Issues with the Term "SEXISM"




While the term "sexism" is sometimes applied to institutional conduct, it is more typically associated with individual acts and intentions, obscuring the underlying processes and effects. 

The term also frequently separates gender-specific forms of ill-treatment and bad behavior from the other structural inequalities with which they intersect, focusing on the insults and discriminatory incidents faced by relatively privileged women rather than the constant abuse and exploitation faced by those who are more vulnerable. Another issue with the term "sexism" is that it is gender-neutral. 


Men, too, are often treated unfairly because of their sex, and they, too, experience sexism. 


However, as she also points out, such sexism differs significantly from that faced by women in terms of "frequency, intensity, and context." It's also different because of the larger gendered power structure in which sexist occurrences or behaviors occur, as explained in the next paragraph. In this larger context, there is a world of difference between jokes mocking rich males and jokes mocking impoverished women, for example. 

This is the difference between 'punching up,' which aims to undermine existing inequities by puncturing wealthy people's unreflective and self-satisfied worldview, and 'punching down,' which humiliates those who are already disadvantaged. 

This context is frequently overlooked, leading feminists to be accused of lacking a sense of humor if they fail to find misogynistic jokes amusing, as well as being accused of sexism if they make a joke at the expense of men; this accusation may tempt them to invoke Margaret Atwood's oft-quoted observation, "Men are afraid that women will laugh a lot." 

Women are frightened of being killed by males.' When sexism is discussed in isolation from larger patterns of male authority, the difficulties of making substantial change might be underestimated

Men dominate positions of power and authority in the judiciary, politics, culture, and the media, she did not really investigate the relationship of institutionalized public power to sexism or other forms of male privilege, such as men's generally higher financial resources. 

Instead of perceiving male vested interests as making eliminating sexism both hard and difficult, Bates was thrilled to learn that many men supported her effort, and she argued that ending sexism is a relatively easy matter of cultural change. 


‘This is not a men against women issue.' It's about individuals versus prejudice, and sexism. 


A more analytical approach, on the other hand, would recognize that the overall preference for males over women is a complex, multidimensional system including a variety of interconnected and mutually reinforcing economic, political, legal, physical, and cultural aspects. Support from well-intentioned men is welcome in this situation, but it must take the shape of action as well as words. 

These critiques do not imply that the label "sexism" be dropped. Indeed, it continues to give an accessible and politically extremely effective starting place for feminist consciousness and political action by highlighting discriminatory practices and attitudes and labelling them as wrong. 

It is, however, descriptive rather than analytical, and it should be utilized as part of a larger analysis of ‘patriarchy,' which is explored in the next section.




You may also want to read more about Feminism and Activism here.







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