We are surrounded by it. Sexist or gender discrimination, also known as sexism, is prejudice or disregard for another person because of their gender. The mere fact being a man or a woman becomes a reason for looking down on, stereotyping, or segregating them.
The biggest problem is that these forms of discrimination are so ingrained in our daily lives that many times we’re unaware that they even exist. Although sometimes society takes small steps to eradicate these practices, there is still a long way to go. Let’s look at some of its most common forms.
Origin of gender discrimination
Gender is a social construct. For this reason, sexist attitudes promote stereotypes based on beliefs, assertions, and dogmas about gender roles. Most importantly, they have been developing socially and traditionally over time.
For example, think about the stereotypical man as the “head of the family”. He provides financially for the family, and the woman is expected to stay at home taking care of the children. This attitude, in addition being old-fashioned can seriously harm the victim’s mental health.
But beware. Although the first form of sexism to be identified was against women, this word should not be used as a synonym for chauvinism. Sexism is not exclusive to the female sex, but a form of discrimination that refers to both genders. It’s not just an individual thing either; it is completely integrated in our social institutions. There are countless studies that conclude that sexism is normalized and goes unnoticed.
We are not usually aware that we’re indirectly supporting sexist prejudices because we do not even recognize them when they’re right in front of us. What are these forms of gender discrimination?
Language and nuance
It’s not about changing your vocabulary or using fancy words that confuse rather than help. Many times, sexism manifests in things as banal as the language we use towards others. While a woman may be “girly” a little boy is already “a little man.” Why are we so oblivious to this?
If you go on a date with someone and you approach the door of the restaurant… Beware of excessive chivalry! For example, say the man opens the door for the women (“ladies first”) and she tries to let him go first but he flat out refuses. This is a problem. It is known as benevolent sexism and, unfortunately, is a habit for most.
But this behavior of letting ladies go first can also backfire on men. Often, this behavior is labeled as macho or paternalistic. On some occasions it can be. But if the intention is to be polite, that doesn’t mean they are looking down on women.
Should someone be flattered by a stranger evaluating their body in public? Do you have to like hearing someone’s opinion given out on the street, and loudly?
Women suffer the most from this form of gender discrimination. It’s common for them to hear compliments or abusive comments from construction workers or almost anyone. While it might seem flattering to receive praise, many women are afraid to walk on certain streets or be alone on them. It is uncomfortable, and at times violent.
Gender discrimination at work
In Spain the wage gap was so high that between November 8th and December 31st, women “worked for free”. The wage gap is so wide there that women earn on average almost 6,000 euros less than men every year. Therefore, they end up working almost 50 days free for the country or their company. It’s quite an eye-opener!
There are also many other cases worldwide. One of the most striking was Harvey Weinstein, one of the largest entrepreneurs in the United States. Countless women accused the producer of films like Pulp Fiction and The English Patient of sexually harassing them. Analysts talk about it as gender discrimination at work that could lead to a real cultural change.
The number of female students in science careers is still much lower than that of men. Do you think it is genetic or cultural? Do girls have to play with dolls and boys have to play with legos? Pink or blue? Deep-rooted beliefs that we talked about earlier are the causes of this polarity.
Let’s talk about a very striking example, known as the Matilda effect. It is the absence of recognition of women’s scientific work. Since 1901, men have received 97% of the Nobel Prizes. And the cause has not exactly been a lack of female candidates.
Minimization in sports
In the sports section of the news, women occupy barely a third of the total air time. Some attribute it to a lack of budget, but gender discrimination does not end or start there.
Women act as “decorations”, for example, in motorcycle competitions. In addition to this objectification, many doubt their ability to lead men simply because they are women (for example, Gala León, as captain of the Spanish Tennis Federation). More comments are made about their body, age or marital status than their merits. Without a doubt, equality has yet to be won.