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Sexism or gender discrimination is prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex or gender. Sexism affects both men and women, but primarily women. It has been linked to stereotypes and gender roles, and may include the belief that one sex or gender is intrinsically superior to another. Extreme sexism may foster sexual harassment, rape and other forms of sexual violence.
Sexism appeared in print in Caroline Bird's speech "On Being Born Female", published in November 1968, in Vital Speeches of the Day (p. 6). It was compared to racism and defined as judging people by their gender when gender is irrelevant. Sexism was identified as a means to keep the powers that be in power. Sheldon Vanauken is sometimes credited to have defined "sexism" in his pamphlet "Freedom for Movement Girls – Now".
Sexism is discrimination, prejudice, or stereotyping on the basis of gender. Sexism is most often expressed toward girls and women. It has been characterized as the "hatred of women" and "entrenched prejudice against women."
Certain forms of sexism are illegal in some countries; in others, it may be legally sanctioned.
In various ancient societies, especially the Stone Age, women held many equal positions with men. Women in Ancient Egypt and women of the Anglo-Saxon era were also commonly afforded equal status. Evidence, however, is lacking to support the idea that many pre-agricultural societies afforded women a higher status than women today. After the adoption of agriculture and sedentary cultures, the concept that one gender was inferior to the other was established; most often this was imposed upon women and girls. Examples of sexism in the ancient world include written laws preventing women from participating in the political process. Women in ancient Rome could not vote or hold political office.
Sexism may have been the impetus that fueled the witch trials between the 15th and 18th centuries. In early modern Europe and in the European colonies in North America claims were made that witches were a threat to Christendom. The misogyny of that period played a role in the persecution of these women.
In Malleus Malificarum, the book which played a major role in the witch hunts and trials, the authors argue that women are more likely to practice witchcraft than men, and write that:
Witchcraft remains illegal in several countries, including Saudi Arabia, where it is punishable by death. In 2011 a woman was beheaded in that country for 'witchcraft and sorcery'. Murders of women after being accused of witchcraft remain common in some parts of the world; for example, in Tanzania, about 500 elderly women are murdered each year following such accusations.
Until the 20th century, U.S. and English law observed the system of coverture, where "by marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law; that is the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage". U.S. women were not legally defined as "persons" until 1875 (Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162). A similar legal doctrine, named marital power, existed under Roman Dutch law (and is still partially in force in present day Swaziland).
In 1957, James Everett, then Minister for Justice in Ireland, stated that: "The progress of organised society is judged by the status occupied by married women." Restrictions on married women's rights were common in Western countries until a few decades ago: for instance, French married women obtained the right to work without their husband's permission in 1965, and in West Germany women obtained this right in 1977. During the Franco era, in Spain, a married woman required her husband's consent (called permiso marital) for employment, ownership of property and traveling away from home; the permiso marital was abolished in 1975.
Women in parts of the world continue to lose legal rights at marriage. For example, Yemeni marriage regulations state that a wife must obey her husband and must not leave home without his permission. In Iraq, the law allows husbands to legally "punish" their wives. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Family Code states that the husband is the head of the household; the wife owes her obedience to her husband; a wife has to live with her husband wherever he chooses to live; and wives must have their husbands' authorization to bring a case in court or to initiate other legal proceedings.
Abuses and discriminatory practices against women in marriage are often rooted in financial payments such as dowry, bride price, and dower. These transactions often serve as legitimizing coercive control of the wife by her husband and in giving him authority over her; for instance Article 13 of the Code of Personal Status (Tunisia) states that "The husband shall not, in default of payment of the dower, force the woman to consummate the marriage",  implying that, if the dower is payed, marital rape is permitted (in this regard, critics have questioned the alleged gains of women in Tunisia, and its image as a progressive country in the region; arguing that discrimination against women remains very strong in that country  ).
The OMCT has recognized the "independence and ability to leave an abusive husband" as crucial in stopping mistreatment of women. However, in some parts of the world, once married, women have very little chance of leaving a violent husband: obtaining a divorce is very difficult in many jurisdictions because of the need to prove fault in court; while attempting a de facto separation (moving away from the marital home) is also not possible due to laws preventing this. For instance, in Afghanistan, a wife who leaves her marital home risks being imprisoned for "running away". In addition, many former British colonies, including India, maintain the concept of restitution of conjugal rights, under which a wife may be ordered by court to return to her husband; if she fails to do so she may be held in contempt of court. Other problems have to do with the payment of the bride price: if the wife wants to leave, her husband may demand back the bride price that he had paid to the woman's family; and the woman's family often cannot or does not want to pay it back.
Laws, regulations, and traditions related to marriage continue to discriminate against women in many parts of the world, and to contribute to the mistreatment of women, in particular in areas related to sexual violence and to self-determination in regard to sexuality, the violation of the latter now being acknowledged as a violation of women's rights; in 2012, Navi Pillay, then High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated that:
Gender has been used, at times, as a tool of discrimination against women in the political sphere. Women's suffrage was not achieved until 1893, when New Zealand was the first country to grant women the right to vote. Saudi Arabia was the last country to grant women the right to vote in 2011. Some Western countries allowed women the right to vote only relatively recently: Swiss women gained the right to vote in federal elections in 1971, and Appenzell Innerrhoden became the last canton to grant women the right to vote on local issues (in 1991, when it was forced to do so by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland). French women were granted the right to vote in 1944. In Greece, women obtained the right to vote in 1952.
