Unit Ten: Dominant Group and Minority Group Relations Based on Gender, Sexual Orientation, Age, and Disability

Gender Inequality

Although numerically a majority, women in many parts of the world fit the description of a subordinate  minority.  Throughout history, gender has been a master status that has cut across all aspects of social life.  Different expectations of males and females result in their having different life chances.  This section examines the structural social inequalities that exist for the  female members of society.

All human societies, in the past as well as in the present, have been patriarchies.  Patriarchy refers to the male domination of society.  How did societies become patriarchal?  Why haven’t there been matriarchal societies?  The answer to these questions may be lost to history.  But the prevailing belief among sociologists is that females became a minority group in their societies because of the physical limitations of childbirth.  Because an infant needs a nursing mother, childbirth and childcare limits the ability of females to engage in other societal tasks such as hunting and warfare.  These activities also gave men the opportunity to be around weapons and to become skillful in their use.  These opportunities were not available to women.   In addition, men were also physically better suited for these tasks.  Is this theory correct?  Perhaps in the future sociologists will come up with other views that will in some degree contradict this theory.  However, it is hard to ignore the influence of biology altogether.  There have also been societal changes that have contributed to gender inequality.  With the invention of the plow, and the move to agricultural societies,  gender inequality increased dramatically.  With more resources, there was more to fight over.  Female fertility gods gave way to male warrior gods.  Many of these new male religions carried a dogma that stated that men should rule over women. The move to industrialization around the world was another social event that facilitated gender inequality.  Men left the family farm to work in public settings such as factories and offices.  This moved economic production outside of the household.  Men earned their wages away from home, and therefore assumed larger roles in economic decision making.  Women’s work was regulated to the private domain of the home.  It wasn’t until the second wave of feminism beginning in the 1960’s, that women entered the public sphere in large numbers.

1.     The Current State of American Women

2.    Gender and Society

3.    Matriarchy:  History or Reality?

4.   History of Matriarchy

5.    Gender Issues Research


Male Privilege

As mentioned above, the existence of patriarchy creates a society in which privileges are awarded to males that are withheld from females. This system of automatic privileges, which are often unnoticed by males leading to a different set of daily experiences is known as male privilege. This system has manifested itself throughout history (royal succession, lack of voting rights) and can be seen around the world today (not having the right to drive a car, unequal pay, and not being able to walk down the street without being “catcalled”).  Because males control government and religious institutions, rights for females (for example reproductive rights) are determined by males in positions of power.

Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that bad things happen to men. Being privileged does not mean men are given everything in life for free; being privileged does not mean that men do not work hard, do not suffer. In many cases – from a boy being bullied in school, to soldiers selecting male civilians to be executed, to male workers dying of exposure to unsafe chemicals – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also immeasurably harms boys and men.  But the first step in overcoming male privilege is in acknowledging that it exists.

1.  Invisible Privileges That Men Have That Women Do Not

The Development of Feminism

womensuffrageNot all females have been happy with the arrangement of a patriarchal society.  Women have for a long time expressed their dissatisfaction with such a system.  Beginning in the nineteenth century, women began to question in public their second class citizenship.  Feminism is the political movement that tries to rid society of inequalities based on gender.  There have been two waves of feminism in the United States.  The first wave began in the 1840’s and peaked in the early 1900’s.  Here the emphasis was on obtaining the right to vote for women.  After this right was achieved around 1920, the movement lost steam.  The second wave of feminism began in the 1960’s.  This wave focused on gender inequalities in the workplace, at home, in marriage, and in education.  This second wave of feminism was in part inspired by the success of the Civil Rights Movement.  Many women today have held demonstrations, lobbied politicians, and formed women’s organizations in an attempt to eliminate gender inequality.

1.  Rules for Female Teachers (1915)

What is the feminist movement struggling against?  Sexism.  Sexism is the belief that one sex is innately superior to the other.  It is the ideological basis of patriarchy.  It justifies the unequal treatment of women by men.  Sexism is a burden to society.  It opens doors to men, while closing those same doors to women.  Sexism offers more opportunities and access to more resources for men than for women.  An example of the effect of sexism can be seen in the following quote.   In 1985 Microsoft hired its first two female executives to win a government contract.  Bill Gates, the President of Microsoft, gave the following statement as to why, “Well, let’s hire two women because we can pay them half as much as we will have to pay a man, and we can give them all this other ‘crap’ work to do because they are women.” 1

Gender Inequality in Education

Historically, women have been denied access to many fields of study.  Today, more women than men enroll in U.S. colleges and universities.  While progress has been made, a closer look reveals that there are still areas of concern.  Women still earn 90% of the nursing degrees while men still earn 85% of the engineering degrees.  The progress that women have made in the past few decades has caused a division amongst some feminists.  Should they rejoice in their success, or push on for more?  The links below offer information for you to make your own determination.

