Can we ever be equal?

English: Differences in national income equali...

English: Differences in national income equality around the world as measured by the national Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, and everyone else has zero income). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Paige Shaw

An unequal society where the upper class holds more of the country’s wealth is considered unfair. In countries such as the United States, the wealthy hold approximately eighty percent of the country’s wealth, and not enough the wealth being taxed from the rich is transferred to the poor. In countries such as Sweden and Denmark, although the distribution of wealth is more equal compared to the U.S., the wealthy still hold a greater percentage of the countries wealth.

Is this still unfair? Objectively, since not all of the classes are equal, it is still unfair. However, I would argue that having a slight inequality between the classes keeps people motivated and is overall better for the economy. People should receive equal opportunities and that everyone should be equal to an extent, but complete equality seems unfeasible.

From a fairly young age we are taught by our parents and in school that everyone is their own individual, and everyone has something about them that makes them unique. Gender, race, and other things aside, you are still different than the person next to you because there is only one of you. So if everyone is different, doesn’t that make it difficult to create a society where everyone is equal?

In his article “Is equality feasible?” Lane Kenworthy mentions that peoples earnings are determined qualities such as intelligence, creativity, confidence, inherited wealth, physical and social skills, and motivation. Most, if not all, are products of genetics, parents’ assets, and traits. We are all inherently different, and we all have our own strengths and weakness, which can make us more capable at performing certain tasks than others. In an equal society where everyone gets paid the same, if one person is a harder worker and better at a certain job than the person beside them, but they are still getting paid the same, it could make them feel less motivated to do their job. Of course there are certain cases that if you loved your job that it wouldn’t matter how much you get paid as long as you could keep doing what you are doing, but the slight inequality between workers keeps people motivated and increases their work effort.

Inequalities are what makes business competitive and drives the economy. And although a completely equal society is an appealing idea, it is not sustainable. In order to pay equally high wages businesses would have to charge their customers more. But in a competitive market, customers will generally refuse to pay more for a good or service when they can get it more cheaply somewhere else. The firm then loses business and has to start letting workers go. Therefore unless wages are lower, which implies some inequality, jobs will not exist.

However it is hard to say whether or not a completely equal society could be good or bad for the economy. It is my general opinion that we need to have that little bit of inequality in order to keep people and markets competitive to drive the economy. It can also be argued that income inequality could decrease consumer demand, and the middle/lower classes may regard high inequality as excessively unfair, causing a decrease in employment motivation and work cooperation.

Complete equality may not be sustainable but too much inequality could also prove to be unsustainable as well. Countries like Sweden and Denmark set a good example of a good balance between equality and inequality. There is still an upper class but more of the countries wealth is transferred to the poor. If more countries adapted a similar system it could prove to be more sustainable.


Kenworthy, Lane. 2007. “Is Equality Feasible?” Contexts 6(3):28-32.

Equality and Fairness: How Can We Get There?

Sexual equality symbol Català: Símbol de la ig...

Sexual equality symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Ludvig Bergman

In the endeavour towards income equality, there are many different paths available to reach the final goal, which in this case and in my opinion is an effort-based distribution of the money in the society, where those who work hard and are tasked with relatively difficult work are rewarded with a bigger piece that those who don’t.

To avoid the case of the unequal American society, where the top 1% of the population has almost all the money, and move towards something similar to Swedish society, with the top 20% having a larger amount of money than the other 80% but the distribution between the “steps” are much more even. There is the way of reducing the income for the top paid percentages of the population and raise it for the lower percentages, and just like Sweden maintain high taxes that can be redistributed among the population and used to improve the welfare system. 

The danger with a society like this is the fact that, which is mentioned by Kenworthy in the article “Is Equality Feasible?”, if you are deprived of the financial gain of your efforts and skill development, there will not be any motivation left to contribute to the society by getting a decent education and working hard. People might prefer to go through the mandatory school years just to live off the governmental subsidies, which in Sweden in my opinion are way too high.