While almost every woman today has the right to vote, there is still progress to be made for women in politics. Studies have shown that in several democracies including Australia, Canada and the United States, women are still represented using deep-rooted gender stereotypes in the press  Multiple authors have shown that gender differences in the media are less evident today than they used to be in the 1980s, but are nonetheless still present. Certain issues (e.g., education) are likely to be linked with female candidates, while other issues (e.g., taxes) are likely to be linked with male candidates. In addition, there is more emphasis on female candidates' personal qualities, such as their appearance and their personality, as females are portrayed as emotional and dependent.
Sexism in politics can also be shown in the imbalance of law making power between men and women. Lanyan Chen asserts that men hold more political power than women, serving as the gatekeepers of policy making. It is possible that this leads to women's needs not being properly represented. In this sense, the inequality of law making power also causes the gender discrimination in politics. The ratio of women to men in legislatures is used as a measure of gender equality in the UN created Gender Empowerment Measure and its newer incarnation the Gender Inequality Index.
Gender stereotypes are widely held beliefs about the characteristics and behavior of women and men. Empirical studies have found widely shared cultural beliefs that men are more socially valued and more competent than women in a number of activities. Dustin B. Thoman and others (2008) hypothesize that "The socio-cultural salience of ability versus other components of the gender-math stereotype may impact women pursuing math." Through the experiment comparing the math outcomes of women under two various gender-math stereotype components, which are the ability of math and the effort on math respectively, Thoman and others found that women’s math performance is more likely to be affected by the negative ability stereotype, which is influenced by sociocultural beliefs in the United States, rather than the effort component. As a result of this experiment and the sociocultural beliefs in the United States, Thoman and others concluded that individuals' academic outcomes can be affected by the gender-math stereotype component that is influenced by the sociocultural beliefs.
In the World Values Survey, responders were asked if they thought that wage work should be restricted to only men in the case of shortage in jobs. While in Iceland the proportion that agreed was 3.6 percent, in Egypt it was 94.9 percent.
Some people believe a phenomenon known as stereotype threat can lower women's performance on mathematics tests, creating a self-fulfilling stereotype of women having inferior quantitative skills compared to men. Stereotypes can also affect self-assessment; studies found that specific stereotypes (e.g., women have lower mathematical abilities) affect women's and men's perceptions of those abilities, and men assess their own task ability higher than women who perform at the same level. These "biased self-assessments" have far-reaching effects, because they can shape men and women's educational and career decisions.
Gender roles are behaviors and tasks which society associates with each gender. In the United States, men are typically expected to be stoic, decisive, direct, athletic, strong, driven, and brave; women are expected to be emotional, nurturing, affectionate, home-oriented and forgiving.
According to the OECD, women's labor-market behavior "is influenced by learned cultural and social values that may be thought to discriminate against women (and sometimes against men) by stereotyping certain work and life styles as 'male' or 'female'." The organization contends that women's educational choices "may be dictated, at least in part, by their expectations that [certain] types of employment opportunities are not available to them, as well as by gender stereotypes that are prevalent in society."
Professional discrimination against women in the workplace continues. One study in 1996 found that 50 percent of women in government jobs reported that they had experienced discrimination while performing a work-related task, and 20 percent of female government employees reported that they experienced gender discrimination at work. Women do not receive equal pay for equal work, and are less likely to be promoted.
In 1833, women working in factories earned one-quarter of what men earned; in 2007, women's median annual paychecks were $0.78 for every $1.00 earned by men. A study showed that women comprised 87 percent of workers in the child-care industry, and 86 percent of the health-aide industry. Others contest the wage gap, saying the difference in pay primarily reflects different career and work-hours choices by men and women rather than sexism.
A 2009 study found that being overweight harms women's career advancement, but presents no barrier for men. Overweight women were significantly underrepresented among company bosses, making up between 5% and 22% of female CEOs. However, the proportion of overweight male CEOs was between 45% and 61%, over-representing overweight men. On the other hand, approximately 5% of CEOs were obese among both genders. The author of the study stated that the results suggest that "the 'glass ceiling effect' on women's advancement may reflect not only general negative stereotypes about the competencies of women, but also weight bias that results in the application of stricter appearance standards to women. Overweight women are evaluated more negatively than overweight men. There is a tendency to hold women to harsher weight standards."
Transgender people also experience workplace discrimination and harassment. Unlike sex-based discrimination, the refusal to hire (or firing) a worker for their gender identity or expression is not explicitly illegal in most U.S. states.
Gender discrimination is closely related to the patriarchy. The stereotypes, to some extent, are formed because of the patriarchy. Patriarchy is a social system in which males are the primary authority figures central to social organization, occupying roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property, and where fathers hold authority over women and children. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination.
Sexism in language exists when language devalues members of a certain gender. Sexist language in many instances promotes male superiority. Sexism in language affects consciousness, perceptions of reality, encoding and transmitting cultural meanings and socialization. Researchers have pointed to the semantic rule in operation in language of the male-as-norm. This results in sexism as the male becomes the standard and those who are not male are relegated to the inferior. Sexism in language is considered a form of indirect sexism, in that it is not always overt.
Various feminist movements in the 20th century, from liberal feminism and radical feminism to standpoint feminism, postmodern feminism and queer theory have all considered language in their theorizing. Most of these theories have maintained a critical stance on language that calls for a change in the way speakers use their language.
One of the most common calls is for gender-neutral language. Many have called attention, however, to the fact that the English language isn't inherently sexist in its linguistic system, but rather the way it is used becomes sexist and gender-neutral language could thus be employed. At the same time, other oppose critiques of sexism in language with explanations that language is a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, and attempts to control it can be fruitless.
