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The sign of the headquarters of the National Association Opposed To Woman Suffrage.

Sexism, a term coined in the mid-20th century,Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th edition is the belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to, less competent, or less valuable than the other. It can also refer to hatred of, or prejudice towards, either sex as a whole (see misogyny and misandry), or the application of stereotypes of masculinity in relation to men, or of femininity in relation to women. It is also called male and female chauvinism. Historically and across many cultures, sexism has resulted in the subjugation of women to men. Many men and women espousing feminism, masculism and other ideologies have worked toward dispelling sexist beliefs.

Generalization and partition

In philosophy, sexist attitudes can be understood or judged on the basis of the essential characteristics of the group to which an individual belongs—in this case, their sexual group, as men or women. This assumes that all individuals fit into the category of male or female and does not take into account intersexed people who are born with a mixture of male and female sexual characteristics. This also assumes a significant degree of homogeneity in the characteristics of men and women respectively, and generally does not take into account the differences that exist within these groups. XY males and XX females who are genetically one sex but have developed the characteristics of the opposite sex during the foetal stage are usually considered with respect to their phenotypes under this system.

Certain forms of sexual discrimination are illegal in many countries, but nearly all countries have laws that give special rights, privileges, or responsibilities to people of a particular sex.

sex condition of hatred fears discriminatory anti-discriminatory
discrimination of movement of
female femininity misogyny gynophobia gynocentrism feminism
male masculinity misandry androphobia androcentrism masculism
intersex intersexuality misandrogyny androgynophobia LGBTIQ
transsex transsexuality transphobia LGBT

Sexism against women

See also: Women's suffrage

See also: Coverture

The view that men are superior to women is a form of sexism. The term 'sexism' is sometimes used by itself to mean sexism against women. When expressed by men, sexism against women may be called male chauvinism. Related terms are misogyny, which implies a hatred of women, and gynophobia, which refers to a fear of women or femininity.

The idea that men benefit from certain rights and privileges not available to women is referred to as male privilege.

Historically, sexism against women has taken a number of forms.


Legal status

U.S. and English law subscribed until the 20th century to the system of coverture, whereby "[b]y 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."

Not until 1875 were women in the U.S. legally defined as persons (Minor v Happersett, 88 U.S. 162), and women did not receive the vote in the U.S. until 1920 and in the U.K. until 1918.

Domestic violence

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, women are more likely than men to experience "nonfatal intimate partner violence." Women are more likely to be killed by intimate partners; 30% of female homicide victims are estimated to have been killed by intimate partners, as opposed to 5% of male homicide victims.


Analysis of perpetrators of rape against women has been argued to reveal a pattern of hatred of women and pleasure in inflicting psychological and/or physical trauma, rather than sexual interest. According to Mary Odem and Jody Clay-Warner, feminists and social scientists have argued that rape is not the result of pathological individuals, but rather of systems of male dominance and from cultural practices and beliefs that objectify and degrade women. Odem and Clay-Warner, along with Susan Brownwiller, consider sexist attitudes to be propagated by a series of myths about rape and rapists. They state that contrary to these myths, rapists often plan a rape before they choose a victim, and that acquaintance rape is the most common form of rape rather than assault by a stranger. Odem also states that these rape myths propagate sexist attitudes about men by perpetuating a myth that men cannot control their sexuality.

Sexual objectification

It is argued that sexual objectification is a form of sexism.

Sexism in language

See Gender-neutral language.

Sexism is revealed in the English language, as well as most world languages, in many ways. Language studies have concluded that language "discrimination is usually covert and difficult to be noticed without conscious awareness." [4482]. Gender analysts warn that the danger of continuing sexist language is that sexist language tends to perpetuate gender stereotypes and reinforce biases against women . We note that sexist language may also perpetuate male stereotypes as well.