1.   Educational Progress of Women 

2.   An alternative viewpoint of women and educational discrimination

3.   Gender Differences in Participation and Completion of Undergraduate Education


Gender Inequality in the Workplace

glassceilingWomen have historically faced discrimination in the workplace.  Although this situation has improved recently in the United States, there are still areas of concern.  In the United States it is culturally acceptable for women to work outside of the home.  The trend of women entering the labor force has created a need to change workplace attitudes.  There still exists a pay gap between male and female workers. Full time working women today make about 80 cents for every dollar a full time man earns.  Sociologists say there are a number of reasons for this.  Some of that 20 cent gap can be explained by gender discrimination.  The above quote from Bill Gates demonstrates the effect discrimination can have on wages.

For the top positions in our society, there also exists what is called the glass ceiling, an invisible barrier that keeps women from reaching the top executive positions. In the United States as of 2015 women make up only 4.2% of the CEO’s of the S & P 500 Companies. The statistics for the other side of the pay scale are not much better. About two-thirds of minimum-wage workers across the country are female, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Another reason for the pay gap is the heavy domestic burden shouldered by women.  Because of the interruptions from work due to pregnancies and the responsibilities of being a parent, women devote fewer hours to paid work than men.  Many women take part time jobs when they begin a family, further reducing their wages compared to men.  The most important reason to explain the pay gap between men and women, according to sociologists, is the choice of careers.  Women are still clustered in areas of employment such as clerical and teaching, that do not pay the high wages found in career clusters dominated by men.  This factor probably explains the greatest amount of the 22 cent disparity in wages between men and women.

Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifies that it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire someone, or to fire an employee, or to discriminate about wages, because of the individual’s gender. The employer also cannot deprive an employee any opportunities, including on-the-job and apprenticeship programs, because of the person’s sex. The employer is forbidden to retaliate against any employee who opposes or complains about discriminatory practices. Title VII, which applies only to companies with 15 or more employees.

1.   Sources of the Wage Gap

2.  Employment Factors Influence Pay Gap

3.  The Daily Show: American Women’s Soccer and the Wage Gap


sexualharassmentFinally, there is also the problem of sexual harassment.  Sexual harassment refers to the unwanted sexual attention that affects a person’s job performance or creates a hostile work environment.  In the past decade or so sexual harassment has become an issue of national importance which has changed the way the different sexes interact at work. Although both males and females can be guilty of sexual harassment,  most victims are women, and most perpetrators are men in positions of power. Sexual harassment includes off-color jokes, suggestive photos, inappropriate physical contact and unwanted sexual overtures. Promises of promotion or other benefits made to an employee by an upper-echelon employer or manager in return for sexual favors is sexual harassment, as are threats of job loss if the favors are not granted. Although recent statistics seem to indicate a decrease in sexual harassment cases, the publicized cases of the actor Bill Cosby, movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and former head of Fox News Roger Ailes suggest that it may take the charges of multiple women to bring court cases against powerful men.

1.  A Woman Walking Down the Street Getting Sexual Harassed (video)

2.   Chinese women had to wear bikinis for a chance to become flight attendants

3.   #Me Too Hashtag and Sexual Violence

Gender Inequality in Politics

It has only been in the previous century that women around the globe began obtaining the right to vote in democratic elections.  Along with voting, came running for political office.  If one looks at the number of women worldwide who hold elected office, a good argument could be made that human society is still a patriarchy.

1.  Women in National Parliaments


Gender and Sexuality in Society

Members of human society have for a long time been able to recognize differences between men and women.  Biology helps explain physical differences and cultural norms and values help explain the different social roles.  This section will explore how sexual behavior in humans has had an impact on our society.

Sexual Orientation

Every society creates and enforces norms regarding sexual behavior, including sexual objects and qualities of mates. Sexual orientation refers to the preference of sex partners.  It is socially significant, and to insure reproduction, society encourages heterosexuality, which is attraction to partners of the opposite sex, and sex within marriage.  Many scientists studying human sexuality, as well as gay rights advocates, use the term sexual orientation to avoid the belief that homosexuality and heterosexuality are exclusively the result of “preference” or “lifestyle” choices.


