Showing posts with label Sexualization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sexualization. Show all posts

Radical Feminism


Although Marxist feminists blame capitalism for women's oppression, many feminists feel patriarchy is a more basic and insidious ideological structure. In general, patriarchy refers to a societal structure that consistently oppresses women while benefiting males. 

The name comes from political theory and means "rule of the father," but radical feminists use it to refer to more than the political order of society. 

Patriarchy refers to a system or network of males controlling women and their bodies. It's a power system that categorizes women based on their biological sex and, more specifically, their reproductive capacity. 

Radical feminists believe that sex-based childbearing and childrearing duties, as well as women's connection with their sexualized bodies, are at the foundation of female oppression. 

Another approach to consider this is to simply ask, "What distinguishes men and women?" The ordinary individual would most likely respond with a physiologically grounded response. This is the response that radical feminists point to as the foundation of women's oppression. 

Women have been consigned to the private domain of the family or domestic life because they may produce children; they are considered accountable for reproduction (while males are excused from reproductive activities), and sexual intercourse is defined by men's pleasure. Monogamous heterosexuality is thus a socially imposed rather than a freely chosen norm. 

It's utilized as an ideological weapon to make women socially subordinate to males and maintain men's control over their sexuality. Radical feminists propose a variety of alternative answers to this oppression, the most of which are, well, radical. They're intended to be together. 

Radical feminists challenge us to think more creatively about our social relationships and gender roles by offering very drastic remedies to the problem of female oppression. 

One approach is to employ technology advancements to replace biological reproduction with technological reproduction, for example. Infants might be conceived outside the body, in incubators or pods. 

This would liberate women from the "tyranny of reproductive biology," while simultaneously allowing males to engage more fully in the reproductive process. 

If oppression is built on an unfair power relationship, and if women have a power that men do not have – even if it is now employed against them – then some radical feminists believe that women should give up their power as well. This suggestion isn't as outlandish as it appears. 

Extra-uterine pregnancy appears to be a feasible possibility because to technological advancements in reproductive health. Of course, one critique levelled at this suggestion as a radical feminist idea is that if technology stays in the hands of males, women's social status would stay same, if not worsen. Another argument is that such a technological revolution will deprive women of their only authority. 

Cultural feminists make this last argument, and the explanation for it is addressed below. In support of the radical feminist notion, eliminating biological reproduction would go a long way toward eliminating societal sex and gender roles. Freedom would be a broad idea that includes the ability to be free of those duties. 

Families could be reimagined in novel and flexible ways. 

Families can be gay, single parent, group (much like a communal or shared parenting extended family structure), or any number of different arrangements in addition to the standard heterosexual family.

Women cannot be free, according to a radical feminist, unless they are free to make their own decisions regarding their bodies, particularly their reproductive capacity. 

The radical feminist view considers human nature as essentially structured by a sex-gender system by positing patriarchy as the dominant ideology that oppresses women. Humans are sexual beings that decide their social status based on their reproductive abilities. 

Whether or whether women's childrearing talents are "natural," the radical feminist sees those talents or that embodied sexual function as defining and determining – and so oppressing – women. However, sex-based social roles do not represent the whole amount of women's subjugation. 

According to some radical feminists, imposed heterosexuality and biologically based reproductive roles have an impact on everything from language and knowledge to economics and literature. 

To overcome such an established oppressive system, bold alternatives are required. The Dialectic of Sex (1970) by Shulamith Firestone uses Marx's dialectical materialism reasoning but swaps class division with sex. According to Firestone, the sex divide is society's most fundamental separation, and that other types of oppression (racial, class, age, etc.) are modelled after men's oppression of women. 

According to Firestone, biological reproduction is at the basis of women's oppression since sex-based childbearing responsibilities ground and explain sex-based childrearing duties, as well as other social inequalities. 

Her recommendations to end this oppression are among feminist theory's most far-reaching and creative (some may say absurd) ideas. She also advocates for the "liberation of women from the tyranny of their reproductive nature." 