Romanic languages such as French and Spanish may be seen as reinforcing sexism, in that the masculine form is the default form. The word 'mademoiselle', meaning miss was declared banished from the French language in 2012 by Prime Minister François Fillon. Current pressure calls for the use of the masculine plural pronoun as the default in a mixed-sex group to change. As to Spanish, Mexico's Ministry of the Interior published a guide on how to reduce the use of sexist language.
In Chinese, some writers have pointed to sexism inherent in the structure of written characters. For example, the character for man is linked to those for positive qualities like courage and effect while the character for wife is composed of a female part and a broom, considered of low worth.
Gender-specific pejorative terms intimidate or harm another person because of their gender. Sexism can be expressed in language with negative gender-oriented implications, such as condescension. For example, one may refer to a female as a "girl" rather than a "woman" or a male as a "boy" rather than a man, implying that they are subordinate or not fully mature. Other examples include obscene language. Some words are offensive to transgender people, including "tranny", "she-male", or "he-she". Intentional misgendering (assigning the wrong gender to someone) and the pronoun "it" are also considered pejorative.
In 2008, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that while female employment rates have expanded and gender employment and wage gaps have narrowed nearly everywhere, on average women still have 20 percent less chance to have a job and are paid 17 percent less than men. The report stated:
[In] many countries, labour market discrimination—i.e. the unequal treatment of equally productive individuals only because they belong to a specific group—is still a crucial factor inflating disparities in employment and the quality of job opportunities [...] Evidence presented in this edition of the Employment Outlook suggests that about 8 percent of the variation in gender employment gaps and 30 percent of the variation in gender wage gaps across OECD countries can be explained by discriminatory practices in the labour market.
Women who enter predominantly male work groups can experience the negative consequences of tokenism: performance pressures, social isolation, and role encapsulation. Tokenism could be used to camouflage sexism, to preserve male worker's advantage in the workplace. No link exists between the proportion of women working in an organization/company and the improvement of their working conditions. Ignoring sexist issues may exacerbate women’s occupational problems.
Studies have concluded that on average women earn lower wages than men worldwide. Some economists and feminists argue that this is the result of widespread gender discrimination in the workplace. Others argue that the wage gap is a result of different choices by men and women, such as women placing more value than men on having children, and men being more likely than women to choose careers in high paying fields such as business, engineering and technology. The prevailing view among economists is that the wage gap is the result of a combination of both of these factors.
Eurostat found a persistent, average gender pay gap of 17.5 percent in the 27 EU member states in 2008. Similarly, the OECD found that female full-time employees earned 17 percent less than their male counterparts in OECD countries in 2009.
In the United States, the female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.77 in 2009; female full-time, year-round (FTYR) workers earned 77 percent as much as male FTYR workers. Women's earnings relative to men's fell from 1960 to 1980 (60.7 percent to 60.2 percent), rose rapidly from 1980 to 1990 (60.2 to 71.6 percent), leveled off from 1990 to 2000 (71.6 to 73.7 percent) and rose from 2000 to 2009 (73.7 to 77.0 percent). When the first Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, female full-time workers earned 58.9 percent as much as male full-time workers.
Research conducted in the Czech and Slovak Republics shows that, even after the governments passed anti-discrimination legislation, two thirds of the gender gap in wages remained unexplained and segregation continued to "represent a major source of the gap".
The gender gap can also vary across-occupation and within occupation. In Taiwan, for example, studies show how the bulk of gender wage discrepancies occur within-occupation. In Russia, research shows that the gender wage gap is distributed unevenly across income levels, and that it mainly occurs at the lower end of income distribution. The research also found that "wage arrears and payment in-kind attenuated wage discrimination, particularly amongst the lowest paid workers, suggesting that Russian enterprise managers assigned lowest importance to equity considerations when allocating these forms of payment."
The gender pay gap has been attributed to differences in personal and workplace characteristics between men and women (such as education, hours worked and occupation), innate behavioral and biological differences between men and women and discrimination in the labor market (such as gender stereotypes and customer and employer bias). Women currently take significantly more time off to raise children than men. In certain countries such as South Korea, it has also been a long-established practice to lay-off female employees upon marriage. A study by professor Linda Babcock in her book Women Don't Ask shows that men are eight times more likely to ask for a pay raise, suggesting that pay inequality may be partly a result of behavioral differences between the sexes. However, studies generally find that a portion of the gender pay gap remains unexplained after accounting for factors assumed to influence earnings; the unexplained portion of the wage gap is attributed to gender discrimination.
Estimates of the discriminatory component of the gender pay gap vary. The OECD estimated that approximately 30 percent of the gender pay gap across OECD countries is due to discrimination. Australian research shows that discrimination accounts for approximately 60 percent of the wage differential between men and women. Studies examining the gender pay gap in the United States show that a large portion of the wage differential remains unexplained, after controlling for factors affecting pay. One study of college graduates found that the portion of the pay gap unexplained after all other factors are taken into account is five percent one year after graduating and twelve percent a decade after graduation. A study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that women graduates in the United States are paid less than men doing the same work and majoring in the same field.
Wage discrimination is theorized as contradicting the economic concept of supply and demand, which states that if a good or service (in this case, labor) is in demand and has value it will find its price in the market. If a worker offered equal value for less pay, supply and demand would indicate a greater demand for lower-paid workers. If a business hired lower-wage workers for the same work, it would lower its costs and enjoy a competitive advantage. According to supply and demand, if women offered equal value demand (and wages) should rise since they offer a better price (lower wages) for their service than men do.
Research at Cornell University and elsewhere indicates that mothers in the United States are less likely to be hired than equally-qualified fathers and, if hired, receive a lower salary than male applicants with children. The OECD found that "a significant impact of children on women’s pay is generally found in the United Kingdom and the United States". Fathers earn $7,500 more, on average, than men without children do.
