Throughout this essay I will discuss some of the ways in which sexism shows itself in society, why it persists, and what can be done to reduce or eliminate it. In doing this I will critically discuss some definitions of sexism from structural, cultural, institutional, and personal perspectives. I will make reference to the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) and Equal Pay Acts (EPA), the significance of targets and agents, and also draw on my own experiences and observation. Within western society it can be said that sexism, in many ways, begins at birth and will continue throughout our lives.
This conditioning commences when boys are born, the most well known colour of clothing for them to wear is blue and newly born girls are dressed in pink. It is almost a must for young boys to be given gifts such as guns, cars, along with other macho objects such as a football kit. Girls, on the other hand, are expected to play with dolls and prams, tea sets and other feminine domestic items. As we develop in our lives boys are, more often than not, encouraged to help the fatherly figure around the home. This could entail handing a hammer to the male adult or given responsibility for dirtier chores, such as, taking the bin out.
In the meantime girls might be seen to be assisting the motherly figure with cooking, cleaning and washing the dishes. Young boys might be encouraged (rather not discouraged) to play football, climb trees and shoot pretend firearms with their male pals. Where young girls who might wish to take part in such fun would, more often than not, be called tomboys and frequently be told it wasn't ladylike to behave in this manner. Often we hear comments like she'll grow out of it and she should've been a boy or, in a young boys case, it's just a phase and little weirdo if he tends to prefer make-up or a toy vacuum to more selective male toys.
In schools, not so many years ago, boys were noted to take woodwork classes whereby girls were expected to take cookery. Boys cut up rats in science and girls learned needlework. Jane Austin books make classic sexist reading. Females in a physical education setting were made to wear embarrassing big blue knickers and boys wore more comfortable shorts. Whilst girls participated in the schools' curriculum of netball and gymnastics, boys participated in football, rugby and hockey. Why hockey? It is perceived as an aggressive, physical sport and probably more suited to the strength of males rather than the weakness of females????
Should we have single-sex schools? Notre Dame (Scotland's only single-sex female school) and Glasgow City Council (who run said school) are being challenged on the grounds it breaches the SDA. A mother is claiming her son is being discriminated against. (The Scotsman 12 June 2002) We have yet to reach the fact women doing the same job as a man is paid a lot less and, we won't even cover the topic where men think it amusing to crack uncouth and insulting jokes about women. Within the nursing profession the majority of nurses are women as it is deemed a maternal role, yet in the administration in the same department men dominate management.
Is it right that police officers be paid more than nurses? In our society women whinge, moan and nag. Men discuss and debate. Then we have the female who wishes to get involved in several intimate relationships in a very short period of time, which is fine as long as she knows she will be labelled a slut, slapper, cow, whore and so on. Men in a similar situation will be termed a stud and probably further encouraged to pursue more conquests. In my opinion, every heterosexual male wishes to sleep with virgin females and those same studs also wish to marry one.
In this stereotypical world the phallic symbol dominates our daily lives from a bottle of beer to a banana, through the tools we write with to the Empire State Building. The trains we travel on to the gear stick we change in our cars. Even in the macho world of James Bond 007 women are further demeaned as its female characters are named such as Pussy Galore, Xenia Onatopp, Honey Ryder, Octupussy, the list goes on and on. However, not wishing to dampen the spirits of men the world over, James Bond can't be that butch as he drinks Champagne and Martini (shaken not stirred) and not the usual pint of beer.
And he's got more changes of outfit than Barbie and he's always immaculately dressed. As Jeanette Winterson (Guardian September 13, 2002) said, there's nothing wrong with James Bond liking clothes, but it's a girl thing. In many cultures there are arranged marriages yet the men are encouraged to go about their daily lives whereas women are obliged to cover their bodies in materials from head to toe and, never to speak with another man. Girls, in certain cultures, are also sold to men.
To the extreme end of the scale, not in the too distant past, females born as a first child in Chinese culture were abandoned or murdered because they weren't boys, therefore not perceived as the honourable direct family heir. (ABC news Aug2002). Today in the city of Rome sexism exists. Males wishing to visit the Vatican Buildings are permitted to enter wearing short-sleeved shirt, females are refused entry if they do not cover up their shoulders. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA) is written in terms of discrimination against women but it applies equally to discrimination against men.