During this essay, I will be demonstrating how sexism is a form of discrimination against women, and how legislation has improved anti-discriminatory practice even though not eradicated it. There are many forms of sex discrimination which I will be highlighting, some of which I will demonstrate through case studies. Lastly I will look at ways that we, as women can challenge society and gain equality for the future of our sisters.
When looking at the way sexism came about, it is by no way a surprise or shock. We live in a patriarchal society, an “order characterized by male dominance and the means of perpetuating that dominance”. The English language has been mainly sculpted around males, which has resulted in sexism in language. This evolved over centuries.
Some examples are human or mankind; we also have male and female, man and woman, he and she. The female term, having common ground with the male equivalent, an extension of the male term.Sexism has always been a major issue for women: it may be safer to say, for some women. Others believe they are doing what they want to do, and therefore, are not repressed by the accepted norms of today.
We also need to acknowledge that sexism can apply to men also.When thinking about sexism, we need to trace it back to learnt behaviour, which steams from our parents and society, the conception being ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’. Much about these conceptions is not biological but of cultural acceptance.We tend to think about men and women and their gender roles in society constituting the prevailing paradigm that determines our thinking.
This leaves us with the difficulty of working out what is equally right compared to what may be acceptable and expected in today’s society. This can be found in a quote from Riane Eisler, “we have a cultural bias that we bring to the effort, and that colours our decision making processes.” Therefore we can see that sexism is the result of that bias imposed by our process of acculturation. (culture and upbringing)When looking around us in society, we can see that the women who do succeed in male dominated fields are never mediocre: they are extraordinary achievers who tend to have fought their way up with their silent, veiled and inconspicuous ‘smoking swords’.
When growing up as a female child, and then when later gathering the experience of a young woman, we begin to realise that we are powerless in relationships, employment, economics and society in general. However this is not to say that the female child does not grow-up having goals and ambitions as it may appear, because they stay at home and play their part in society’s expectations. The female child is more likely to get suppressed, even from her own mother unconsciously, by way of her past experiences of not being able to realise her goals and aspirations, but only the obstacles set in front of her.Whilst looking at sexism there are numerous areas in which it is more than subtly stated.
Examples are in the profession of Law, women and the law, and women in the workplace.It was only at the end of the 19th century that women were included into the legal profession as previously they were denied the education to enter the occupation.There was a time when once married, the woman became the property of her husband and her legal existence was suspended. It was once said by John Stuart Mill, a philosopher, that “There remains no legal slaves except the mistress of every household”.
During 1994 there was a study of criminal acts of women killing men and vice versa. It was found that even though fewer women committed this crime, they were the ones that were more likely to have been punished, the figures being 40% of 13 women convicted, compared to 29% of 101 men (killed by their known attacker presumably their partner). This is likely to be because women are seen as meditating their deed, compared to men acting on impulse. However, it would be safe to say that women endure abuse over a period of time, and are driven to conclude this experience eventually, which then is interrupted as meditating instead of accumulation.
In the instance of rape, where women have been a victim of a brutal attack, it is the requirement for the judge to inform the jury that they need to be wary of convicting the defendant. This is not the case in any other uncorroborated offence, such as GBH or robbery.Often the victim of rape can feel like the person on trial as often their sexual reputation is scrutinized rather than the accused. The victim is also being judged by her behaviour in court.
If she behaves in a distressed manner, her evidence can be dismissed as hysterical, emotional and untrustworthy. In contrast, if she is composed, it is thought that it cannot be possible that she be a victim of anything as traumatic as rape.There have been some key features in the development of rights for women. The various acts have helped to improve women’s rights.
It was in 1882 that women gained the rights to own property, compared to previously when property ceased to be her own once married. In 1893 women got the right to vote and participate in democratic government. In 1919 women gained the right to enter into established professions. In 1970 the Equal pay act was created.
In 1975 the sex discrimination act was passed which was intended to establish the principle of equal pay for equal work between the sexes.Women have gradually gained the ‘rights of man’, including the right to enter the legal profession. This does not mean, however, that we play an equal role with men today. This was proved in 1994 in that only 14% of judges were women.
This was at an all-time high which showed an increase from 5 in 1976 to 120. This figure is believed to have tripled now, although women are still under-represented.In Britain appointment procedures are highly secretive and reliant on informal networking. White men, with an Oxford, or Cambridge University education are 80% of this ‘club’.
In Britain male domination is more apparent as only 1 in 32 appeal court judges are women, and 6 of the 94 high court judges. (Guardian April 1995).Law is not the only place of work where women suffer sexism. There are several high profile cases within; banking, the police force and armed forces, which were all previously seen as male dominated occupations.
Sexism can take form in; the way that we speak, exclusion, hostile environments, direct hostility, harassment, differences in pay and job opportunities.Whilst looking at the Sexism in the City case study it is apparent that various forms of sexism in the workplace are still taking place within larger corporations. This particular case involves 6 women that are claiming; denial of top paid jobs that they are being paid less, having to work in a hostile environment, exclusion from some meetings, as they are held in strip clubs and sexual harassment. Generally they believe they are being treated as second class citizens despite years of service.
In another case a women pilot asked for part time hours due to having a new child, this was denied on safety grounds, which were implemented 5 months after her request. When delving further in British Airways staffing, it could be seen that there was an obvious difference in the treatment of men and women. In that out of 2,980 pilots, 2828 are men, and that 11 male pilots worked 50% of their hours but no women where of this status.The Media attempt to delude us with a view that women enjoy every right that men have.
However, as we are well aware, this is not seen in all arenas of life, except for occasional tokenism.Women will never have an equal place as long as it is the ‘extraordinary achievers’ that are allowed to succeed out of their expected social role. Often it is these extraordinary women that work along side the ordinary man. This is when the pace and ease of him achieving his role becomes apparent, ‘a walk in the park’ for someone that is not so extraordinary after all.
In an effort to combat sexism and gain the equal rights that men have, women do not have to be extraordinary. Women need to use their voices instead of being resigned to the way things are. Statistics show that; 50% of women ignore sexism, 25% take sick leave, 15% resign and 10% drop work productivity. Should sexism be seen to be ignored it is an acceptance of sexist behaviour and treatment and this is not the way to promote equality.
It also needs to be noted that ignoring sexism does not mean it has no effect on the individual, in this sentence it means unreported.In looking at strategies for change it needs to be noted that we live in a patriarchal society in which women’s voices have been silenced, and it is not enough to extend to women the rights of men. (V. Bryson) Women’s experiences and values need to be asserted as a valid starting point.
This would bring about a new perspective in which women would no longer be seen as ‘special’ or ‘different’ because they are being measured against male norms.We are all equal given the opportunity, no matter what out creed, race or sexuality. We are all able to make the changes and differences, ”feminine’ or ‘masculine’.