According to Denise Venable at the National Center for Policy Analysis, the "wage gap" in the United States is not the result of discrimination but of differences in lifestyle choices. Venable's report found that women are less likely than men to sacrifice personal happiness for increases in income or to choose full-time work. She found that among American adults working between one and thirty-five hours a week and part-time workers who have never been married, women earn more than men. Venable also found that among people aged 27 to 33 who have never had a child, women's earnings approach 98 percent of men's and "women who hold positions and have skills and experience similar to those of men face wage disparities of less than 10 percent, and many are within a couple of points". Venable concluded that women and men with equal skills and opportunities in the same positions face little or no wage discrimination: "Claims of unequal pay almost always involve comparing apples and oranges".
There is considerable agreement that gender wage discrimination exists, however, when it comes to estimating its magnitude, significant discrepancies are visible. A meta-regression analysis concludes that "the estimated gender gap has been steadily declining" and that the wage rate calculation is proven to be crucial in estimating the wage gap. The analysis further notes that excluding experience and failing to correct for selection bias from analysis might also bring to incorrect conclusions.
"The popular notion of glass ceiling effects implies that gender (or other) disadvantages are stronger at the top of the hierarchy than at lower levels and that these disadvantages become worse later in a person's career."
In the United States, women account for 47 percent of the overall labor force, and yet they make up only 6 percent of corporate CEOs and top executives. Some researchers see the root cause of this situation in the tacit discrimination based on gender, conducted by current top executives and corporate directors (primarily male), as well as "the historic absence of women in top positions", which “may lead to hysteresis, preventing women from accessing powerful, male-dominated professional networks, or same-sex mentors”. The glass ceiling effect is noted as being especially persistent for women of color (according to a report, "women of colour perceive a 'concrete ceiling' and not simply a glass ceiling").
In the economics profession, it has been observed that women are more inclined than men to dedicate their time to teaching and service. Since continuous research work is crucial for promotion, "the cumulative effect of small, contemporaneous differences in research orientation could generate the observed significant gender difference in promotion". In the high-tech industry, research shows that, regardless of the intra-firm changes, "extra-organizational pressures will likely contribute to continued gender stratification as firms upgrade, leading to the potential masculinization of skilled high-tech work".
Research by David Matsa and Amalia Miller suggests that a possible remedy to the glass ceiling could be increasing the number of women on corporate boards, which could subsequently lead to increases in the number of women working in top management positions. The same research suggests that this could also result in a "feedback cycle in which the presence of more female managers increases the qualified pool of potential female board members (for the companies they manage, as well as other companies), leading to greater female board membership and then further increases in female executives."
Objectification is treating a person, usually a woman, as an object. Feminist writer and gender equality activist Joy Goh-Mah argues that by being objectified, a person is denied agency. Sexual objectification is where a person is viewed primarily in terms of sexual appeal or as a source of sexual gratification. This is sometimes regarded as a form of sexism. Nussbaum has identified the seven features of treating a human as an object as the following:
According to objectification theory objectification can have important repercussions on women, particularly young women, as it can lead to mental disorders (depression, eating disorders, etc.).
Objectification can take place in a variety of areas, such as in advertising and pornography.
While advertising used to portray women in obvious stereotypical ways (e.g., as a housewife), women in today's advertisements are no longer solely confined to the house. However, advertising today nonetheless still stereotypes women, albeit in more subtle ways, including by sexually objectifying them. This is problematic because there appears to be a relationship between the manner in which women are portrayed in advertising and people’s ideas about the role of women in society. Research has shown that gender role stereotyping in advertising is linked to negative attitudes towards women, as well as more acceptance of sexual aggression against women and rape myth acceptance. Furthermore, gender role stereotyping in advertisements may be injurious to women, as it is linked to negative body image and the development of eating disorders.
Traditionally, in Western countries, advertising was regulated under "obscenity" laws. These dealt with nudity and "indecent" poses, not with objectification itself.
Today, some countries (for example Norway and Denmark) have laws against sexual objectification in advertising. Nudity is not banned, and nude people can be used to advertise a product if they are relevant to the product advertised. Sol Olving, head of Norway's Kreativt Forum (an association of the country's top advertising agencies) explained, "You could have a naked person advertising shower gel or a cream, but not a woman in a bikini draped across a car".
Other countries continue to ban nudity (on traditional obscenity grounds), but also make explicit reference to sexual objectification, such as Israel's ban of billboards that "depicts sexual humiliation or abasement, or presents a human being as an object available for sexual use".
Anti-pornography feminist Catharine MacKinnon argues that pornography contributes to sexism by objectifying women and portraying them in submissive roles. MacKinnon, along with Andrea Dworkin, argues that pornography reduces women to mere tools, and is a form of sex discrimination. The scholars highlight the link between objectification and pornography by stating:
"We define pornography as the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and words that also includes (i) women are presented dehumanized as sexual objects, things, or commodities; or (ii) women are presented as sexual objects who enjoy humiliation or pain; or (iii) women are presented as sexual objects experiencing sexual pleasure in rape, incest or other sexual assault; or (iv) women are presented as sexual objects tied up, cut up or mutilated or bruised or physically hurt; or (v) women are presented in postures or positions of sexual submission, servility, or display; or (vi) women's body parts—including but not limited to vaginas, breasts, or buttocks — are exhibited such that women are reduced to those parts; or (vii) women are presented being penetrated by objects or animals; or (viii) women are presented in scenarios of degradation, humiliation, injury, torture, shown as filthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual." Robin Morgan and Catharine MacKinnon suggest that certain types of pornography also contribute to violence against women by eroticizing scenes in which women are dominated, coerced, humiliated or sexually assaulted.
