Inequality between women and men is perhaps the most pervasive form of group-based inequality facing humankind; it has a long history stretching back thousands of years (Johns, 1947; Seagle, 1947/1971) and exists to some degree in essentially all modern societies (Peterson & Runyan, 1993). In societies where gender inequality exists, its form is exclusively patriarchal with men having more power, resources, and status than women (Abel & Nelson, 1990; Beck & Keddie, 1978; Busch, 1990; Collier & Yanagisako, 1987; Keegen, 1993; Wood & Eagly, 2002). Women continue to be disadvantaged in the labor force compared to men (Burn, 1996; Kanter, 1977; Vasquez, 2001; Williams, 1992), even when controlling for qualifications, job type, and required skills (Bartol, 1999; Jacobs, 1995; Jacobs & Steinberg, 1990; Reskin & Padavic, 1994; Stroh, Brett, & Reilly, 1992). Furthermore, women are more likely than men to be poor (McClanahan & Kelly, 1999), engage in unpaid work (Shelton, 1999), and are the primary victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault (Rozee & Koss, 2001).
Individual men vary in the extent to which they are responsible for maintaining gender inequality. Furthermore, the form and extent of male privilege varies depending on social class, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation (Connell, 1987). However, at the group level, gender inequality clearly benefits men at the expense of women. In this chapter, we consider a number of factors that are likely to influence the extent to which gender inequality will lead men to experience a sense of collective guilt.