Culture as a concept possesses many definitions. The most common of them is that it is a set of traditions, beliefs, and customs that belong to a particular society. Culture is inseparably linked with society. Therefore, it is hard to define whether it is a cultural or a social problem. Njogu and Orchardson-Mazrui state: Culture may be viewed as the total sum of a peoples way of life. It includes norms and values of a society: their religion, politics, economics, technology, food habits, medicine, rules of marriage, the performing arts, law and so on. Culture allows people to see themselves: their weaknesses and strengths, their problems and achievements. Cultural problems or misunderstanding may arise when some social groups maintain that other people behave in the way that is not appropriate according to the cultural norms. Culture problems may relate to different spheres of human life. Gender inequality is considered to be one of the major cultural issues. Some researchers dispute that the term cultural problem can become a synonym for the term social problem. They are definitely interconnected with each other and it proves to be challenging to find the difference between them. So, the main purpose of this paper is to review how cultural issues arise and what affects they may have on a society, to examine the problem of gender inequality and to prove that this problem is social and cultural at the same time (Njogu and Orchardson-Mazrui).
To start with, cultural problems depend on the dynamic of the social development. The inflow of a new culture in a stable society may provoke a cultural collision because people may not understand the views and beliefs of others. Thus, such interaction of cultures may lead to serious problems. Sometimes people welcome differences from different cultures or adopt them to their traditional way of life but when misunderstanding occurs, people begin to conflict with each other provoking negative attitude and even discrimination. The collision of a new culture and an old one gives rise to various stereotypes that in consequence consolidate in the society. People have the habit of attaching stereotypes to those members of the society who they do not like or who they do not have a desire to identify with. The fact that cultures are different does not mean that they will end up in a collision. It is insufficient to have only differences. Berns and Atran maintain: Cultures manifest a variety of mechanisms to instill and maintain their internal set of beliefs, which, when challenged, set in motion a series of physiological responses that prime individuals for violent action. This means that social groups may achieve mutual understanding if they have an ability to cooperate with each other. However, there are problems that are extremely disputable because it is rather difficult to define whether it is culturally appropriate or this issue requires immediate intervention. One of such problems is gender inequality. Social norms prescribe a certain mode of behavior. Therefore, moral values of different cultural groups stimulate people to have their own position according to the gender inequality (Berns and Atran).
Merriam-Webster dictionary provides such a definition of the term gender: the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex. Gender is a set of social components which maintain that male and female duties and rights are not always determined. People assign gender roles according to their customs and traditions. It is generally considered that men possess a dominant role while women are obliged to subordinate. Eitzen and Zinn inform: To explain gender inequality, sociologists turn to the surrounding systems that affect all human behavior. Most theories highlight the institutional structures that assign women and men different positions and consequently different behaviors. The researchers explain that men and women have different status and play different roles due to the economic structure of the society. Materialists claim that the role of women is to take care of children and to be a good wife while men are obliged to be responsible for the familys prosperity. While male professions are in demand in the labor market, women have to be satisfied with low-paid jobs. Certainly, a possibility to obtain a well-paid job depends on the level of education. It is a historically established fact that women do not pretend to be high-class experts and therefore are not on college. Nevertheless, recent statistics indicate that women try to fight for their rights to be successful in the workplace (Eitzen and Zinn).
Nowadays women manifest clearly their social position. They participate in political debates, take part in elections, pay attention to their education and appearance, and do their best to demonstrate their economic activity. Despite womens cultural and social growth, still there are cases that display aggression, violence and inequality in todays society. Betron underlines: Culture is often used as an excuse to ignore gender inequalities, including its most extreme manifestation: violence against women, which has severe public health impacts. She also uses a term cultural sensitivity calling it one of the major factors that prevent people who are in power from solving the problem of gender inequality. Thus, this problem moves from being social to being cultural. As it is impossible to imagine a society without culture, gender inequality is considered to be a social and cultural problem at the same time. Cultural collisions may serve as a basis for social problems. Furthermore, cultural traditions and customs may sometimes prevent from taking measures to settle a controversial issue (Betron).
To sum up, it is clear that culture is a set of traditions and knowledge that social groups may share and transmit to each other. Eakin says:Culture is everywhere. Each one of us operates within multiple cultural contexts. People are able to identify that culture is at the core of the greatest problems of our times. Being tightly connected with the society, the term cultural problem can be used as a synonym to a social problem. Thus, gender inequality has become one of such problems. Focusing on it from various perspectives, it is possible to come to the conclusion that it is an issue of major importance. It is a large-scale problem because it demands full attention and awareness of its importance, complexity, and deserves a considerate approach. It is difficult to deal with it due to the cultural traditions and social beliefs. Gender inequality manifests itself in various sphere of human life: family relations, labor market, in politics and economics. Social norms and cultural values only stimulate the conflict between genders. Gender roles are changing now. Women do their best to prove their ability to compete with men in occupying high positions in various social spheres. So, it is important to solve this issue globally (Eakin).
Berns, G. S., and S. Atran. "The Biology Of Cultural Conflict". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 367.1589 (2012): 633-639. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
Betron, Myra. "Gender Inequality Is Not Culturalits Universal". Globalhealthnow.org. N.p., 2015. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
Eitzen, D. Stanley, and Maxine Baca Zinn. Social Problems. Chapter 9: Gender Inequality. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000. Print.
Gender. Webster-dictionary.org. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
Eakin, Tom. "WHAT's YOUR CULTURAL PROBLEM?". Linkedin. N.p., 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
Njogu, Kimani, and Elizabeth Orchardson-Mazrui. "GENDER INEQUALITY AND WOMEN's RIGHTS IN THE GREAT LAKES: CAN CULTURE CONTRIBUTE TO WOMEN's EMPOWERMENT?". (2006): 1-3. UNESCO. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
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