Some people opposed to pornography, including MacKinnon, charge that the production of pornography entails physical, psychological and economic coercion of the women who perform and model in it. Opponents of pornography charge that it presents a distorted image of sexual relations and reinforces sexual myths; it shows women as continually available and willing to engage in sex at any time, with any person, on their terms, responding positively to any requests. They write:
Pornography affects people's belief in rape myths. So for example if a woman says "I didn't consent" and people have been viewing pornography, they believe rape myths and believe the woman did consent no matter what she said. That when she said no, she meant yes. When she said she didn't want to, that meant more beer. When she said she would prefer to go home, that means she's a lesbian who needs to be given a good corrective experience. Pornography promotes these rape myths and desensitizes people to violence against women so that you need more violence to become sexually aroused if you're a pornography consumer. This is very well documented.
Defenders of pornography and anti-censorship activists (including sex-positive feminists) argue that pornography does not seriously impact a mentally healthy individual, since the viewer can distinguish between fantasy and reality. They contend that both sexes are objectified in pornography (particularly sadistic or masochistic pornography, in which men are objectified and sexually used by women).
Prostitution is the business or practice of engaging in sexual relations in exchange for payment. Sex workers are often objectified and are seen as existing only to serve clients, thus calling their sense of agency into question. There is a prevailing notion that because they sell sex professionally, prostitutes automatically consent to all sexual contact. As a result, sex workers face higher rates of violence and sexual assault. This is often dismissed, ignored and not taken seriously by authorities.
In many countries, prostitution is dominated by brothels or pimps, who often claim ownership over sex workers. This sense of ownership furthers the concept that sex workers are void of agency. This is literally the case in instances of sexual slavery.
Some argue that female prostitution is based on male sexism that condones the idea that unwanted sex with a woman is acceptable, that men's desires must be satisfied, and that women are coerced into and exist to serve men sexually. The European Women's Lobby condemned prostitution as "an intolerable form of male violence".
Some scholars believe that media portrayals of demographic groups can both maintain and disrupt attitudes and behaviors toward those groups.[page needed][page needed] According to Susan Douglas, "Since the early 1990s, much of the media have come to overrepresent women as having made it-completely-in the professions, as having gained sexual equality with men, and having achieved a level of financial success and comfort enjoyed primarily by Tiffany's-encrusted doyennes of Laguna Beach." These images are often harmful, particularly to women and racial and ethnic minority groups. For example, a study of African American women found they feel that media portrayals of African American women often reinforce stereotypes of this group as overly sexual and idealize images of lighter-skinned, thinner African American women (images African American women describe as objectifying). In a recent analysis of images of Haitian women in the Associated Press photo archive from 1994 to 2009, several themes emerged emphasizing the "otherness" of Haitian women and characterizing them as victims in need of rescue.
In an attempt to study the effect of media consumption on males, Samantha and Bridges found an effect on body shame, though not through self-objectification as it was found in comparable studies of women. The authors conclude that the current measures of objectification were designed for women and do not measure men accurately. Another study also found a negative effect on eating attitudes and body satisfaction of consumption of beauty and fitness magazines for women and men respectively, but again with different mechanisms, namely self-objectification for women and internalization for men.
Some feminists argue that sexist jokes can be a form of sexual objectification, which reduce the butt of the joke to an object. They not only objectify women or men, but can also condone violence or prejudice against men or women. "Sexist humor—the denigration of women through humor—for instance, trivializes sex discrimination under the veil of benign amusement, thus precluding challenges or opposition that nonhumorous sexist communication would likely incur." A study of 73 male undergraduate students by Ford found that "sexist humor can promote the behavioral expression of prejudice against women amongst sexist men". According to the study, when sexism is presented in a humorous manner it is viewed as tolerable and socially acceptable. "Disparagement of women through humor 'freed' sexist participants from having to conform to the more general and more restrictive norms regarding discrimination against women." One example of sexist language is that used as slogans on the back of the Wicked Campers company such as, "If you've ever met a woman with crooked teeth, you've met a woman who has given Chuck Norris a blow job."
Gender discrimination is discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity. Gender identity is "the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth." Gender discrimination is theoretically different from sexism. Whereas, sexism is prejudice based on biological sex, gender discrimination specifically addresses discrimination towards identity based orientations, including third gender, genderqueer, and other non-binary identified people. Banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression has emerged as a subject of contention in the American legal system.
Legal interpretation of "sex" under Title VII of the United States' Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has, since the ruling of Price Waterhouse, encompassed both gender and sex. Since first introduced in Congress since 1993 at the 103rd Congress, ENDA has taken different stances on the inclusion of gender discrimination under the term "sex". More recently, the stated purpose of the legislation is "to address the history and persistent, widespread pattern of discrimination, including unconstitutional discrimination, on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by private sector employers and local, State, and Federal Government employers," as well as to provide effective remedies for such discrimination. However, under current law Title VII does not expressly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or transsexualism. The myriad forms of discrimination associated with gender non-conformity are therefore not expressly addressed nor protected under the ENDA.
According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, "although the majority of federal courts to consider the issue have concluded that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is not sex discrimination, there have been several courts that have reached the opposite conclusion in the years since the Supreme Court's decision in Price Waterhouse." Hurst states, "Courts often confuse sex, gender and sexual orientation, and confuse them in a way that results in denying the rights not only of gays and lesbians, but also of those who do not present themselves or act in a manner traditionally expected of their sex." Scholars have suggested amending the EDNA to include these gender orientations. However, counter arguments question whether Title VII is general enough to include sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in legal claims.