The term “sexual identity,” is distinct from the term “sexual orientation,” and refers to a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman or some other gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate).  Homosexuality is sexual attraction to partners of the same sex, and attitudes about it range from acceptance to disgust. Bisexuality is attraction to partners of both sexes, though not necessarily at the same time. Throughout history bisexuality has been accepted in some cultures. Society has often stigmatized bisexuals as being either “confused” about their sexuality or not “gay enough”.   Transsexuals are people who feel they are one sex even though biologically they are the other. Not all people who consider themselves (or who may be considered by others as) transgender will undergo a gender transition.  Gender transitioning is the process some transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. This may or may not include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and other medical procedures visible. Researchers have variously measured an individual’s sexual orientation by asking them how they identify; by ascertaining their sexual attractions; and/or by reporting their sexual behaviour. An individual may be placed in differing categories by these three measures.

A definitional problem arises with the terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual” when either the subject or object of desire is transgender or intersex. Is a transwoman who is attracted to other women a lesbian? What about her female partner? The majority of transgender people today would describe this relationship as lesbian, but scientists (especially in the past) have tended to characterize it as heterosexual, interpreting the sex of the transwoman as male, and basing the definition of sexual orientation on biological sex rather than social gender. Others would interpret the sexual orientation differently depending on whether the transwoman is “pre-operative” or “post-operative”.

Most modern scientific surveys find that the majority of people report a mostly heterosexual orientation. However, the relative percentage of the population that reports a homosexual orientation varies with differing methodologies and selection criteria. Most of these statistical findings are in the range of 3 to 9% of males, and 1 to 5% of females for the United States — this figure can be as high as 12% for some large cities and as low as 1% percent for rural areas). In gay villages such as The Castro in San Francisco, California, the concentration of self-identified homosexual people can exceed 40%.

Throughout history homosexuality has most often been discouraged and sanctioned, leading to the development of gay and lesbian communities as a way to promote solidarity and reduce discrimination.   Depending on who is conducting the study, only  a small percentage, anywhere from 1 to 10% of the population identifies itself as exclusively homosexual.

1.  Kinsey Institute for Sexuality

2.  Famous Homosexuals in History       Link 1    Link 2 


Heterosexual Privilege

In spite of increasing acceptance and support for non-heterosexual people, we still live in a society that affords heterosexual individuals more rights, power, and freedom. Straight people might not consciously think about or acknowledge it, but heterosexual privilege influences everything, from their daily lives to their career goals. Heterosexual privilege is the privilege to not give much thought to your sexuality. It’s the freedom to publicly express your sexuality without any feeling of repercussion. Coming to terms with the fact that as a heterosexual, a person does not experience the world in the same way as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is an important step in understanding heterosexual privilege and becoming an ally to the LBGT community. Learning that gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals are mistreated on the basis of sexual orientation can result in feelings of guilt for being a member an oppressive group. Instead of feeling guilty, a better solution would be to actively work to develop an understanding of sexual orientation and  not to  see it as a reason for discrimination, violence, or abuse.


1. List of Heterosexual Privileges     Link 1      Link 2

Inequalities Due to Sexual Orientation

homophobiaAlthough the level of discrimination against homosexuals has decreased over the past two decades, a considerable amount of discrimination against homosexuals still exists in our society.  Homophobia is hatred and discrimination directed against homosexuals based on exaggerated fears of homosexuality, and it has created social penalties for homosexuals and bisexuals. This includes gay bashing as well as religious and ideological attacks, leading to more hidden homosexuality. Some gays and lesbians now carry out “outing,” which is publicly revealing someone’s covert homosexuality.  Outing is normally done by those in the homosexual community who are trying to improve the image of homosexuality to heterosexuals.  Others push for more homosexual solidarity and research on important gay and lesbian issues.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in August of 2016 released a study which found that LGBTQ youths face significantly higher levels of violence than their heterosexual peers. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning teenagers are far more likely to experience violence and bullying, as well as depression and suicide, the CDC found in the first national study to address the health risks of sexual-minority youths. Roughly 30 percent had been raped, and about 41 percent had been physically abused by a partner. At least a third said they had been bullied on school grounds, and respondents were twice as likely to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property—which in turn increased the number of times they skipped class because of safety concerns. More than 40 percent said they had seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent said they had tried.