A society with people without motivation to achieve anything will quickly detoriate. Isn’t a society where the hardworking highly educated people are providing for the “lazy” through high taxes who are beingdistributed by the government in fact an unfair or even unequal society? People are no longer being rewarded with what they deserve, the hard working are getting less and the “lazy” are getting more, which draws me towards the conclusion of this no longer being the equal society I earlier considered.

For this to be considered equal and per definition fair there can not be any freeloaders allowed. Considering economic equality and fairness of gender, in “Gender equality: why women are still held back,” Abigail Player discusses how women in our contemporary time have never had as many opportunities to lead and change the economical and political landscape. Women earn a distinguishably lower salary than men and Player claims that women in the UK earn as much as 140,000 pounds less than men during their lifetimes.

In Sweden we have a political party pushing the issue of gender inequality forward. My opinion of the matter is that if left alone the market and the inequalities in it will by themselves be evened. I believe that by forcing change upon the society by, for example, implementing quotas regarding gender in the work place is something that will hinder the most competent people from being chosen just because a quota has to be met. In the long run hindering the economic growth of companies and in the big picture the whole country.


Player, Abigail. “Gender Equality: Why women are still held back.” The Guardian

Kenworthy, Lane. 2007. “Is Equality Feasible?” Contexts 6(3):28-32.

Women on the move, but can’t men do domestic labour too?

English: Domestic worker in Colombia Nederland...

English: Domestic worker in Colombia Nederlands: Huishoudster in Colombia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Lisbeth Damsbo Lyngs

Women in the 21st century are on the move as never before, as labour migration has become a response to demands created in mostly America and Europe. As women in these areas of the world have increasingly joined men in working outside of the home, less time has been left to do the the traditional housework labour, such as taking care of the children. Women from poorer countries in the world respond to this demand and migrate from their home countries to work as care takers and nannies, fueled by the need to support their own family financially. They then work in other people’s houses, do the laundry, cook dinner, clean the house, take care of children that are not their own, but all for a salary much higher than the standard they come from.

Ehrenreich and Hochschild discuss this movement of labour and it is consequences in their text “Global Woman”. They also discuss how the migrant women workers leave their own children to be taken care of by the children’s older siblings or grandmothers, how sons and daughters do not see their mothers while growing up and may experience neglect, while their said mothers’ affection is being given to other people’s children in a foreign country.

Additionally, not every domestic woman worker gets what she was promised. A minimum wage a month gets cut in half. Eight hours of rest a day gets ignored, seven days a week. They get overworked, stressed and in many cases abused and forced into giving sexual favors. The problem is, that many of these women are under migrant contracts through United Arab Emirates, which ties them to a single employer to act as their visa-sponsor. Even if they experience abuse and mistreatment, it is not possible to switch employer. The following video is a short documentary, encouraging this contract system to change, so the domestic workers can be protected by law:

My question is, why does it have to be like this?

It is great how women in first world countries today work outside the homes and more frequently do “men’s work”, as it fuels equality. It is no longer expected of the woman to do the domestic labour. She can get an education and work just as much as her husband. But the domestic labour still needs to be done, and so it transfers to migrant women workers with little to no other options of making enough money to support their family. Add to that an ill mentality of the employer, “I bought you, therefore I own you,” and you have grounds for a dangerous situation.

So how can we change this pattern of women from third world countries leaving their family behind, migrating to do domestic work and risking abuse?

Since the demand comes from countries where women’s position has shifted from being at home to being out in the work market, I have a question:

Where are the men?

If things are falling apart because women cannot do all the domestic work anymore, shouldn’t there be another half of the population to step up? If men in first world countries split the labour at home with their wives, picked up the children from daycare institutions and cooked dinner while the other did the laundry, etc., wouldn’t it work?

I am aware that it is not as simple as “get men to do more housework”. But as the social expectation has shifted for women to get an education and a job in first world countries, so is it shifting for men. Slowly, but surely, the traditional gender roles are fading and it is becoming more common for men to do more household chores that is not “fixing the light when it’s broken” and “cutting the hedge”. I believe, even if I may simplify it too much, that there is a way to balance work, children, house chores, and free time if we divide the effort and prioritize the right things.