Transgender discrimination is discrimination towards peoples whose gender identity differs from the social expectations of the biological sex they were born with. Forms of discrimination include but are not limited to identity documents not reflecting one's gender, sex-segregated public restrooms and other facilities, dress codes according to binary gender codes, and lack of access to and existence of appropriate health care services. In a recent adjudication, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) concluded that discrimination against a transgendered individual is sex discrimination.
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the most extensive survey of transgender discrimination, in collaboration with the National Black Justice Coalition recently showed that Black transgender people in the United States suffer "the combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent, structural and individual racism" and that "black transgender people live in extreme poverty that is more than twice the rate for transgender people of all races (15%), four times the general Black population rate 9% and over eight times the general US population rate (4%)". In another study conducted in collaboration with the League of United Latin American Citizens, Latino/a transgender people who were non-citizens were most vulnerable to harassment, abuse and violence.
Sexism takes a number of forms, and is sometimes subtle or unconscious.
Although the exact rates are widely disputed, there is a large body of cross-cultural evidence that women are subjected to domestic violence significantly more often than men. In addition, there is broad consensus that women are more often subjected to severe forms of abuse and are more likely to be injured by an abusive partner. The United Nations recognizes domestic violence as part of gender-based violence, which it describes as a human rights violation, and the result of sexism.
Domestic violence is tolerated and even legally accepted in many parts of the world. For instance, in 2010, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)'s Supreme Court ruled that a man has the right to physically discipline his wife and children if he does not leave physical marks. In 2015, Equality Now noted in its section on "Discriminatory law in force" the Section 55 of the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria, titled Correction of Child, Pupil, Servant or Wife which reads: "(1) Nothing is an offence which does not amount to the infliction of grievous hurt upon any persons which is done: (...) (d) by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife, such husband and wife being subject to any native law or custom in which such correction is recognized as lawful."
Honor killings are a form of domestic violence which continues to be practiced in several parts of the world. The victims of honor killings are usually women. Honor killings can occur because of refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate, or engaging in homosexual relations. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime states that, "Honour crimes, including killing, are one of history’s oldest forms of gender-based violence."
According to a report of the Special Rapporteur submitted to the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights concerning cultural practices in the family that reflect violence against women:
The Special Rapporteur indicated that there had been contradictory decisions with regard to the honour defense in Brazil, and that legislative provisions allowing for partial or complete defense in that context could be found in the penal codes of Argentina, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Peru, Syria, Venezuela and the Palestinian National Authority.
Practices such as honor killings and stoning continue to be supported by mainstream politicians and other officials in some countries. In Pakistan, after the 2008 Balochistan honour killings in which five women were killed by tribesmen of the Umrani Tribe of Balochistan, Pakistani Federal Minister for Postal Services Israr Ullah Zehri defended the practice: "These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them. Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid." Following the 2006 case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani (which has placed Iran under international pressure for its stoning sentences), Mohammad-Javad Larijani (a senior envoy and chief of Iran’s Human Rights Council) defended the practice of stoning; he claimed it was a "lesser punishment" than execution, because it allowed those convicted a chance at survival.
Dowry deaths are deaths of women or girls who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous harassment and violence by husbands and in-laws in an effort to extort an increased dowry. Dowry deaths are most common in countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. According to Amnesty International, "the ongoing reality of dowry-related violence is an example of what can happen when women are treated as property."
Female infanticide is the killing of newborn female children or the termination of a female fetus through selective abortion. It is a form of gendercide, and is an extreme form of gender-based violence. Female infanticide is more common than male infanticide, and is especially prevalent in Southeast Asia, such as parts of India and China. Recent studies suggest that over 90 million girls and women are missing in China and India as a result of infanticide.
Sex-selective abortion involves terminating a pregnancy based upon the predicted sex of the baby. The abortion of female fetuses is most common in areas where the culture values male children over females, such as parts of the China, India, Pakistan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Caucasus. One reason for this preference is that males are seen as generating more income than females. The trend has grown steadily over the previous decade, and may result in a future shortage of women.
Forced sterilization and forced abortion are forms of gender-based violence. Forced sterilization was practiced during the first half of the 20th century by many Western countries and there are reports of this practice being currently employed in some countries, such as Uzbekistan and China.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons". WHO states that, "The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women" and "[p]rocedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn death" and "FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women". The European Parliament, in its resolution against FGM, stated that "FGM clearly goes against the European founding value of equality between women and men and maintains traditional values according to which women are seen as the objects and properties of men".
According to a 2013 UNICEF report, 125 million women and girls in Africa and the Middle East have experienced FGM. The highest prevalence in Africa is documented in Somalia (98 percent of women affected), Guinea (96 percent), Djibouti (93 percent), Egypt (91 percent), Eritrea (89 percent), Mali (89 percent), Sierra Leone (88 percent), Sudan (88 percent), Gambia (76 percent), Burkina Faso (76 percent), Ethiopia (74 percent), Mauritania (69 percent), Liberia (66 percent), and Guinea-Bissau (50 percent).
Infibulation, the most extreme form of FGM, also known as Type III, consists in the removal of the inner and outer labia and closure of the vulva, with a small hole being left for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. Subsequently, the vagina is opened after the wedding for sexual intercourse and childbirth. This procedure is practiced primary in Northeast Africa, in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan.