Specific examples of sexist language are numerous, and include the use of the word "man" to represent the entire human race. ie. "Man moved out of Africa and migrated to Europe." While use of "man" may have been conventional and familiar, newer texts would instead read, "Humans moved out of . . ." or "Human beings moved . . " "Humanity began its trek out of Africa . . ." etc.[4483]

The most common use of sexist language is revealed in this sentence: "Anyone can earn a college degree if he really works at it." Clearly, the use of "he" excludes the fact that women too can earn college degrees. Defenders of convention claim it is simply easier to use the pronoun "he", as it is short and simple. More progressive writers understand that even simple convention places images and ideas in people's heads, if only subconsciously. Therefore, the sentence written today would most likely read, "Anyone can earn a college degree if he or she really works at it." /"" target="_blank"> href="/[">[ The sentence could also be written as: "With hard work, anyone could earn a college degree." [4484]

There have been sexist terms for many occupations, such as Policeman, Fireman, Businessman, Repairman etc. The use of these terms places specific images and ideas in people's heads that these occupations were only for men. Hence, sexist language discouraged many young girls from believing they could become a police officer or a firefighter, for instance. To combat this, these terms and many similar types have been replaced by: Police Officer, Firefighter, Businessperson, and Repairer respectively. [4485] Consider as well that a sexist term like "gunman", places the idea in our minds that violent shooters are and can only be men. A term like "gunman" is now frequently replaced by "shooter".

Another form of sexist language is the use of "Mrs." and "Miss" for married and unmarried women respectively. These terms are viewed as sexist because equivalent terms are not used for men. A man will be Mr. Smith before he is married, and Mr. Smith after he is married. No clue is ever given in language as to a man's marital status. The same had not been true for women, as women's marital status used to be advertised by their title, Miss Smith for unmarried and Mrs. Smith for married. The past few decades have seen the use of "Ms." as the acceptable title for women, ie. Ms. Smith. "Ms." does not denote whether the bearer is married or unmarried, thereby putting the title on par with the male equivalent "Mr.". In fact, the use of Miss and Mrs was banned by the European Union in early 2009, which claimed the terms were too sexist for use in Parliament and public discourse.[4486], [4487], [4488], [4489]. Modern etiquette in the United States dictates that a woman should be called "Ms. Smith" upon first meeting, and referred to as "Ms." unless she requests to be called "Miss" or "Mrs."

Sexist language is also revealed in the categorization of women according to their age. Use of "Miss" and "Ma'am" are the examples of this. "Miss" is commonly used to address a 'younger' woman ie. What can I get for you today, Miss? Convention had previously taught that 'older' women be referred to as "Ma'am". However, there is no commonly used younger/older term for men. The address for men is always "Sir". ie. What can I get for you today, Sir? Women in the millennium have become increasingly aware of this discrepancy, and increasingly vocal regarding thier distaste of it. [4490][4491][4492][4493]. As a consequence, the use of both Miss and Ma'am is becoming more and more obsolete in common use. To avoid awkwardness or offense, many in the service industry are simply dropping the "Miss" or "Ma'am" from the end of their sentences. ie. Hi. Did you find everything you were looking for today? [4494]

There is the role of sexist language in reinforcing social stereotypes and roles. An example would be the use of "mother" in the following newscast: "A newborn baby was found alive behind St. Catherine's Church today. Authorities are still trying to locate the mother." The use of "mother" here implies that the only parent responsible for the child is the mother. This linguistically puts the entire responsibility for babies and children on mothers only. In recent stories, you can hear that newscasters are more likely to report that "authorities are looking for the parents of the newborn."

Further Reading:- Language and Gender (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics) by Penelope Eckert and Sally McConnell-Ginet- Language and Gender: A Reader by Jennifer Coates- Language and Gender (Intertext) by Angela Goddard and Lindsey Mean (Paperback - Jan 20, 2009)- Language and Gender: An Advanced Resource Book (Routledge Applied Linguistics) by J. Sunderland- Women, Men and Language: A Sociolinguistic Account of Gender Differences in Language (3rd Edition) by Jennifer Coates- Reinventing Identities: The Gendered Self in Discourse (Language and Gender Studies) by Mary Bucholtz (Editor), et al.- Rethinking Linguistic Relativity (Studies in the Social and Cultural Foundations of Language) by John J. Gumperz (Editor), Stephen C. Levinson (Editor)- Language and Power (Language in Social Life) by Norman Fairclough


Women in the past have been excluded from higher education. When women were admitted to higher education, they were encouraged to major in subjects that were considered less intellectual; the study of English literature in English and U.S. colleges and universities was in fact instituted as a field of study considered suitable to women's "lesser intellects."