1.  Statistics on Homophobia

2.  Homophobia:  One Word, Many Meanings

3.  Stephen Colbert on Not Discussing Homosexuality in Public Schools


The Gay Rights Movement

stonewallriotBeginning in the 1960’s, gays in America began challenging stereotypes and demanding rights.  The Stonewall Riot during the summer of 1969 is an important date for the gay community.  It marked the beginning of their struggle for equality in American society.  From the 1970’s to the present day, the gay community has held demonstrations and parades to voice their concerns.  The movement, now three decades old, has had some success.  Many states now allow gay couples to adopt, and in the year 2000, Vermont became the first state to allow same sex unions. By October 2014, thirty-two states and the District of Columbia had legalized same sex marriage.  In June of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, a decision that ends the ability of an individual state to prevent same sex unions.   As of the summer of 2015, 22 countries around the world have legalized same-sex marriage.  However, there are still important  issues facing the gay community.  AIDS has taken a heavy toll on the gay community, and gays and lesbians in America still face threats of violence and discrimination.

1.  More Americans Say They Know Someone Who is Gay Or Lesbian

2.  Interactive Map of States With Gay  Marriage


A Timeline of Recent Events That Have Impacted the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community

The American Psychological Association’s Board of Trustees in 1973 voted to remove homosexuality from its diagnostic manual of mental disorders.   Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected to office in a major U.S. city when he won a seat on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in early 1978.

In 1993 President Bill Clinton enacts “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy preventing gays from openly serving in the military. Under it, an estimated 13,000 people were expelled from the U.S. Armed Forces. the Act was repealed by President Obama in 2011.  In 1996 Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act. Section 3 of the statute bars recognition of same-sex marriage, affecting more than 1,100 provisions of federal laws. It denies gay couples the right to file joint taxes and the protections of the Family Medical and Leave Act, and it blocks surviving spouses from accessing veterans’ benefits, among other things. The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional on June 26, 2013. In 1998 Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, was beaten and tied  to a split-rail fence outside of Laramie, Wyo. He dies on Oct. 12, less than a week after the attack. The murder spurs federal hate crimes legislation approved in 2009 that bears Shepard’s name. The Hate Crimes Prevention law requires the FBI to track hate crimes based on gender and gender identity, and gives the Department of Justice the power to prosecute crimes that were motivated by the victim’s race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. In 2000, the Supreme Court rules that the Boy Scouts of America can bar gay Scouts and leaders from membership, saying that as a private youth organization it has the right to do so. Under increasing pressure in recent years to change the policy, the BSA held a vote on the controversial membership guidelines in May 2013 and lifted its ban on gay scouts. In 2003, the Supreme Court strikes down a Texas anti-sodomy law.  Gays are ”entitled to respect for their private lives,” Justice Kennedy said for the court, ‘The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”

1.  Remembering When the US Government Made Gay Citizens the Enemy 


Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace

Sexual orientation discrimination has been part of the workplace in America for decades, and while federal, state and local laws, as well as increased social awareness have improved the situation dramatically, many people who are not heterosexual still face obstacles at work. Sexual orientation is not protected by federal law the way race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, and disability are for private employers. Around two dozen states still don’t have anti-discrimination laws protecting individuals from being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. Despite the Supreme Court ruling that LGBT Americans can now legally get married, they are still at risk of being denied services and risk being fired simply for being married. Due to the lack of legal protections, new legislation has been introduced but not passed in Congress. The Equality Act is a comprehensive federal LGBT non-discrimination act that would provide permanent protections for LGBT individuals in the most important aspects of their lives, including but not limited to matters of employment, housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education and jury service. In addition, it would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in federal funding and access to public places.  Aside from federal legislation, President Obama has  pushed for sexual orientation, and gender identity fairness in the workplace. On July 21, 2014 President Obama signed an Executive Order that amended previous executive orders and added sexual orientation and gender identity protections for all federal workers, including contractors and subcontractors of the Federal government. Previous executive orders only protected workers from workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  On February 26, 2018, a federal appeals court ruled in the Zarda vs. Altitude Express that the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits anti-gay discrimination in the workplace.  The Court ruled that sexual orientation is a function of sex, and by extension, sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination.