Firestone advocates for the division of child-rearing and child-bearing responsibilities. Clearly, this would necessitate a technological revolution similar to the one described above. 

However, Firestone contends that children are oppressed as well, and that their oppression is connected with women's oppression. Women require children in order to maintain their status in the patriarchal system, but children also acquire patriarchal norms and responsibilities from women. 

As a result, Firestone argues for children's and women's social, economic, and sexual emancipation. Children should be able to explore their sexuality without being constrained by social norms. 

In The Dialectic of Sex, Firestone memorably characterized delivery as "like shitting a pumpkin." Considering sex as a core or basic component of society's repressive framework also necessitates a close examination of how women's bodies are utilized, depicted, or otherwise represented. Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon are two well-known radical feminists who rose to prominence as a result of their anti-pornography campaigns. 

Pornography, they claimed, was a sign of male dominance of female sexuality in society. 

Dworkin and Mackinnon were instrumental in making pornography illegal in Minneapolis and Indianapolis, as well as influencing pornographic judgments in other cities. 

They defined pornography as "the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women, whether in pictures or words," and went on to say that sexual objectification of women could include being conquered, dominated, or servile; enjoying pain, humiliation, rape, mutilation, or physical abuse; or being otherwise violated by objects or animals. 

They go on to say that pornography includes anybody who is subjected to the degradation portrayed (males, children, transsexuals). The word 'woman' in the definition denotes a person who is dominated. 

They contend that pornography promotes violence against women – both extreme kinds of violence and more basic types of humiliation – seem normal or acceptable. 

To put it another way, pornography isn't only direct violence against women; it's also a kind of practice ground for the mental, physical, and emotional abuse males inflict on women on a daily basis. Although many individuals believe radical feminism goes too far in its societal critique, and some even believe it is out of date, many feminists continue to make startling radical suggestions that help highlight problems of women's oppression and provide novel solutions for social change.

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

Marxist Feminism


In contrast to liberal feminist views on women's oppression and liberation prospects, the Marxist feminist believes that women's freedom is hampered by material realities of existence rather than legal impediments. 

Whereas liberal feminists blame legal, social, and intellectual inequalities for women's oppression, Marxist feminists argue that capitalism is to blame for women's oppression in society.

Marxist feminists, as their name implies, depend on and expand on Marxist theory; for Marxists, class oppression is the basis of all other types of oppression, as well as the most ubiquitous.

 Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx's long-time intellectual companion, was the first and possibly most influential Marxist feminist. 

Friedrich Engels traces the emergence of women's oppression in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, using Marx's critique of capitalism and the method of historical materialism (a method of analyzing human history from the perspective of materialism, the understanding that it is the material aspects of human existence that are real). 

According to Engels, we can understand how women's influence in the home changed through time by looking at how production developed. Whereas families were once matrilineal (since mothers are the only ones who know for sure who their offspring are), a shift in production – that is, a shift in how humans satisfy their material needs – resulted in a shift in the familial structure. 

The ‘world historical defeat of the female sex,' according to Engels, is the domestication of animals, the formation of private property, and the fall of the ‘mother-right.' Men became the ‘owners' of the means of production, and women's social standing plummeted. Furthermore, Engels demonstrates how laws prohibiting adultery were enacted to preserve the male head of household's private property. ‘The collapse of mother-right was the female sex's worst historical setback. 

The woman was degraded and subjected to slavery in the household as well; she became the slave of his passion and a simple instrument for the creation of offspring.' The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Friedrich Engels (1884). Marxist feminists after him have continued Engels' argument by examining women's position in capitalism today. 

Wages for housekeeping are one of the most prominent modern Marxist feminist debates. 

Capitalism is based on a class of individuals who do unpaid ‘productive' labor (including everything from bearing and raising children to making lunches, mending socks, and caring for the elderly). Marxist feminists have advocated that reproductive labor should be viewed as productive and rewarded, or that it should be socialized so that women are not consigned to the unpaid job. Insofar as it implies a historical beginning point for women's oppression, Marxist feminism is unique among feminist schools of thought. 