Research studies have found that discrimination continues today: boys receive more attention and praise in the classroom in grade school, and "this pattern of more active teacher attention directed at male students continues at the postsecondary level." Over time, female students speak less and less in classroom settings.


Women have been excluded from participation in many professions. When women have gained entry into a previously male profession, they have faced many additional obstacles; Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive an M.D., and Myra Bradwell, the first female lawyer, are examples.

Discrimination continues today, according to studies done by Cornell Universitymarker and others.

A 2009 study of CEOs found that more men occupying the position were overweight or obese than men in the general population, while the reverse held true for female CEOs. The leader of the study stated that the results "suggest that while being obese limits the career opportunities of both women and men, being merely overweight harms only female executives -- and may actually benefit male executives."

Gender wage gap

See also: Male–female income disparity in the United States

Women have historically earned less than men; the reasons for the current wage gaps are also the subject of controversy.

In the 19th century and for much of the 20th, women were paid less than men for the same work. In the United Statesmarker, this eventually led to the passing of the U.S. Equal Pay Act in 1963. At that time, women earned approximately 58 cents to a man's dollar.

Today, women in the United Statesmarker are estimated to earn roughly 75 percent of the income of men. However, unmarried women without children may earn 15 to 20 percent more than males in the same situation, depending upon geographical location in the US.

Women are less likely to negotiate raises, and when they do negotiate, they are less likely to receive them.. David R. Hekman and colleagues found that women are less likely to negotiate because they are less valuable in the marketplace than equally well performing white men Hekman et al. (2009) found that customers who viewed videos featuring a black male, a white female, or a white male actor playing the role of an employee helping a customer were 19% more satisfied with the white male employee's performance and also were more satisfied with the store's cleanliness and appearance. This despite that all three actors performed identically, read the same script, and were in the exact same location with identical camera angles and lighting. Moreover, 45 percent of the customers were women and 41 percent were non-white, indicating that even women and minority customers prefer white men. In a second study, they found that white male doctors were rated as more approachable and competent than equally-well performing women or minority doctors. They interpret their findings to suggest that employers are willing to pay more for white male employees because employers are customer driven and customers are happier with white male employees. They also suggest that what is required to solve the problem of wage inequality isn't necessarily paying women more but changing customer biases. This paper has been featured in many media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post,The Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. Perhaps because women are less valuable to customers than men, women are more likely to work part-time, to take more time off for their children, and join lower status professions.

A report published by the White Housemarker in 1998 argued that a gender pay gap remains even after taking into account such factors as relative experience, part-time vs. full-time work, differences between professions, and taking time off to have children. Other research has found that even after accounting for parenthood status, education, job title, and other factors, there is still a significant income disparity in men's favor (Blau and Kahn 1997, Wood et al. 1993).Research done at Cornell Universitymarker and elsewhere indicates that mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than women with otherwise identical resumes, experience, and qualifications, and, if hired, are offered on average $USD 11,000 a year less than women without children. Exactly the opposite form of discrimination is indicated for men; those without children earn, on average, $7,500 less than men with children.

Studies done show that transsexual men earn an average of 1.5% more after their transition, whereas transsexual women earn an average of 32% less.

Sexism against men

The view that women are superior to men is another form of sexism, and when expressed by a woman may be called female chauvinism or misandry. The hatred of men is called misandry, while androphobia refers to the fear of men or masculinity.

Several aspects of society have been viewed as forms of sexism against men, such as the systemic preference in Western societies to give mothers more rights than fathers over both children and unborn fetuses.


Wendy McElroy refers to male stereotyping when she argues that in some "gender feminist" views, all men are considered irreconcilable rapists, wife-beating brutes, man hater, and useless as partners or fathers to women. McElroy and Camille Paglia argue that certain feminists they refer to as "gender feminists" view women as innocent victims who never make irresponsible or morally questionable choices.