Finally, as a result the demand for domestic workers would decrease, and women from third world countries would not have to face poor treatment, non-satisfying salary, discrimination and abuse when migrating to a first world country. They could stay with their family, raise their own children and focus their energy on their own household.

But the money really has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it?

Penalizing the Sex Worker or the Customer: French Policies on Prostitution

Prostitution Réprimée Santé Sacrifiée

Prostitution Réprimée Santé Sacrifiée (Photo credit: William Hamon (aka Ewns))

Anonymous student post

We studied in class the migrations and their influence on sexual work. This phenomenon, as complex as important, is a subject of debate and polemic within the political class. Concerning a badly known, and sometimes taboo, subject; prostitution remains a difficult domain to supervise effectively by the law. Connected to this subject, a law is going to be voted in 5 days in France. This draft law is an innovative initiative because it proposes the penalization of the customers instead of the prostitutes. This blog post will present the various opinions emitted on this subject, in a sociological aim towards the sexual workers.

At the origin of this project, there is an alarming report on the state of the prostitution in France. On 40,000 sex workers acting in France, 90% would be foreigners, victims of the sexual exploitation. The Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, particularly in favour of this law, has for ambition to remove the prostitution from France. To penalize the customers, with 6 months of detention and 7500 euros of fine, appears as a way to destroy the source of the prostitution: the demand. These arguments arise from the idea that the prostitution is very rarely chosen and generally undergone. Adopting a law like this would respect the principles of the Republic. Also it could destroy the financing of the mafias and so on destroy the traffic.

On the side of the opponents of this project, the arguments are not either lacking. “STRASS”, France’s sex workers union, is one of the main opponent. For them, such a law translates a moralistic ideology of the politicians. The abolition of prostitution, for them, seems to be an unattainable goal, furthermore such a law would damage above all the prostitutes. To penalize the customers would create an increase of the violence. Instead of trying to destroy mafia networks, such a law would only serve to stigmatize more the sexual workers. In the name of paternalists and puritans ideals, the politicians would prefer to attack the smoke rather than the fire. The failure of this kind of laws in Sweden and in Norway lets think the opponents that a regulation approach must be studied, rather that a stigmatizing one.

It is clear that both opposed camps have the same aim and objective: the abolition of the sexual slavery. Nevertheless, the evoked ways are subject to the controversy. In my humble opinion, the penalization of the customers will not destroy prostitution. Although I recognize moral virtues in this law, it is only disputing the expression of the problem and not its source. The foreign prostitutes would be the first victims of such a system. It is necessary to bring institutions (medical, judicial, economic) to them rather than to try to hide them. To penalize the customer would only “blur” the system, in the style of hostess bars in Japan. Try to legally distinguish deliberate prostitution from forced prostitution would be a first stage in the destruction of maffioso networks. Unfortunately trying to supervise legally the activities connected to human vices appears in our societies as a form of laxness. Seeing the reality such as it is would allow the improvement of our legal system, however it includes also to admit that prostitution cannot disappear.


Geert de Clercq, Reuters, “French debate: Punish prostitutes or their customers?

Tom Craig, Demotix, “French Prostitutes protest Law Penalizing Clients

Hanna Kozlowska, Foreign Policy Blog, “Frenchmen to government: ‘Don’t touch our whores!'”

Massoud Hayoun, Al Jazeera, “French sex workers demand open dialogue on proposal to fine clients

Elisabeth Lévy, Le Monde, “Les gardes roses du nouveau puritanisme

My opinion about the situation of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

by Ryota Takatsuka

In class, we discussed about people who have no legal passport in the U.S. Before this class, I was not familiar with this problem. The reason why the guy who appeared the video we saw (Jose Antonio Vargas) does not have a legal passport is that his parents brought him when he was a baby and made fake passport. According to the video, generally those who have fake passport realize that truth when they go to driving school at 16 years old. They were revealed by reception that this is fake passport and you should not come here anymore. No identification prevents those people to try many things. In his case, he could not travel overseas, and he hid his secret and he lived in fear of being arrested. My opinion against this problem is that country should support them to fit the country. There are two supporting reasons why I think that way.