If the foundations of oppression can be located in capitalism's class structure and private property, then theoretically, in order to end women's oppression, capitalism must be eliminated. 

The eradication of a class society and private property is the first step. Women must work in the producing sector or in the public sector. 

Furthermore, the family as an economic unit must be destroyed, as Engels contended. This last idea indicates that every adult would work for a living income and that marriages would no longer be based on financial need. This does not rule out the possibility of marriages or families. 

Although this explanation of Marxist feminism is brief, it demonstrates the importance of society's economic structure in understanding and alleviating women's oppression. According to Marxist feminists and Marxists, freedom is defined as the absence of economic necessity's compulsion, rather than a refined conception of autonomy. 

Similarly, the social and political value of equality is defined as the absence of social class distinctions and near equality in the capacity to meet material demands, rather than formal civil equality.

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Liberal Feminism

At least part of the inspiration for the first two schools of feminist philosophy comes from classical political theory. 

Liberal feminism and Marxist feminism are the two types of feminism. Liberal feminism, as the name implies, is a feminist ideology based on classical liberalism. Liberal feminism does so by adopting liberal notions of human nature and human freedom and using them to build a feminist liberation vision. 

Humans are rational, self-aware people, according to liberalism. Part of functioning rationally includes acting in one's own best interests, which frequently takes the shape of competition. Liberalism, which has its origins in social contract theory, particularly the classical forms of Hobbes and Locke, concentrates on individual independence or liberty. 

Rousseau's social contract theory emphasizes equality, but his definition of equality is so broad that he isn't necessarily considered a classical liberal. 

Liberalism, in general, maintains that everyone of us should be free to pursue our own notion of happiness. Feminists who draw on this basis of classical liberalism see the absence of legal rights and equal opportunity for women as the source of women's oppression. 

Liberal feminists think that by examining how the state regards women and tackling areas where women are disadvantaged, women's oppression may be alleviated. 

Consider how, in many Western societies, women were only recently recognized as full citizens rather than merely members of families represented by the male head of household, or how women were not allowed to own property or sign contracts, or how women were protected from rape not as individuals but as the property of their husbands or fathers. 

Obtaining equal chances for women and granting equal legal rights is, of course, far more difficult than it appears at first look. 

Feminists must first argue that women are fully human, which in the context of liberalism means demonstrating that women have the same logical capability as men. It is necessary to examine not just social and legal procedures, but also the metaphysical and epistemological assumptions that underpin them. 

Most liberal feminists maintain the conventional epistemological viewpoint that knowledge is objectively verifiable and value neutral, in keeping with classical liberalism. 

If we could all assume the perspective of an unbiased observer, for example, we should all be able to come up with real information about the world. Women's education will be organized differently from men's if they are not accepted to the domain of "knowers" in the same way that men are. 

The struggle to admit women to universities and workplaces on an equal footing with men; the struggle for equal pay for equal work; the struggle to gain admission to social roles, clubs, and events previously reserved only for men; and similar efforts to obtain equal liberty to pursue each woman's own vision of the good life are among the many campaigns of liberal feminists.

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

Feminism Must Rename Patriarchy


Patriarchy must be challenged, and the world must be renamed.


Identifying patriarchy is the first step in combating it. This isn't just a thought experiment; it's part of a larger shift in thinking that helps strip masculine authority of its "naturalness." Such naming has the potential to affect change in the real world. It's crucial to keep the notion alive, even if it makes people uncomfortable; as Enloe points out, "the fact that patriarchy is a phrase that so many people avoid saying is one of the factors that allows it to thrive."

The other terminology presented can also help women recognize things they previously didn't perceive because they didn't know how to articulate them. They can also reshape public views and discussions in this way. 

Despite its flaws, I have argued that the sex/gender distinction remains a useful reminder that socially ascribed gender roles, attributes, and behavior are not the inevitable result of biology, and that the terms "sexual harassment" and "sexism" enable us to identify and combat oppressive and/or discriminatory forms of behavior that were previously experienced as isolated events.