Other feminists such as Kate Fillion have questioned the idea that women are always innocent victims and men always the guilty victimizers when the interests of each collide with those of the other.


In 1997, the Canadian Advertising Foundation ruled that a National Ad campaign that featuring Nicole Brown Simpson's sister Denise with the slogan, "Stop violence against Women" was in fact portraying only men as aggressors, and that it was not providing a balanced message and was in fact contributing to gender stereotyping. (The murder of Nicole Simpson also included the murder of Ronald Goldman).

Domestic violence

The U.S. Center for Disease Control in conjunction with the American Psychiatric Association found that of heterosexual relationships involving violence, 50.3% involve non-reciprocal violence, and of that 50.3%, women were the instigators 70.7% of the time, although "physical injury was more likely to occur when the violence was reciprocal." Men have no laws such as VAWA or Violence Against Women Act that afford them equal protection under law. Linda Kelly states in her thesis, Disabusing the Definition of Domestic Abuse: How Women Batter Men and the Role of the Feminist State in the Florida State University Law Review that domestic violence is equally the province of women.

Mandatory military service

Many countries around the world make it mandatory for males to join the military, but not females.Men at 18 years of age in the United States are required to register for military conscription to be drafted to war or military service. Women are not required to register with the Selective Service System and have no obligation to serve in the military in the case of a draft.

Sexism against transsexuals

Transphobia refers to prejudice against transsexuality and transsexual or transgender people, based on their personal gender identification (see Phobia - terms indicating prejudice or class discrimination). Whether intentional or not, transphobia can have severe consequences for the person the object of the negative attitude. The LGBT movement has campaigned against sexism against transsexuals. The most typical forms of sexism against transsexuals are how many "women-only" and "men-only" events and organizations have been criticized for rejecting trans women and trans men, respectively.

Sexism and sexual expression

The expression of sexual intimacy is a part of the human condition. However, various aspects of human sexuality have been argued as having contributed to sexism.

The sexual revolution

During the sexual revolution, there was a change in the cultural perception of sexual morality and sexual behavior. The sexual revolution has been known as the sexual liberation by feminists since some saw this new development in the West as a leveling ground for females to have as many choices concerning their sexuality as males—hoping to eliminate the problematic virgin/whore dichotomy of traditional Western society.

Ariel Levy argues that the current state of commercial sexuality has created a "Raunch Culture". She argues that there has been a commercialization of the sexual objectification of women; a cultural, largely Western development that she criticizes as being limiting for men and women. Some feminists argue that rather than being liberating, that a "pornification" of Western society has reduced and equated the scope of feminine power to sexual power only. They argue that women are themselves objectifying other women by becoming producers and promoters of the "Raunch Culture".

Some masculists posit that prior to the sexual revolution the idealized male was expected to be virile while the idealized female was expected to be modest. They argue that after the sexual revolution, women were given more liberty to express virility while the reverse has not been true for men, who have yet to be given a choice to be non-virile. They argue that the dual identity of hypersexuality and asexuality is a luxury and special status that only exists for women. However, many feminists argue that the virgin/whore dichotomy has existed since long before the sexual revolution and that it entails unrealistic categories imposed on women by men, not chosen voluntarily. This dichotomy allows men to condemn women for their sexuality whether it is seen as modest or virile, a no-win situation and a double standard since they argue that this does not apply to men.


Radical feminists hold the view that pornography contributes to sexism, arguing that in pornographic performances for male spectators, actresses are reduced to mere receptacles—objects—for sexual use and abuse by men.


Radical feminists argue that prostitution is a sexist practice, which exploits women and which is the result of the existing patriarchal societal order, hence the laws from Swedenmarker, Norwaymarker and Icelandmarker, where it is illegal to pay for sex, but not to be a prostitute (the client commits a crime, but not the prostitute). These feminists believe that the assumptions that the bodily integrity and sexual pleasure of women are irrelevant, that women exist for men's sexual enjoyment, and that men cannot control themselves and are entitled to sex at any time, underlie the whole idea of prostitution, and make it an inherently exploitative, sexist practice.