Age Diversity in American Society


symbolicaging  Attitudes about aging have changed over time.   Some members of society hold a negative stereotype of the elderly.  Ageism refers to prejudice and  discrimination against people based on their age.   In American society the meaning of growing old has changed.  Just a few generations ago, not many people made it to old age.  For those who did, it was seen as an accomplishment.  They were accorded respect.  With the advent of industrialization, and the reliance on young workers, the view of the elderly changed.  The young began viewing the elderly as not being superior to themselves.  They were often seen as financial burdens.  Yet, the perception of the elderly seems to be undergoing another change in the United States.  Many elderly are financially well off today.  The view of them as financial burdens is changing.  In addition, as the baby boomers enter old age,  they will change the perception of  activities for the elderly.

Issues of dispute, such as social security, create intergenerational conflict.  Many societies have historically viewed the elderly as a group that uses a society’s resources without contributing to them.  Modern mandatory retirement is seen as an extension of this.  Those workers between 25 and 65 see good paying jobs as belonging to them, and would not like to have to compete for them with the elderly.  This has usually meant that when older workers retire, they become poor.  In American society, this has been somewhat addressed through the creation of social security and other social programs.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Americans age 55 and older increased from 59.5 to 76.5 million. Government projections say there will be 97.8 million Americans who are 55 or older by 2020.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, passed in 1967, made it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers age 40 and older, whether they’re applying for a new job or working in the same one they’ve had for years. In 2013, 22,857 people filed age related complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, compared with 16,548 in 2006. In a 2010 Sloan Center on Agin and Work report called “The New Unemployables” researchers found that older workers were less likely to find new jobs than younger unemployed workers. Older workers were also working involuntarily part-time because they couldn’t find full-time jobs.

The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College looked at BLS and Census data and released a set of business strategies for the age-diverse workforce.  Figures on the fact sheet show that 38.9 percent of people in the 55 and older age category were still working in 2007.  That percentage rose to 40.7 percent by 2012.  The research is clear: employers need to be ready for older workers, and their presence means employers benefit from their knowledge and experience while the younger generation prepares to take its place i the workplace.

Some attribute the graying of the workforce to the recent economic recession that depleted many workers’ retirement savings, making it necessary for them to work longer. Others say longer lifespans mean people are willing and able to work into old age.  Whatever the reason, employers in an array of professions are likely to see an increase in the number of older workers on the job.

The Graying of America

The graying of American refers to the increase in the number of elderly people in the United States in percentage terms.  Over the last century, the number of elderly in the United States has increased dramatically.  Because of a number of factors, such as health improvements, diet, and improvements in medical technology,  life expectancy for people in the United States has gone up.  Which means that women and men over the age of sixty-five have increased twice as fast as the population as a whole.  In 1900 only 4% of the population was over 65.  It is projected that by the year 2050,  20% of the population will be over 65.  This will have a profound affect on American society.  Who will pay for the health care expenses?  How will pay for the increase in social security benefits?

1. List of Age Privileges That Younger People Have That Older People Do Not

2.  Age Discrimination Statistics


The Disabled and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

In this unit we have seen how a number of groups (women, non-heterosexuals, the elderly) have fought for social justice.  In this last section a short overview of the history of the disabled in our society will be explored.

Abled Body Privilege

Abled Body Privilege  suggests that society associates normality with the ability to walk easily from point a to b, to see with 20/20 vision, to hear and speak and touch and generally appear as fulfilling certain requirements. Those who hold these traits have been given the power to make decisions about the life of society for centuries, and this has been reinforced by many horrific laws throughout history which called for people with disabilities to be euthanized or locked up for their own good and that of others. As a result of this power division, society has been physically created as accessible for those with “normal” bodies – those who are privileged by the systems that the able-bodied create. Individuals who identify as able-bodied obtain certain privileges in society, such as having a world constructed for individuals who can walk up stairs. While we assume that buildings have always had stairs, we have easily forgotten that buildings were and continue to be designed for one particular body, one with two “functioning” legs. Therefore, it is important for us to rethink society with disability as the normative and the non-disabled as the problematic, as we all have different strengths and weaknesses that make us to unique to everyone else.

Although work still needs to be done, it should be acknowledged that modern societies such as the United States have made progress in trying to accommodate people who possess a disability. This progress should allow for the perception change in viewing people with disabilities and valued and contributing members of society. One step in this direction is the Americans With Disabilities Act discussed below.