In this context, the term "patriarchy" refers to an umbrella concept that brings together seemingly disparate aspects of life to reveal the cumulative and interconnected nature of seemingly unrelated aspects of life, from the bedroom to the boardroom, the classroom to the government, and the rape crisis center to the internet. 

A few additional words, such as 'mansplaining' and 'manspreading,' have also become popular. Some feminists object to these phrases because they are insignificant and/or unjust to many males.

For example, Rebecca Solnit, who is frequently mistakenly credited with coining the word "mansplaining" after describing how a man insisted on teaching her everything about a book she had written, is concerned that the phrase unfairly criticizes all men for the terrible behavior of a few.

However, many women have expressed interest in the term "mansplaining," suggesting that it represents a broadly shared experience that has previously gone unspoken. This and other new phrases are revolutionary not because they accuse all men of something, but because they look at men through the eyes of women, in the context of a larger social milieu that gives many of them a privileged sense of superiority and entitlement.

I'd want to advocate for more feminist usage of the word "phallic drift," coined by Diane Bell and Renate Klein to describe "the powerful propensity for public debate of gender issues to drift, inexorably, back to the masculine point of view."

Some feminists have also attempted to reclaim phrases that have been used to disparage women in the past.

The ‘slutwalk' movement, for example, began in 2011 after a Canadian police officer said women should stop dressing like ‘sluts' if they wanted to avoid being assaulted; feminists who marched and demonstrated under the ‘slutwalk' banner in many countries were not only protesting against the view that women were to blame if they were assaulted, but they were also redefining a negative term for a woman.

Similarly, the feminist magazine Bitch's webpage justifies its usage of the term: When used as an insult, the term "bitch" is used to women who speak their minds, who have strong ideas and don't hesitate to voice them, and who don't sit by and grin awkwardly when they're annoyed or insulted. We'll take that as a complement if being an outspoken woman means being a bitch. Some women feel empowered by reclaiming labels like "slut" and "bitch." However, some women of color have objected to feminists' usage of the term "slut," claiming that it fails to recognize the strength, depth, and virulence of the scorn it represents when used to black women.

Similarly, while it may appear subversive for feminists to reject conventionally ‘ladylike' language in favor of swearing, if such taboo-breaking involves a viciously negative portrayal of women's genitals, it is hardly empowering: thus, at the end of what she had found to be a very funny and feminist show by a young woman comedian, my friend Penny was moved to queue up at the end to congratulate her but also to express her disappointment. 

More broadly, developing a feminist vocabulary that both articulates and contextualizes women's specific experiences is a crucial aspect of collective political action.

It's a means of combating women's silence while simultaneously protecting us from being drawn into disputes about terminology we'd never use. ‘If the right to speak, having credibility, and being heard is a type of wealth, that wealth is now being redistributed,' as Solnit puts it. 

Such redistribution has just begun, and it is crucial for feminists to continue to refine the terminology they have.

Any redistribution is skewed substantially in favor of the wealthiest women. 

Gender inequality and oppression, as I argue, cannot be understood, or resisted in isolation from their economic, political, and cultural contexts, and they are inextricably linked to other kinds of inequality and oppression.

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

Feminism Must Adapt to the Ever-Changing Complexities of Patriarchy



While I feel the term of 'patriarchy' is a vital feminist tool, I also feel it is frequently misunderstood. This article provides a series of interlinked cautionary statements against na├»ve interpretations that might distort our knowledge and be politically unproductive. 

First, the term "patriarchy" should not be used in isolation. 

It is not the sole type of oppression, and it must be considered as part of a larger investigation of how male dominance intersects with other forms of inequality and exploitation, as well as how they are linked to the logic of the global capitalist system.

I advocate for broadly socialist solutions, expand on the ramifications of such a multidimensional approach.

Second, I disagree with some of the concept's early proponents, such as Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich, and Robin Morgan, as well as Millett. These writers have appeared to suggest that, because all known civilizations are patriarchal, they are all basically ‘the same,' that all women are joined as victims of global patriarchy, that patriarchal power must trump class and race barriers, and that, as a result, ‘sisterhood is global.'

