10S15, Group 4

Done by: Jared Tan, Mark Yeo, Annette Tan, Gerald Gan & Nurul

Topic: Sexism/Sexual Discrimination

Traditional Perceptions of Sexism

Since many centuries ago, the society has gender stereotypes towards the sexes especially with men and women being identified with particular occupations. Women back then were expected to be in charge of the household, mainly taking care of children and doing household chores while the men are usually the sole breadwinner of the family. Women were also not allowed to even work alongside men in the workforce as they were viewed by the society as being ‘not on par’ in terms of status, ability, etc. The main reason is that they are generally viewed by society as the ‘weaker sex’ and sometimes even treated as the property of men. Furthermore, they do not receive education as compared to men and often stay at home with their mothers learning how to manage the household. Besides not having any status in the society, women had no power. They had no control over the decisions made by men who had all of the authority to influence how the society should run. Sexual discrimination towards the females were the norm in societies back then.

However, it was not until during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th to 19th centuries that women played a role in society. The Industrial Revolution which started in Europe is a small step towards women’s position in the society as they were finally able to work in certain industries such as the textile industry, contributing to the countries’ development as workers. However, during the 18th and 19th century, there were still forms of sexual discrimination towards women as many people would prefer them to stay at home and take charge of family matters. Despite being able to work then, women received low wages as compared to men and had no means to support the family alone.

Furthermore, women were not entitled to high positions in the society. While the Industrial Revolution had allowed women to work in the society, in many parts of the world such as Asia and Africa, women were not able to enjoy such rights as the countries there remained largely undeveloped. Women had no say in politics until the 20th century, where women were allowed to vote in the U.S. and U.K. in 1920 and 1918 respectively. It was not until 1875 before women in the U.S. were legally defined as people. Women have been historically excluded from most professions. When women managed to gain entry into a previously male profession, they would probably face many additional obstacles. However, many women have successfully climbed to the top of the social hierarchy, proving to the world that women are just as capable as men.

FACT! Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a Masters Degree and Myra Bradwell was the first female lawyer.

Progress of Sexism from the Past to the Present

Sexism, or gender discrimination, is present everywhere, in every culture, in every country. The terms ‘sexism’ or ‘gender discrimination’ basically means the prejudicial treatment of a group or a person due to their gender or sex. It involves a reinforcement of behaviour and attitude on the basis of traditionally stereotypical roles people have in the society we live in. Gender discrimination can involve a whole gamut of issues, from unequal pay to women being portrayed as sexual objects in the media to wives being beaten up by their spouses. While in theory gender discrimination can affect both men and women, however, it is women who have been at the receiving end through the ages and across cultures, since most cultures in the world are patriarchal, or male dominated.

In the past, most women were considered equal to men. They had power politically, spiritually, medically and generally in everyday life. However, nowadays, women in contemporary societies sit at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They struggle with sexism and racism and are generally not respected even by their own people. Economically they are more disadvantaged than non- First Nations people and First Nations men. In addition, in the western as well as the eastern world, if there is only one chance for education, this chance is surely given to boys in the family. In their youth, girls have to help their mother with housework. After they get married, they must take care of their father and mother. Later, taking care of the children is part of their job.

Due to many regions in the world being male dominated, most gender discriminations have their roots in these religions, with women being relegated to a much lower level than men. She is regarded as unclean when she menstruates, she becomes untouchable after childbirth until she undergoes a ritual cleansing, she is described as a temptress or a whore in the scriptures and she has to cover herself from head to foot in order not to weaken the man’s purity of resolve. From being burnt at the stake accused of being witches to honour killings that still continue in places like India, Pakistan, and other Islamic countries, to undergoing fasts for the well-being of her husband – most if not all religions have always discriminated against women and continue to do so.

Presently, women are sometimes being sexually harassed by male colleagues and get paid less for the same jobs to preferential treatment given by male bosses to more compliant women (whom they don’t consider a threat) to stronger female colleagues being undercut for openly challenging the conventional gender roles they are supposed to conform to, to discussing female colleagues or making jokes about them in a denigrating manner. In this way, gender discrimination exists to some degree in most workplaces.

FACT! 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 countless women, they still experience the unfairness of the ‘glass ceiling’, where women just do not get promoted beyond a certain level. According to the Glass Ceiling Commission in the U.S., about 95-97% of the senior managerial posts in country’s largest corporations are held by men.

In conclusion, women all over the world are still regarded as passive or weak or sexual objects. There is still a long way to go to attain gender parity. Women continue to fight for respect, justice, and equality. Gender discrimination has to be resisted wherever it exists. Whereas in the developing world, it can be achieved by widespread education and economic independence, in the developed world, women must continue to break all the “glass ceiling barriers”, to achieve equal parity with men in every field, while continuing to sensitize men about the issues of sexism and gender discrimination.