Research into factors motivating perpetrators of sexual assault, including rape, against women frequently reveals a pattern of hatred towards women and pleasure in inflicting psychological and physical trauma, rather than sexual interest. Mary Odem and Peggy Reeves Sanday posit that rape is the result not of pathology but of systems of male dominance, cultural practices and beliefs.
Mary Odem, Jody Clay-Warner, and Susan Brownmiller consider that sexist attitudes are propagated by a series of myths about rape and rapists. :130–140  They state that in contrast to those myths, rapists often plan a rape before they choose a victim and acquaintance rape (not assault by a stranger) is the most common form of rape.:xiv Odem also asserts that these rape myths propagate sexist attitudes about men, by perpetuating the belief that men cannot control their sexuality.
In Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti argue that in the US rape is most often popularly depicted (in the media, in public discourse, in movies etc.) as stranger-rape (with a stereotypical stranger who "jumps out of the bushes"), despite the fact that most rapes do not fit this stereotype. In presenting rape in this way to the public, patriarchal society ensures that women are kept under control, at home/indoors, living their life according to traditional gender roles and expectations, dressed 'modestly'. This leads to an ideology that women are safe at home (ignoring rape by family members/partners), and to blaming of victims.[page needed]
Sexism can promote the stigmatization of women and girls who have been raped and inhibit recovery. In many parts of the world, women who have been raped are ostracized, rejected by their families, subjected to violence, and—in extreme cases—may become victims of honor killings because they are deemed to have brought "shame" upon their families.
There is also a strong connection between rape and forced marriage, through practices such as forcing of a woman or girl who has been raped to marry her rapist, in order to restore the "honor" of her family; or marriage by abduction, a practice in which a man abducts the woman or girl whom he wishes to marry and rapes her, in order to force the marriage (this practice is very common in Ethiopia). The criminalization of marital rape is very recent, having occurred during the past few decades; and in many countries it is still legal. Several countries in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia made spousal rape illegal before 1970; other countries in Western Europe and the English-speaking Western World outlawed it later, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s. In some parts of the world the lack of criminalization of marital rape coupled with the practice of child marriage leads to serious forms of child sexual abuse being legitimized. The WHO wrote that: "Marriage is often used to legitimize a range of forms of sexual violence against women. The custom of marrying off young children, particularly girls, is found in many parts of the world. This practice—legal in many countries—is a form of sexual violence, since the children involved are unable to give or withhold their consent".
In countries where fornication or adultery are illegal, victims of rape can be charged under these laws (even if the victims succeed in proving their rape case, they can still be charged with a criminal offense if the court finds they were not virgins at the time of the assault—if they were unmarried).
Sexism is manifested by the crime of rape targeting women civilians and soldiers, committed by soldiers, combatants or civilians during armed conflict, war or military occupation. This arises from the long tradition of women being seen as sexual booty and from the misogynistic culture of military training.
Sexual violence and rape are also committed against men during war and are often under-reported; sexism comes into play in the difficulty that the survivors have in dealing with having been raped, especially in patriarchal cultures, and in the lack of support provided to men who have been raped.
A child marriage is a marriage where one or both spouses are under 18, and disproportionally affects women. Child marriages are most common in South Asia, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, but occur in other parts of the world, too. The practice of marrying young girls is rooted in patriarchal ideologies of control of female behavior, and is also sustained by traditional practices such as dowry and bride price. Child marriage is strongly connected with the protection of female virginity. UNICEF states that:
Consequences of child marriage include restricted education and employment prospects, increased risk of domestic violence, child sexual abuse, pregnancy and birth complications, social isolation. Early and forced marriage are defined as forms of modern-day slavery by the International Labour Organisation.
According to the UN, the ten countries with the highest rates of child marriage are: Niger (75%), Chad and Central African Republic (68%), Bangladesh (66%), Guinea, Mozambique, Mali, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, and Malawi.
In several OIC countries the legal testimony of a woman is worth legally half of that of a man (see Status of women's testimony in Islam). Such countries include: Algeria (in criminal cases), Bahrain (in Sharia courts), Egypt (in family courts), Iran (in most cases), Iraq (in some cases), Jordan (in Sharia courts), Kuwait (in family courts), Libya (in some cases), Morocco (in family cases), Palestine (in cases related to marriage, divorce and child custody), Qatar (in family law matters), Syria (in Sharia courts), United Arab Emirates (in some civil matters), Yemen (not allowed to testify at all in cases of adultery and retribution), and Saudi Arabia. Such laws have been criticized by Human Rights Watch and Equality Now as being discriminatory towards women.
In the United States, some studies have shown that for identical crimes, men are given harsher sentences than women. Controlling for arrest offense, criminal history and other pre-charge variables, sentences are over 60 percent heavier for men. Women are more likely to avoid charges entirely, and to avoid imprisonment if convicted. The gender disparity varies according to the nature of the case. For example, the gender gap is less pronounced in fraud cases than in drug trafficking and firearms. This disparity occurs in US federal courts, despite guidelines designed to avoid differential sentencing. The death penalty in may also suffer from gender bias. According to Shatz and Shatz, "The present study confirms what earlier studies have shown: that the death penalty is imposed on women relatively infrequently and that it is disproportionately imposed for the killing of women."
There have been myriad reasons postulated for the gender criminal justice disparity in the United States. One of the most common is expectation that women are predominately care-givers. Other possible reasons include the "girlfriend theory" (whereby women are seen as tools of their boyfriends), the theory that female defendants are more likely to cooperate with authorities, and that women are often successful at turning their violent crime into victimhood by citing defenses such as postpartum depression or battered wife syndrome. However, none of these theories account for the total disparity, and sexism has also been suggested as an underlying cause.
