By Nicholas Klacsanzky
There are many “isms,” and sexisim is one of the most vile ones. It is often talked about in relation to the workplace, positions of power, societal status, and rights. It pertains to prejudice towards a gender for any reason. However, these reasons are usually fueled by ignorance, conditioning of the mind from an early age, or being a part of hate groups. Like racism, it does not look like sexism will go away soon, but hopefully it has declined since ancient times. To understand sexism to a greater degree, let us look at its definitions and history.
The term “sexism” was coined on November 18, 1965 by Pauline M. Leet at Franklin and Marshall College during a student-teacher forum. Leet gave a speech called “Women and the Undergraduate” in which she compared prejudice against sexes to racism. The key part of the speech by Leet was that, “When you argue … that since fewer women write good poetry this justifies their total exclusion, you are taking a position analogous to that of the racist—I might call you in this case a ‘sexist’ … Both the racist and the sexist are acting as if all that has happened had never happened, and both of them are making decisions and coming to conclusions about someone’s value by referring to factors which are in both cases irrelevant” (Finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com). However, it was not until three years later, on November 15, 1968, that the word “sexism” was seen in print. It was another speech, put in print in Vital Speeches of the Day, called “On Being Born Female” Caroline Bird. Another definition was given of sexism by Bird: “There is recognition abroad that we are in many ways a sexist country. Sexism is judging people by their sex when sex doesn’t matter. Sexism is intended to rhyme with racism” (Finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com).
Sexism is a broad term, and has been defined based on various disciplines. Generally, sexism is nowadays defined as the belief that one gender is superior to another. It is also stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination based on gender. Most often, sexism is referring to thinking of women and girls as lesser than their male counterparts (Schaefer, Richard T.). Within sociology, sexisim is delienated into an individual and institutional levels. Besides at the usual one-to-one level of sexism between people, sexism is said to be perpetuated by social institutions such as colleges, government services, and customs (Schaefer, Richard T.). On the other hand, within psychology, sexisim is seen as negative attitudes and values about certain genders. Psychology also recognizes that there is negative and benevolent stereotypes about different genders (Crawford, Mary). Turning to feminism, sexisim is commonly defined as being a systematic oppression of women that ends in women being disadvantaged. In addition, feminism states that sexism is a complex of male supremacy, misogyny, and chauvinism (Marilyn., Frye). According to ThoughtCo, “Some feminists have argued that sexism is the primal, or first, form of oppression in humanity, and that other oppressions are built on the foundation of oppression of women. Andrea Dworkin, a radical feminist, argued that position: “Sexism is the foundation on which all tyranny is built. Every social form of hierarchy and abuse is modeled on male-over-female domination”’ (Napikoski, Linda). However, feminism is often cited as having a more extreme view on sexism than from sociological and psychological points of perspective.
Sexism is a hot topic in many international forums and between people in their day-to-day lives. And there is a good reason for this: sexism has permeated our societal, psychological, and intellectual understanding of genders. Though sexism is generally defined as prejudice against a certain gender, it has many other implications in terms of history, societal impact, and psychological peculiarities.
Feminism Friday: The origins of the word “sexism.” Finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com. October 19, 2007.
Schaefer, Richard T. (2009). Sociology: A Brief Introduction (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 274–275. ISBN 9780073404264. OCLC 243941681.
Crawford, Mary (Mary (2004). Women and gender : a feminist psychology. Unger, Rhoda Kesler. (4th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill. p. 9. ISBN 0072821078. OCLC 52706293.
Marilyn., Frye. The politics of reality : essays in feminist theory (First ed.). Trumansburg, New York. p. 41. ISBN 089594099X. OCLC 9323470.
Napikoski, Linda. “What Is Sexism? What’s the Definition and Feminist Origins of the Term?” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, www.thoughtco.com/what-is-sexism-3529186.