Anti-sexism is opposition to sexism, anti-sexist is one who opposes sexism. Some forms of feminism and some forms of masculism are considered anti-sexist.

Sexism and language

It has been argued that sexual dichotomies exist in language, though it is disputed whether certain language causes sexism, sexism causes certain language (see the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) or that they are both caused by something else.

Sexist and gender-neutral language

Nearing the end of the 20th century, there is a rise in the use of gender-neutral language in western worlds. This is often attributed to the rise of feminism. Gender-neutral language is the avoidance of gender-specific job titles, non-parallel usage, and other usage that is felt by some to be sexist. Supporters feel that having gender-specific titles and gender-specific pronouns either implies a system bias to exclude individuals based on their gender, or else is as unnecessary in most cases as race-specific pronouns, religion-specific pronouns, or persons-height-specific pronouns. Some of those who support gender-specific pronouns assert that promoting gender-neutral language is a kind of "semantics injection" itself. Some opponents dismiss this trend as "political correctness gone mad" and protest against what they see as censorship. Others like misandry researchers Nathonson and Young see the term 'gender' as a biased "front" for what they call "ideological" feminism .

Anthropological linguistics and gender-specific language

Unlike the Indo-European languages in the west, for many other languages around the world, gender-specific pronouns are a recent phenomenon that occur around the early-20th century. As a result of colonialism, cultural revolution occurred in many parts of the world with attempts to "modernize" and "westernize" by adding gender-specific pronouns and animate-inanimate pronouns to local languages. This ironically resulted in the situation of what was gender-neutral pronouns a century ago suddenly becoming gender-specific. (See for example Gender-neutrality in languages without grammatical gender: Turkish.)

Reappropriation and reclamation

Reappropriation (aka reclamation projects) describe a cultural process by which certain groups reclaim or re-appropriate terms, symbols, and artifacts that were previously used to discriminate. Within the English language, terms like 'bitch' and 'slut', which had been historically used as pejorative sexist remarks against females. They have since been used to refer to a "strong, independent, unattached female" and a "sexually liberal, hypersexual female" . Similarly, terms like 'girlie men' and 'tranny', which has been historically used as pejorative sexist remarks against transsexes, have since been used to refer to the varying degree of transexuality for "pre-operation" and "non-operation" as whether they had undergone or will undergo sex-reassignment or not. The success of these cultural process has been disputed.

On the flip side, the word 'dude' as a pejorative has crossed the sexes and is being applied to males. In politics, the term 'girlie men' has also been used by Governor Schwarzenegger to attack his political opponents, who are not transsexes. This has led to Schwarzenegger being accused of being sexist.

Occupational sexism

Occupational sexism refers to any discriminatory practices, statements, actions, etc. based on a person's sex that are present or occur in a place of employment. One form of occupational sexism is wage discrimination, which is prohibited in the US.

Sexual discrimination

Though sexism refers to beliefs and attitudes in relation to the gender of a person, such beliefs and attitudes are of a social nature and do not, normally, carry any legal consequences. Sex discrimination, on the other hand, may have legal consequences. Though what constitutes sex discrimination varies between countries, the essence is that it is an adverse action taken by one person against another person that would not have occurred had the person been of another sex. Discrimination of that nature in certain enumerated circumstances is illegal in many countries.

Sexual discrimination can arise in different contexts. For instance an employee may be discriminated against by being asked discriminatory questions during a job interview, or because an employer did not hire, promote or wrongfully terminated an employee based on his or her gender, or employers pay unequally based on gender. In an educational setting there could be claims that a student was excluded from an educational institution, program, opportunity, loan, student group, or scholarship on account of his or her gender. In the housing setting there could be claims that a person was refused negotiations on seeking a house, contracting/leasing a house or getting a loan based on his or her gender.

Socially, sexual differences have been used to justify different roles for men and women, in some cases giving rise to claims of primary and secondary roles. While there are non-physical differences between men and women, there is little agreement as to what those differences are.

The United Nations has stated (2006) that women struggle to break through a "glass ceiling," and that "progress in bringing women into leadership and decision-making positions around the world remains far too slow." The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues, Rachel Mayanja, said, "The past ten years have seen the fastest growth in the number of womenin parliaments, yet even at this rate, parity between women and men in parliamentswill not be reached until 2040."