The criminal justice system in many common law countries has also been accused of discriminating against women. Provocation is, in many common law countries, a partial defense to murder, which converts what would have been murder into manslaughter. It is meant to be applied when a person kills in the "heat of passion" upon being "provoked" by the behavior of the victim. This defense has been criticized as being gendered, favoring men, due to it being used disproportionately in cases of adultery, and other domestic disputes when women are killed by their partners. As a result of the defense exhibiting a strong gender bias, and being a form of legitimization of male violence against women and minimization of the harm caused by violence against women, it has been abolished or restricted in several jurisdictions.
Transgender people face widespread discrimination while incarcerated. They are generally housed according to their legal birth sex, rather than their gender identity. Studies have shown that transgender people are at an increased risk for harassment and sexual assault in this environment. They may also be denied access to medical procedures related to their reassignment.
Some countries use stoning as a form of capital punishment. According to Amnesty International, the majority of those stoned are women and women are disproportionately affected by stoning because of sexism in the legal system.
Laws that dictate how women must dress are seen by many international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, as a form of gender discrimination. Amnesty International states that:
In many places, women who do not dress in socially and legally proscribed ways are often subjected to violence (for instance by the authorities, such as the religious police, by family members, or by the community).
Women have traditionally had limited access to higher education. In the past, when women were admitted to higher education, they were encouraged to major in less-intellectual subjects; the study of English literature in American and British colleges and universities was instituted as a field considered suitable to women's "lesser intellects".
Educational specialties in higher education produce and perpetuate the existing inequalities between men and women. Disparity persists particularly in computer and information science, where women received only 21 percent of the undergraduate degrees, and in engineering, where women obtained only 19 percent of the degrees in 2008. Only one out of five of physics doctorates in the US are awarded to women, and only about half of those women are American. Of all the physics professors in the country, only 14 percent are women.
World literacy is lower for females than for males. Data from CIA World Factbook shows that 79.7 percent of women are literate, compared to 88.6 percent of men (aged 15 and over). In some parts of the world, girls continue to be excluded from proper public or private education. In parts of Afghanistan, girls who go to school face serious violence from some local community members and religious groups. According to 2010 UN estimates, only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen had less than 90 girls per 100 boys at school. Studies of Sri Lankan economic development have suggested that increases in the life expectancy for girls encourages educational investment because a longer time horizon increases the value of investments that pay out over time.
Girls' educational opportunities and outcomes have greatly improved in the West. Since 1991, the proportion of women enrolled in college in the United States has exceeded the enrollment rate for men, and the gap has widened over time. As of 2007, women made up the majority—54 percent—of the 10.8 million college students enrolled in the United States. However, boys receive more attention, praise, blame and punishment in the grammar-school classroom, and "this pattern of more active teacher attention directed at male students continues at the postsecondary level". Over time, female students speak less in a classroom setting.
Some argue that the educational system has become "feminized", allowing girls more of a chance at success with a more "girl-friendly" environment in the classroom; this is seen to hinder boys by punishing "masculine" behavior and diagnosing boys with behavioral disorders.
Feminists argue that some fashion trends have been oppressive to women; they restrict women's movements, increase their vulnerability and endanger their health. The fashion industry has experienced various criticism, as their association of thin-models and beauty is seen as encouraging bulimia and anorexia nervosa within women, as well as locking female consumers into false feminine identities.
The assignment of gender specific baby clothes from young ages can be seen as sexist as it can instill in children from young ages a belief in negative gender stereotypes. An example of this is the assignment in some countries of the color pink to girls and blue to boys. This fashion, however, is a recent one; at the beginning of the 20th century the trend was the opposite: blue for girls and pink for boys. In the early 1900s, The Women's Journal wrote, "That pink being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." DressMaker magazine also explained, "The preferred colour to dress young boys in is pink. Blue is reserved for girls as it is considered paler, and the more dainty of the two colours, and pink is thought to be stronger (akin to red)."
Today, in most countries, it is considered inappropriate for boys to wear dresses and skirts, but this, again, is a modern worldview. For example, from the mid-16th century until the late 19th or early 20th century, young boys in the Western world were unbreeched and wore gowns or dresses until an age that varied between two and eight.
In common law jurisdictions like the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, some of the evidentiary jurisprudence clearly linked chastity with veracity. So women who were or had been sex workers, those who were ‘rumoured’ to be prostitutes or who were simply promiscuous and behaving ‘like a prostitute’ lacked credibility as complainants, which made it difficult for the prosecution to prove the sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt. Women in any of these categories were seen at law as ‘commonly available’ to men, as always consenting to sexual activity and thus, as not able to be raped. Men accused of sexual assault were therefore able to use evidence of prostitution to defend themselves, to undermine the credibility of rape complainants and to successfully avoid conviction.
Women are more often the victims of domestic violence than men and are more likely to suffer injuries and health consequences...
A conflict analysis of domestic violence, for example, would begin by noting that women are battered far more often and far more severely than are men...
UNICEF 2013, p. 182, identifies "sewn closed" as most common in Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia for 15–49 age group (survey in 2000 for Sudan was not included), and for daughters, Djibouti, Eritrea, Niger and Somalia. UNICEF statistical profiles on FGM, showing type of FGM: Djibouti (December 2013), Eritrea (July 2014), Somalia (December 2013).
Gerry Mackie, "Ending Footbinding and Infibulation: A Convention Account", American Sociological Review, 61(6), December 1996 (pp. 999–1017), p. 1002: "Infibulation, the harshest practice, occurs contiguously in Egyptian Nubia, the Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia, also known as Islamic Northeast Africa."
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