The first reason is that through supporting immigrants America can be a model country in terms of diversity. In this world there still severe ethnic or cultural conflicts. They argue that what ethnic group is suitable as ruler or what culture should be promoted. However, under the globalization, it is nonsense to think that way. Accepting cause diversity into America automatically, and if America set some good policy to immigrants and achieve leading this movement toward growth of the country, whole world may accept diversity and globalization will move to more high level than scientist expect now.

The second reason is that rejecting the undocumented ruins their opportunity or talents. In fact, the guy is now famous journalist in America, however, before his ability admired, he had to give up chances to step up such as going to coverage to another country which has potential to make his career better because of illegal passport. There are many people who have same disadvantage for their future. In other words there must have been talented person who ruined their gift and forced to fade out from society. Preparing enough environments for immigrant will give chance for them to contribute to American society.

To sum up, according to the documentary, many immigrants face obstacle to fit into American society such as language barrier and parting from their family. As generally regarded, there is severe competition in American society and people can achieve the American dream. However, under the policy of the U.S, the starting point of the competition is not even. In order to make circulation of contribution system that was mentioned above, the U.S has to consider immigrants as precious investment for the future.

Balancing justice, motivation, and inequality

by Mao Shibata

There are many differences all around the world: female and male, and youth and elderly. All of the people have their own uniqueness or characters and these differences are necessary. However, there are many injustice differences in this global age. While only few people reap great benefits, almost others are suffering from such as famine, poor and social classes in the world and the gap between two of them get more and more wide. If we do not consider or come up with something measures, injustice differences will keep bringing serious impact on the lower people’s life and break down the economy balance.

For example, there are over 1 billion people in India. 80 percent, majorities of Indian-such as rural or urban middle class- are not affluent and they have to work as farmers, clerks, police officers, and teachers and in other mid-level civil service positions. Meanwhile, only 20 percent of affluent enjoy their life with Western life style and many of Western luxuries. According to Rawls, the reason why these injustice differences happen is that one’s life prospects are determined by their family’s assets or traits in society. That means no matter how intelligent and talented he is, he cannot get proper status or job due to insufficient income or assets of their families.

It is obvious that we should take some measures immediately, and a lot of countries have tried to balance fighting inequality with providing incentives for economic growth, however, this problem is really hard to solve since it is difficult to figure out what is fair for everyone. For instance, if he who has great skill or capacity and try and succeed but get same salary with others who do not have some special ability and not as much strive as he did, he would lose his motivation and unwilling to take part in society. It is impossible to distribute everything to everyone evenly in the world because all of us have our own differences.

Then how should we deal with injustice issues? I consider that we need a fair equality of opportunity, to bring everyone to the same starting point. People who have less well-off family are unable to get high level college degree, English-language skills, and good job so that they cannot participate in the new global economy. It is really severe and unequal situation. Opportunities should be open to all of the people. Moreover, I also believe that we should draw up a certain minimum standard that everyone can get surely and equally, and then give an additional reward depending on one’s talent and achievement. Though injustice differences are not easy to deal with it, we have to figure out fair measures to change income and economic opportunity inequalities conditions.

Western Culture Invention versus Japanese Society

by Ayaka Nakamura

Since Japan was defeated in World War II, Japanese society had been strongly influenced by the Western culture. Wearing Western clothes, following its fashion trend, putting on fake eyelashes, wearing high heels, and looking for love marriages, Japanese have imitated Western lifestyles. However, people could not simply get rid of their own cultures and identities, so that they have been struggling in a process of acceptation of a new lifestyle. Different social groups show different reactions to get involved in the Western culture invention.

