems.” Third World Quarterly, 28.4 (2007), 713-29
Beck, Ulrich. What if Globalization. Cambridge: Polity, 2000. Print
King, Amelita D. Gender Dimensions of Globalization. International Labor Organization,
Özler, Suele. Export-Led Industrialization and Gender Differences in Job Creation
and Destruction. London, Routledge, 2007.
Walby, Sylvia & Gottfried, Heidi. Gendering The New Economy Theorizing the Trajectories
of the G-4y, Regulation and a Gender. London: Pelgrave, 2003. Print.
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