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sexual division of labour


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A term referring to the specialized gender roles of male breadwinner and female housewife; or, in the terminology of Talcott Parsons (Family, Socialisation and Interaction Process, 1956), the ‘instrumental’ and ‘expressive’ roles. This particular division of labour by sex is usually associated with the separation of workplace from home which followed industrialization in the West. Anthropological research shows that most pre-industrial societies also distinguish ‘men's tasks’ from ‘women's tasks’, although the sexual division of labour so identified may not correspond to the Western stereotype described above. For example, in some societies growing crops and weaving are tasks for women, whereas hunting and making pots are the responsibility of men. See also division of labour; domestic division of labour; sex roles.

Subjects: Sociology.


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