There are similarities to be identified, and women from fundamentally diverse civilizations typically share sexual exploitation, lack of reproductive choice, economic exploitation, and/or exclusion or marginalization from mainstream social, cultural, and political life. 

Some women oppress other women, and over-generalized accusations run the risk of trivializing the depths of anguish and humiliation imposed on some by comparing them with minor annoyances.

The problem with generalizing is not just that women's experiences are vastly different, but that relatively privileged women assume the centrality of their own concerns in much the same way that men have assumed the centrality of theirs, so that "there are disturbing parallels between what feminists find disconcerting in Western political thought and what many black women have found troubling." However, I believe that if the notion is linked with race and class analysis and utilized to investigate the links between various types of discrimination, inequality, and oppression, it may be saved from oversimplification and generalization.

A third cautionary note derives from the erroneous assumption that patriarchy is eternal and unchangeable. A moment's thought reveals this to be nonsense. Although patriarchy remained in force generally, Millett said that by 1970, it had become "significantly transformed and weakened" in the United States and Europe. She credited this to previous women's efforts, and her own effort was driven by the hope that her writing may help bring about more change. At first glance, it appears that the roots of western patriarchy have been rocked, if not yet overturned, in the half-century since Millett established the notion.

Most obviously, the western world described by Millett, in which women were virtually absent from political life or high-status employment, most were economically dependent on a husband, and ‘nice girls' did not have sex before or outside marriage, is not a world familiar to most young women today, despite the fact that the sexual double-standard still exists. 

There has also been a significant shift in official attitudes, with many national and international organizations now declaring gender equality and/or the abolition of violence against women as their declared goals.

In 2017, feminist writer Naomi Wolf said that the #MeToo movement's capacity to hold prominent men accountable had "ripped the fabric of patriarchy," while a headline in the Guardian newspaper posed the question, "Is the patriarchy over?"

As other feminists have pointed out, recent advances do not signal the end of patriarchy, but rather a shift in its character. Patriarchy, for example, is a system — a dynamic web – of specific beliefs and interactions, according to Enloe. That system is neither fragile nor stagnant. Patriarchy may be modernized and modified. It's adaptive. In many parts of the globe, such adaptation has historically entailed a shift away from private patriarchy, which is based on individual authority within the house, and toward public patriarchy, which is based on structures outside the family.

Most western women are no longer financially dependent on their husbands, but many are reliant on the male-run state for employment or benefits; similarly, most are no longer sexually controlled by family members, but the rising use of pornography represents a "more collective, impersonal, male control of women's bodies." Sylvia Walby has succinctly summarized such arguments:

‘Women are no longer restricted to the domestic hearth, but have the entire society in which to roam and be exploited,' 

There is no clear distinction between private and public forms of patriarchy

We must fully examine the complex gains and losses experienced by various groups of women in various aspects of their lives.

One factor for patriarchy's evolution is the evolution of the capitalist economic system with which it is inextricably linked. 

Our era of global capitalism, as Beatrix Campbell has argued, is witnessing a new type of patriarchy, which she dubs "neopatriarchal neoliberalism, an ugly word for an awful bargain."

At first glance, this new system appears to have responded to feminist pressures by allowing girls to become astronauts, bankers, or whatever they want, but in practice, it resists any genuine change in the gender division of labor, it exploits women on a global scale, and, in line with neoliberal economic theory, it dismantles welfare provisions and state benefits.

While this may sound depressing, it serves as a reminder of the complexity, rather than the impossibility, of the task ahead of feminists; here, Enloe, who shares many of Campbell's concerns, also insists that "updated patriarchy is not invincible," that feminist campaigns are having some success around the world, and that what we need now is "organized, cross-race, inter-gene activism." 

Because patriarchy is a dynamic and complicated structure, we should avoid using the term "the patriarchy." This phrase, which has just lately entered feminist lexicon, appears to imply a steady, monolithic domination by a unified group.