Although globalization has enabled Japanese people to have access to greater information of what Western cool people wear, eat, and buy, their different financial levels caused various reactions to the Western lifestyle. For example, the rich could buy the exact same products that they saw in Western TV dramas, but the poor could not. Young Japanese women buy western trendy clothes and dye their hair in lighter colors following an influenced perception of beauty, but some of them cannot afford many new clothes and/or monthly hair care. It seems, in this westernized consumerist society, people who cannot follow the dominant lifestyle are marginalized and labeled as “different,” which often contains negative images.

However, the relatively poor also try to get involved in the Western lifestyle stream. Those who cannot afford expensive Western goods create new affordable products to still adopt the Western lifestyle. In Japan, many cheap fashion brands have been established, such as Honey’s, INGNI, earth music&ecology, moussy and so on. They retail around 5000 yen items that most of all Japanese can afford. Borrowing the essence of the high end fashion, a new fashion was produced for the relatively poor to follow new values.

Moreover, as to Western images of independent women and love marriages, few Japanese women can enjoy the Western career women life because the most of women are still valued within gender ideologies. Although Sex and the City got very popular, in reality around forty year old women who have not married yet are called makeinu (負け犬), losers, which goes back to an old-fashioned idea that women’s happiness is marriage. Yet, other groups of people have started opposing this, and cerebrated those independent unmarried women as ohitorisama (おひとり様), which simply means one person but without any miserable nuance. Japanese social structure had conflicts with the Western value of career women, but creating new norms the whole society are involved in the process of adaptation. Independent “makeinu” women gained new identities as ohitorisama.

All over, it is difficult to determine what is bad and what is good of Western cultures. Globalization brought many changes in Japanese society, and certain groups of people have struggled with them. However, the whole process of acceptation of new values rolled up all groups of people and produced various solutions to join in the Western lifestyle. Adding new Western cultures on existing Japanese cultures, society and people are getting culturally globalized.

Approaching gender equality

by Mihoko Sumitani

When I studied gender issues in the class, I was thinking about the situation of gender in Japan. Generally speaking, it is said that developed countries tend to approach gender equality better than developing countries. Of course, Japan is one of developed countries. Then, is Japan really approaching gender equality as well as other developed countries?

There is an interesting ranking in The World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report. This report ranks countries according to the magnitude of their gender gap in four keys which are economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival. In the report published this year 2012, japan ranked 101st out of 135 countries in terms of the progress it has made towards achieving equality in these four areas. I was quite surprised to see this ranking because there are many developing countries ahead.

However, when we see Japanese society, we will witness the fact that how many men are in administrative positions in both public sectors and private sectors in comparison with the population of women. Indeed, there are some difficulties for women to keep working after they marry and have a baby. The main two reasons are that many companies are not flexible about maternity leave and that there is a gender discrimination of women staying at home and doing housework as well as taking care of their children. Furthermore, Japanese parents still have a strong tendency to make their sons getting higher education than their daughters.

I think we have to change this situation now as we are facing a declining birthrate problem. Reducing the gender gap will have a good effect on companies’ bottom lines and helps to address serious demographic challenges. Actually Japan already put the big step to close Japan’s economic gender gap. New Task Force was launched in cooperation with the Japanese government, business and civil society to close Japan’s gender gap by 10% by 2015 as the initiative of a World Economic World. I hope this attempt will work well and we all people can have diverse choices of their lives and have an equal chance to display their abilities no matter what gender they are.


Global Gender Gap Report 2012

Cleaning and care product companies need to step up to the plate for commercials featuring men

by Sherry Stanczyk

The year is 2012, and it’s fair to believe that there has been social progress in regards to the equality of women since the past. Women have made strides in participating in the working world that was once dominated by men. In In this day and age it is not uncommon for the wife of the family to bring in just as much money as her husband, or in some cases even more. But behind all this progress, the fact remains that little has changed in regards to the gendered nature of ‘unpaid’ labour, such as childcare and house cleaning. Even though it is normal to now consider women family breadwinners, this gender inclusion does not extend to inside the home, where housekeeping and childcare are still primarily considered the jobs of women. The idea that women are still the primary home caretakers creates inequality; firstly as Erhenreich and Hochschild have illustrated in their article “Global Woman”, in the majority of middle and upper class Western households where the wife is unable to do the housework, instead of a division of labour between husband and wife, the house and child care duties are passed onto other women, typically paid maids from poorer countries. This creates situations where these migrant women, hidden away in households, are vulnerable and lack worker’s rights. Gendered housework also feeds into and sustains the existence of the glass ceiling; women are still not paid as highly as men because society still believes a women’s priorities are family, thus higher salaries, promotions, and job positions are usually given out to men. The gender divide of housework also creates an unfair situation for women who end up having to sacrifice either their career or family ambitions.

