Sexism, or gender discrimination, is a reality that most women face all over the world. Here, we will delve deeper into this issue and give you the nuances of the same.
Sexism (or gender discrimination) is present everywhere, in every culture, in every country. Sexism refers to the prejudicial treatment meted out to a group or a person solely on the basis of their gender or sex.
Gender discrimination comes about due to, and reinforces, certain behavior patterns and attitudes on the basis of traditionally stereotypical roles that people adopt in society. Sexism is a mindset that has the potential of affecting practically every aspect of a person’s life on whom it is meted out, preventing them from accomplishing their full potential.
While in theory, this discrimination can affect both men and women, it is usually women who have been at the receiving end, all through the ages and across cultures. This happens because most cultures in the world are patriarchal, or male dominated.
Sexism can involve a whole gamut of issues, from unequal pay, to women being portrayed as sexual objects in the media, to wives being beaten by their spouses.
To state an example, Hillary Clinton was judged on the basis of the kind of clothes she wore, as well as her looks, thereby completely belittling what she stood for intellectually―this was in light of her making a bid for the President’s office in the U.S.
This then makes us think―despite the emancipation of women in the West, there has not been a single woman president yet. What can be more telling?
Sexism in the Workplace
From being sexually harassed by male colleagues to being paid less for the same duties performed, sexism is rampant in the workplace, and does, most usually, target women. Discussing female colleagues or making jokes about them in a denigrating manner, is another way in which gender discrimination exists in most workplaces.
While, preferential treatment is given by male bosses to more compliant women whom they don’t consider a threat, stronger female colleagues are undercut for openly challenging the conventional gender roles that they are ‘supposed’ to conform to.
According to the United Nations, there is not a single society where women are not discriminated against, or have equal opportunities as men. Even in countries in the West where women’s emancipation has bettered the lives of many women, they still experience the unfairness of the ‘glass ceiling’, wherein women just do not get promoted beyond a certain level.
According to the Glass Ceiling Commission in the U.S., even today, majority of the senior managerial posts in country’s largest corporations (Fortune 1000 industrial and Fortune 500 companies) are held by men.
Gender Discrimination and Religion
Most religions in the world are male dominated, and most biased ideas have their roots in these religions, with women being relegated to a much lower position than men. The examples of these biases run rampant―A woman is objectified in the media, many laws allow the husband all the rights after marriage.
Many religions also allow the husband to ‘punish’ the wife in any way he deems fit if she does not comply to the wishes of a man. Some countries do not allow a woman to seek divorce, some don’t even allow a woman to travel or leave the home without seeking prior permission from the husband.
She is expected to be available for him whenever he demands sex, marital rape is not deemed a crime, mutilation of female genitalia, which is dangerous for the woman’s health is encouraged in some countries, women are burned at the stake, accused of being witches, honor killings still take place, with women as the target, and they are sold as sexual slaves.
They are regarded unclean when they menstruate, they are described as temptresses or whores in the scriptures, they are expected to cover themselves from head to foot in order not to weaken the man’s purity of resolve.
The examples of the discrimination and the biases are pretty clear for everyone to see.
Gender Discrimination in Developing Countries
If women in the ’emancipated’ West are still fighting for justice and equal rights for women, the girl-child and the woman in developing countries have a plethora of discriminatory practices which continue to keep them subjugated.
From being sold into the sex-trafficking trade, to being raped, from marital rape to child abuse, from sex-selective abortion to infanticide, from neglect in favor of the male child to dowry deaths and honor killings, discrimination against females is a stark reality that affects large portions of the society across these countries.
Women the world over are still regarded as passive or weak or as sexual objects. There is still a long way to go to attain gender parity. Women continue to fight for respect, justice, and equality even today. Gender discrimination has to be resisted wherever it exists.
In the developing world, it can be achieved by widespread education and economic independence, while in the developed world, women must continue to break all the glass ceiling barriers in order to achieve equal parity with men in every field; while at the same time, continuing to sensitize men about the issues of sexism and gender discrimination.