I feel it is overly simple, and that talking about ‘the patriarchy' makes no more sense than talking about ‘capitalism' or ‘democracy.' Finally, claiming that patriarchy can aid our understanding of the world does not imply that all women are hapless victims and all males are active oppressors. This is obviously not the case: many courageous women have always fought for their own rights as well as the oppression of others, and many feminist women have received personal and/or political encouragement and support from males.

When we label society patriarchal, we're pinpointing men's collective authority as the root of the problem, and we need to focus on that rather than individual men's poor behavior. 

We can't eliminate misogyny "individually," as Jessa Crispin puts it, while "casual demonization of white straight men follows the same pattern of bias and hatred that fuels misogyny, racism, and homophobia... the same lazy thinking, easy scapegoating, and pleasurable anger that all other forms of hatred have."

At its most fundamental level, the prioritization of men's interests and concerns is systematic, not arbitrary.

Patriarchy, on the other hand, lacks the same essential energy as capitalism, which is founded on the ruthless pursuit of expansion and profit as goals in themselves. Because of this dynamic, it is difficult to be a decent, non-exploitative capitalist in the long run without going out of business.

In a patriarchal culture, however, it is theoretically possible to be a nice guy, even a feminist or pro-feminist man – but this is not easy, and many men are more privileged than they know (not least because of their comfortable, unreflective sense of their own ‘normality'). It is also apparent that living in a patriarchal culture does not benefit all men equally.

Many men, are unable to meet Western society's ideals of masculinity; for those whose lives have been blighted by poverty, racism, and/or homophobia, any suggestion that their interests are systematically favored may feel like a cruel joke.

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

Rejecting a Male Centered Worldview


The notion of patriarchy has made perhaps the most basic contribution to feminist or human understanding by taking women and their experiences as its starting point. 

This has the direct consequence of degrading males; it so calls into question both the ‘normalcy' of their viewpoints and the underlying premise that they are the measure of what it is to be human, and that society should be organized around their wants. 

It also reveals the peculiarity of men's ostensibly objective manner of seeing the world, in which women are treated as an afterthought or special interest – as in the contrast between "history" and "women's history," or "novels" and "women's novels." 

This means that, despite its universalistic pretensions, the political, social, economic, and cultural "mainstream" is functionally a "male-stream" that marginalizes or rejects half of the population. 

The widely held belief that males are "normal" can be hazardous and/or discriminatory. 

Because safety testing are based on the average male physique, women are at a higher risk of damage or death in automobile accidents; failing to recognize the signs of heart attacks, which are generally different between men and women; and making tools that are too big for the average woman to use. 

In general, if women desire equality, they must submit to masculine standards. 

This implies that any 'different,' such as giving birth or raising children, is seen as a proof of women's inferiority and incapacity to compete with males, while their domestic and caring tasks go unnoticed by economists and political experts. 

Political and economic equality between the sexes entails little more than ‘business as usual with a few more women' from this incomplete and insufficient view. 

Women-centered viewpoints, on the other hand, remind us that the world of paid employment would collapse without women's unpaid labor, and that true equality cannot be achieved on men's terms; rather, it necessitates a dramatic reordering of priorities and assumptions in all spheres of life. 

However, such reordering should not be viewed as a mere reverse of previous values and arrangements. There is no single ‘women's perspective,' but rather a kaleidoscope of shifting, overlapping, fragmented, and at times conflicting opinions that represent the diversity of women's experiences as well as the way they might alter through time. 

As a result, displacing males is simply the first step in breaking free from the constraints of a worldview focused on either ‘side' of a binary dichotomy. 

The tricky issue here is to strike a balance between awareness of gender distinctions and the ambiguity of the label’s "women" and "men" and acknowledgment of the frequently terrible reality of a society that is not just gendered but also patriarchal.

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

Feminism Battles Patriarchy: Overcoming the False Social Construct and Institution that is Patriarchy


The concept of 'patriarchy' arose in the late 1960s from the same ferment of left-wing ideas and experiences as 'sexism,' as young women in a number of western countries, often white and privileged, discovered that many seemingly egalitarian and progressive men did not extend their political principles to their treatment of women.