  1. Examples of Ability Privilege      Link 1     Link 2

ada1The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex,  national origin, and other characteristics illegal.   As civil rights were extended to groups that had been traditionally denied them throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, there began a movement within the disabilities community to press for civil rights.   Those with disabilities wanted to fully participate in society and be seen as useful, functioning, members.  The emergence of both the disability rights and independent-living movements were critical to the development of the ADA. The disability rights movement emerged in tandem with the 1960s civil rights movement in the United States and was based upon the fundamental principles of autonomy and self-determination as well as a response to perceived injustices toward people with disabilities. The 1970s saw numerous grassroots movements and activism as people with disabilities became increasingly visible: They were closing down buildings, creating independent living centers and protesting on college campuses.

Provisions of the American With Disabilities Act

Signed into law on July 26 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a wide-ranging legislation intended to make American Society more accessible to people with disabilities.

It is divided into five titles:

1. Employment (Title I) Business must provide reasonable accommodations to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment. Possible changes may include restructuring jobs, altering the layout of workstations, or modifying equipment. Employment aspects may include the application process, hiring, wages, benefits, and all other aspects of employment. Medical examinations are highly regulated.  Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations.

2. Public Services (Title II) Public services, which include state and local government instrumentalities, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, and other commuter authorities, cannot deny services to people with disabilities participation in programs or activities which are available to people without disabilities. In addition, public transportation systems, such as public transit buses, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

3. Public Accommodations (Title III) All new construction and modifications must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. For existing facilities, barriers to services must be removed if readily achievable. Public accommodations include facilities such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, retail stores, etc., as well as privately owned transportation systems.

4. Telecommunications (Title IV) Telecommunications companies offering telephone service to the general public must have telephone relay service to individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTYs) or similar devices.

5. Miscellaneous (Title V) Includes a provision prohibiting either (a) coercing or threatening or (b) retaliating against the disabled or those attempting to aid people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA.

The ADA’s protection applies primarily, but not exclusively, to “disabled” individuals. An individual is “disabled” if he or she meets at least any one of the following tests:

1. He or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his/her major life activities;

2. He or she has a record of such an impairment; or

3. He or she is regarded as having such an impairment.

ada2Other individuals who are protected in certain circumstances include 1) those, such as parents, who have an association with an individual known to have a disability, and 2) those who are coerced or subjected to retaliation for assisting people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA.

While the employment provisions of the ADA apply to employers of fifteen employees or more, its public accommodations provisions apply to all sizes of business, regardless of number of employees. State and local governments are covered regardless of size.

An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s business. Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer’s size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation.

An employer is not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation; nor is an employer obligated to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids.


   actionMovies Relevant to This Unit

Below are a list of movies that exhibit sociological concepts learned in this unit.

1Yentl.  There are many sociology themes here, but the most important would be the prohibition against females studying religious texts.

2.  Doloras Claiborne.  An engrossing look at domestic violence and sexual abuse.

3.  Osama.  A 12-year-old Afghan girl and her mother lose their jobs when the Taliban closes the hospital where they work.

3.  In & Out.  A Midwestern teacher questions his sexuality after a former student makes a comment about him at the Academy Awards.

4.  Kinsey.   A look into the life and work of America’s most famous researcher on human sexuality.

5.  Brokeback Mountain.  Based on the E. Annie Proulx story about a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys and their lives over the years.

5.  My Left Foot.  The story of Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy. He learned to paint and write with his only controllable limb – his left foot.




books03 Sociology in Books

Below are a list of books that exhibit sociological concepts learned in this unit.

1.  The Feminist Mystique  by Betty Friedan

2.  The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America by Ruth Rosen

3.   Burned Alive:  A Victim of the Law of Men   Souad

4.  When God Was a Woman   Merlin Stone

5.  Sexual Behavior in the Human Male  by Alfred Kinsey

6.  Sexual Behavior in the Human Female  by Alfred Kinsey

7.  The Mismeasure of Desire: The Science, Theory and Ethics of Sexual Orientation (Ideologies of Desire) by Edward Stein

8.  The Disability Pendulum: The First Decade of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Critical America)  by Ruth Coker

9.  Disabling America: The Unintended Consequences of the Government’s Protection of the Handicapped by Greg Perry





Farley, John E.      2005   Majority-Minority Relations  (5th Edition)  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey:   Pearson Education

Healey, Joseph F.      1998   Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class  (2nd Edition)  Thousand Oaks, California:   Pine Forge Press

1(James Wallace and Jim Erickson Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire [New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1992] p. 291).



Copyright ©2006, 2014 Glenn Hoffarth All Rights Reserved


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