The term "glass ceiling" is used to describe a perceived barrier to advancement in employment and government based on discrimination, especially sex discrimination. In the United Statesmarker, the Glass Ceiling Commission, a government-funded group, stated: "Over half of all Master’s degrees are now awarded to women, yet 95% of senior-level managers, of the top Fortune 1000 industrial and 500 service companies are men. Of them, 97% are white." In its report, it recommended reverse discrimination, which is the consideration of an employee's gender and race in hiring and promotion decisions, as a means to end this form of discrimination.

Transgendered individuals, both male to female and female to male, often experience problems which often lead to dismissals, underachievement, difficulty in finding a job, social isolation, and, occasionally, violent attacks against them.

See also


  1. "What is AIS?" AISSG. 13 Sep 2006.
  2. Neuwirth, Jessica (2004). "Unequal: A Global Perspective on Women Under the Law". Ms. Magazine.
  4. Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England.
  7. U.S. Bureau of Justice. "Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S."
  8. U.S. Bureau of Justice. "Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S."
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Solomon, Barbara Miller. In the Company of Educated Women.
  12. Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory.
  13. Halpern, Diane F. Sex differences in cognitive abilities. Laurence Erlbaum Associates, 2000. ISBN 080582792. Page 259.
  14. Sadker, Myra, and David Sadker. "Confronting Sexism in the College Classroom." In Gender in the Classroom: Power and Pedagogy. Ed. Susan L. Gabriel and Isaiah Smithson. Page 177.
  15. Sadker, Myra, and David Sadker. "Failing at Fairness: Hidden Lessons." In Mapping the social landscape: readings in sociology. Ed. Sandra J. Ferguson, Susan J. Ferguson. Taylor & Francies, 1999. ISBN 0767406168. Page 350.
  16. Cross, Sam. "Women Excluded from Executive Positions."
  17. Newman, Melanie. "At the top, women still can't get a break from stereotypes."
  18. The White House. "Explaining Trends in the Gender Wage Gap."
  19. Longley, Robert. "Gender Wage Gap Widening, Census Data Shows."
  20. The White House. "Explaining Trends in the Gender Wage Gap."
  22. Roberts, Sam. "For Young Earners in the Big City, A Gap in Women's Favor."
  23. Babcock, L. & Laschever, S. (2003) Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. Princeton University Press
  24. Hekman, David R.; Aquino, Karl; Owens, Brad P.; Mitchell, Terence R.; Schilpzand, Pauline; Leavitt, Keith. (2009) An Examination of Whether and How Racial and Gender Biases Influence Customer Satisfaction. Academy of Management Journal.
  25. Bakalar, Nicholas (2009) “A Customer Bias in Favor of White Men.” New York Times. June 23, 2009, page D6.
  26. Vedantam, Shankar (2009) “Caveat for Employers.” Washington Post, June 1, 2009, page A8
  27. Jackson, Derrick (2009) “Subtle, and stubborn, race bias.” Boston Globe, July 6, 2009, page A10
  28. National Public Radio, Lake Effect,
  29. Lips, Hilary. "Blaming Women's Choices for the Gender Pay Gap."
  30. Longley, Robert. "Why Women Still Make Less Than Men."
  31. The White House. "Explaining Trends in the Gender Wage Gap."
  32. The Motherhood Manifesto.
  33. Lips, Hilary. "Blaming Women's Choices for the Gender Pay Gap."
  34. Cloud, John. "If Women Were More Like Men.",8599,1847194,00.html
  35. Wendy McElroy, Sexual Correctness: The Gender-Feminist Attack on Women, p.
  36. Guests: Camille Paglia & Christina Hoff Sommers Has Feminism Gone Too Far? Think Tank With Ben Wattenberg - aired: 4 Nov 1994 accessed 6 Jan 2006
  37. The Power of One, Pamela Bron, Chronicle-Journal, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, April 18, 1997, p. B1
  40. "Michigan Women's Music Festival ends policy of discrimination against Transwomen"
  41. Lesfest.
  42. [1]

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