Limitations of Sexism

The usual view of men's anti-sexism is that it centres around men who find it personally important to challenge the pressure to conform to a 'macho' image plus a handful of politically aware men wanting to assist on what are seen as feminist issues. In fact any man giving it serious thought will come to see domestic violence, rape, care of their children and such-like as being men's issues. However, the average man will not be drawn into men's groups by these issues, and will tend to see men's anti-sexism as a movement without a cause.

At the workplace:

In spite of the massive unemployment, little has changed about men's ideas about work. The classic picture of “a man as an incomplete person” those men’s groups invoke - emotionally retarded, distant from his children, competitive at work and dominant at home - describes a man well moulded to the career world. The stereotypical male values closely match the qualities desirable in competitive work.

Although there are women working successfully in most professions, males continue to dominate. This is due to the strict division between full-time and part-time work. It's in full-time work in the majority of occupations that men and traditional values prevail - women in these jobs work on men's terms. Part-time work on the other hand is clearly the province of women - over 90% of part-timers in Britain are female. In fact, much of the recent increase in women's employment has been in the part-time sector.

Full-time jobs are valued more highly, often paid a 'family wage' and require the specialization of skills and continued commitment that would merit the title 'career'. However, full-time work has changed little to accommodate the increasing number of women in it, who have to accept the limitations imposed by men such as avoiding children or delegating their care to the domestic/part-time sector.

Thus, women who are pregnant need to be free from work from late pregnancy until the baby is weaned at the very least. As men are generally not permitted any reasonable paternity leave, it is necessarily the mother who continues to look after the child at least until school age (unless the parents are willing and financially able to pay someone else to do so). If these considerations did not keep the women out of full-time work in the first place, they are likely to do so for some years at this stage, especially since this whole situation increases the likelihood that the father will be earning more than her at this financially critical time.

As a result, women wanting children will be disadvantaged when it comes to full-time work and many women having children will have to accept the limitations of part-time work. Men, if they are able to get full-time work, will almost always take this in preference to part-time work - and when they become fathers, they are likely to be under financial pressure to keep their full-time job, at the expense of their involvement with their children.

However, if the responsibility for financial support was no longer borne principally by men, it could undermine the damaging tendency for manhood to be measured by economic success - which is often won at the price of being a second rate parent. Besides that, for women, working on these terms would mean not only an increase in real economic power and independence, but with this a greater participation in public and political life. Also, any overall reduction in average hours worked could help to reduce unemployment in the right circumstances.

In conclusion, if men looked objectively at the unnecessary sacrifices they make on the altar of work, anti-sexism would suddenly seem relevant to many more men than the few involved at the present.

Reasons for Gender Inequality

Gender inequalities often stem from social structures that have institutionalized conceptions of gender differences.

Due to cultural stereotypes engrained in both men and women, it is a possible explanation for gender inequality and the resulting gendered wage disparity. Women have traditionally been viewed as being caring and nurturing and are designated to occupations which require such skills. While these skills are culturally valued, they were typically associated with domesticity. As a result, occupations requiring these same skills are not economically valued. Men have traditionally been viewed as the breadwinner or the worker, so jobs held by men have been historically economically valued and occupations predominated by men continue to be economically valued and pay higher wages.

Gender inequality can further be understood through the mechanisms of sexism. Discrimination takes place in this manner as men and women are subject to prejudicial treatment on the basis of gender alone. Sexism occurs when men and women are framed within two dimensions of social cognition.

Benevolent sexism also takes place when women are viewed as possessing low degrees of competency and high degrees of warmth. Although this is the result of a more positive stereotype of women, this still contributes to gender inequality as this stereotype is only applied to women who conform to the caring or nurturing stereotypes, with the remaining women still being discriminated against as they are not viewed in this positive light. Also, this form of sexism has negative effects as well, as these notions of women include the idea that women are weak and in need of the protection of men.

Discrimination also plays out with networking and in preferential treatment within the economic market. Men typically occupy positions of power within the job economy. Due to taste or preference for other men because they share similar characteristics, men in these positions of power are more likely to hire or promote other men, thus discriminating against women. Discrimination against men in the workplace is rarer but does occur, particularly in health care professions.

FACT! Only an estimated 0.4% of midwives in the UK are male.

Another reason which led to gender inequality is the physiological difference between male and female. Such a difference leads to different labour distribution, especially in a primary society where social productivity of labour is at a low level. In modern society, the distribution of power in society is still dominated by men - men earn more money than women, men own more property, men take out many more mortgages than women and men are still seen as physically stronger. Besides that, most companies prefer male staff to female staff. In economic activities such as production, distribution, exchange and consumption of materials information, women have been in a subordinate position. Consequently, the statuses of women have improved, however, at a rather slow rate. That is why sexism has always been a big problem in society.

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