These women came to realize that their seemingly particular and personal difficulties were widely shared when they related their terrible experiences in "consciousness-raising groups," and that they had grown up into a broad pattern of male exploitation and abuse of power.

In this environment, they began to claim that women were oppressed as well as black people, and that women should take urgent action to free themselves from what they came to refer to as "patriarchy."

The term "patriarchy" goes beyond "sexism" in identifying men's collective dominance over women.

"Connecting the dots" between many elements of women's experiences in both their political and private lives and tying these individual experiences to larger societal structures and institutions.

If we see the world not only as "gendered," but also as "patriarchal," we can see that the gender disadvantages and inequities listed in the Introduction are cumulative and interrelated, as well as taking less physical or quantifiable forms.

It's not just that women earn less and are more likely to live in poverty than men in the same class or race; it's also that they're under-represented in economic and political decision-making positions; their experiences, needs, and perceptions are frequently marginalized or ignored; and they're all too often subjected to sexual harassment.

Individual and/or seemingly isolated instances of discrimination, exploitation, or injustice, on the other hand, add up to a more general picture of a world marked by a gender hierarchy that is so pervasive and pervasive that it can, paradoxically, appear as unremarkable and invisible as the air we breathe.

Some far earlier feminists were also aware of the multidimensional character of women's injustices and disadvantages, the necessity to advocate on a wide variety of topics, and some of men's more subtle tactics of maintaining power. When John Stuart Mill, a nineteenth-century philosopher, contended that women had the right to education, work, and the vote, he also claimed that they had the right to be protected from violent spouses.

‘Men don't only want women's obedience; they want their feelings, too'.

As a result, they have put everything in place to imprison their brains.' At the same time in the United States, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was campaigning on the same public issues as Mill; she also argued that men used all forms of organized religion to oppress and manipulate women, she refused to listen to male ‘experts' on how to raise her children, she asserted her right to dress for comfort and convenience rather than male approval, and she insisted on equal pay for equal work.

She also stated that “when I think of all the wrongs that have been piled upon womankind, I am ashamed that I am not eternally in a state of chronic rage, stark insane, skin and bones, my eyes a torrent of tears, my mouth overflowing with curses.” Stanton, like Mill and other feminists of the day, lacked a term to express her beliefs or to analyses as well as identify the various wrongs she observed.

Feminists did not have an accessible and systematic means of conceptualizing the links between seemingly unconnected concerns until 1970, when Kate Millett's Sexual Politics was published.

Millett argued in ‘Notes towards a theory of patriarchy' that all known societies have been structured around the power of men over women, that this patriarchal power extends into every aspect of human life, and that it appears natural rather than political precisely because it is so universal and all-pervasive.

She argued that the family is ‘patriarchy's chief institution,' and that it is primarily maintained through a process of socialization, in which women are taught about their own inferiority and insignificance from a young age; this early ‘interior colonization' is then confirmed by education, literature, and religion. Patriarchy is thus based on the agreement of both men and women. 

It is, nevertheless, anchored by governmental authority, the legal system, and women's economic exploitation, and, like other systems of dominance, it ultimately relies on the use or threat of physical force; this danger often extends into private life in the form of sexual assault and rape.

With male dominance, love can only be a confidence trick that hides the power that is inescapably present in all female-male interactions.

Many women at the period discovered that labelling their society as "patriarchal" gave them with a strong new way of viewing the world and making sense of their lives, and many experienced a "click moment" in which disparate parts of knowledge and experience came into place.

Since 1970, a number of feminist writers have developed the term, which has been extensively criticized by others; it was somewhat out of favor at the turn of the twenty-first century, but it is now commonly utilized in popular debate of #MeToo or the gender pay gap. While it can be misused or exploited to make exaggerated assertions, I believe that the notion of patriarchy continues to give vital insights into effective feminist politics. Before looking at its limits, I highlight three major situations where it appears to be very useful.

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

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.

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What is Sexism TODAY?