However, although not the majority, many men do participate in household and child care tasks. But the fact remains that society in many ways stigmatizes men who participate in cleaning and caretaking roles, as well as discourages men from taking part in the house and family. And nothing is upholding these norms more than the advertisements for cleaning and other household products. Advertising- as much as one would like to believe they are able to filter out- remains a powerful and strongly influential factor in dictating how we as a society believe and view what is both normal and desirable. And advertising for cleaning and household products almost never show men in their ads. These ads create the illusion and normalize the idea that cleaning and childcare are only and should only be done by women, while ‘real’ men take no part in housework. When ads for household products do feature men in their ads they typically showcase them as the housework-clueless and useless husband who need his wife to come to the rescue, or as the emasculated house-husband. (And although there is nothing wrong with a man who wants to play the traditional homemaker role while his wife wears the pants, showing it advertising still feeds into the idea that housework is ‘feminine’ and a woman’s job.)

There has been some change in advertiser’s thinking. For example, this year when Huggies created a series of diapers tv advertisements which featured incompetent fathers ignoring their baby’s dirty diapers in favor of ‘guy things’, such as a sports game on television, many real life fathers protested on Facebook, resulting in an official apology from Huggies and a new set of ads showing far more competent fathers. However, more companies need to step up to plate, and bring in some freshness and creativity to their advertising. I think we need to see more cleaning ads featuring normal, everyday fathers and men using their products. Although having more house care ads feature men isn’t going to magically fix the problem of gendered housework, it would be a step in the right direction. If we’ve come so far in social progress and ideas regarding gender roles, why are we still afraid to show that men can participate in household tasks too?

Gender Norms

by Mayu Shibata

Many societies have adopted the notion of gender norms in history. Most of them are such idea as ‘Men working outside the home and women staying at home and holding house.’ Although it is gradually weakening after women’s rights movement, it is still strongly rooting our society in various fields and it’s more likely for developing countries to hold this idea.

The word sex means biological differences between men and women while ‘gender’ refers to just about everything else. It’s related to a custom or tradition. For example, who usually take care of children? Who usually provides the majority of household income? Who usually changes his or her name on marriage? What kinds of toys do boys play with and what about girls? And then, who decided it? If it’s a custom or tradition, what makes them act so is people’s stereotype such as ‘boys should like soccer more than cooking.’ This idea makes us who we are and how we act in a way. If you are a boy, you know how people expect you to act like through talking with mom and dad, for example. You would be likely to be provided with car toys than Barbie dolls. Then you grow up as a ‘boy’ with a sense of a boy. Like this stereotypes and categorizing is everywhere around us and we are tied to them and act as expected.

I, as a woman, don’t think women should be free of house holding and child care even though I won’t be good at it because women have rights to go outside houses and participate in society regardless of marriage but I think biologically women are better at child care in many cases. Of course it’s about one’s personality and we can’t decide which is better but according to physical differences women will do better on average. But I think they at least have a choice. As I mentioned, it’s depend on one’s personality and not one’s sex. On the other hand men who prefer house holding should be welcome and they don’t always have to be the role of working outside. Both sexes have choices. And what suffer them are the stereotypes and categorizing. People see a person who does something different as ‘deviant’ and not all of them are brave enough to take the choice. So I think the most important thing on gender norms is to change the trend. People suffer between own desire and society’s way when they are in troubles. However, they don’t recognize that they are tied to society’s stereotypes until they are in troubles. What is required here is that all people should recognize the unfair restriction and understand that we all have choices of how we live.