The term "sexism" was coined in the late 1960s in the context of the civil rights struggle in the United States. Many young women found that supposedly ‘progressive' anti-racist and left-wing groups, as well as anti-war, new left, and student movements in North America, Europe, and Australia, were not immune from the ‘feminine mystique' identified by Betty Friedan, and that they were expected to act as sexually available secretaries and housewives rather than equal partners or decision-makers.

Men's behavior was labelled as 'sexist' to emphasize the political gravity of women's demands and complaints, implying that prejudice, discrimination, and ill treatment based on gender were just as important and unacceptable as those based on race.

In the decades after, the terms 'sexism' and 'sexist' have proven to be extremely helpful shorthand for describing a wide variety of ideas, attitudes, and behavior that reflect, sustain, or produce an environment or results that disadvantage one sex, generally women.

Examples include deliberate acts of discrimination, intimidation, or exclusion, such as refusing to hire or promote women or sexually harassing them on the street, as well as the uncritical acceptance of gender stereotypes, such as boys don't cry and women are naturally suited to housework, and the use of non-inclusive language, such as referring to all potential students at a school open day as "he," Sexism, like racism, isn't only about individual acts of discrimination; it can also take institutional forms:

An organization may be full of well-intentioned individuals who want to treat everyone fairly, but it may also be riddled with beliefs that favor males over women.

For example, when choosing a candidate for a parliamentary election, political activists may search for someone with trade union or commercial expertise, while overlooking the fact that establishing a play program for local children also requires politically relevant abilities.

Computer algorithms learn from people's prior patterns of behavior, thus institutional sexism can now exist without explicit human participation; for example, adverts for particularly well-paid or typically masculine positions have been targeted to males on Facebook and Google.

Although the term sexism is most often used to ‘call out' individual acts of bad or inappropriate behavior, it can also help us understand their larger social context:

To describe our society as sexist is to see the connections between different instances of discrimination, not just to say that some people do or think discriminatory things.

Laura Bates, who created the online ‘Everyday Sexism' initiative in 2012 in reaction to her own low-level, negative experiences, such as being yelled at on the street and grabbed on a bus, obviously saw this link.

The steady drip-drip-drip of sexism, sexualization, and objectification is linked to the assumption of ownership and control over women's bodies, and the background noise of harassment and disrespect is linked to the assertion of power that is violence and racial profiling, according to Bates.

Bates was able to clarify her findings and, by defining the problem, take the initial steps in confronting it by labelling a variety of different situations as "sexism." She believes that grassroots activism is critical in changing the culture of sexism, and she worked with others to encourage companies whose Facebook ads appeared on pages that appeared to condone or encourage sexual violence to leave the platform. After fifteen advertisers, including Nissan, left, Facebook promised several changes, including improved moderator training.

The term 'sexism' is still frequently used today, and it plays an important role in shaping a worldview that represents and expresses many women's experiences, as well as informing practical feminist politics.

It can be difficult for a woman to use the word without being stereotyped as an old-fashioned, pessimistic, humorless whiner who invents issues where none exist and sees the world through a distorted, feminist lens. This implies that, although silence or involvement in sexist society generally goes unnoticed, sexism criticism is frequently penalized, resulting in a situation in which "when we name what we come up against, we come up against what we label."

Sara Ahmed argues that, in this setting, female academics have frequently stopped doing the hard and often fruitless job of detecting sexism wherever they find it, and that as a result, "sexism appears to have "fallen out" of feminist theoretical vocabulary."

In some ways, academic apathy toward the term may appear to be a good thing, because feminist academic theory can appear almost deliberately obscure at times, a way of signaling membership in an elite group whose language is impenetrable to "outsiders," a category that includes most black and/or working-class women.

Feminist theory, on the other hand, may, at its finest, bring seemingly disparate ideas together and infuse greater rigor into public debates.

My impression is that the term "sexism" has become almost too simple to use, and that it is being thrown around to the point that it is losing its potency; it's possible that a lack of academic interest contributes to its seeming lack of analytical or critical edge.

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