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Essay/Term paper: Sexism-patriarchy

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Sex

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Brian S. Slevin

Sexism by definition is discrimination by members of one sex against the
other, especially by men against women, based on the assumption that one sex is
superior. It regards women as inherently inferior intellectually,
psychologically, and physically to man. This view, is shared by both men and
women, and has historically shaped institutions of world society. It has been
continued through the cultural modification of groups of people through
prolonged and continuous interaction involving intercultural exchange of
generations of children with resulting differences between the sexes.
On-job sexual discrimination such as low-level work experience caused by
traditional sexist viewpoints has hindered allot of female job promotion. Women
with the same qualifications as a man that applied for a job would be turned
down based on the simple fact that they are a woman. Prior to the Women's
movement women were constantly discriminated against in this manner. Sexual
discrimination still exists but its occurrence has drastically reduced, subtle
discrimination is however, still quite prevalent in our society. Salary is one
aspect of this still present discrimination, a vast majority of women employed
in the work force today receive less of a paycheck for the same amount of hours
worked on the same jobs as men. This is reinforced by the low number of women
who have a high paying, high powered job. There are a significantly higher
number of women who have little or no power in decision making and earn a low
salary. The women that do get promoted are often the subjects of rumor and
remarks made in poor taste. Men just can't stand to see they're egos shattered
and so they lash out against the woman with authority. They demean her position
and make it seem less important or trivial. All of this does hurt female self-
esteem and is just one of the ways sexism hurts women.
Women are not just harassed verbally but physically. "As in the movie
Flashdance, the male employer comes on to the female employee. In lawsuits,
such "coming on" is considered sexual harassment; by definition it is considered
a misuse of his power. When she resists and he persists, as in both the movie
and the Harlequin formula, it is an even clearer form of sexual harassment." In
many cases if a woman does not give in to a man's sexual advances she stands the
chance of losing her job! This was the tendency and in many instances still is
the tendency of many men who have authority over women. Sexism runs rampant in
every facet of our society. It even reached the Presidency a number of times
and the Supreme Court. Two prominent examples are Bill Clinton and the
accusations made by Jennifer Flowers and Judge Thomas's alleged sexual remarks
to Anita Hill. Granted these were never a hundred percent proven cases of sexual
harassment but they are sufficient enough to show that sexism reaches everywhere
in our society.
Women in many instances have to be very cautious as to what they wear to
work. If they're employer finds them attractive it could mean a sexist advance
or two. Any woman has to be on her guard against traditional sexist men. "If
femininity got lost in the pursuit of independence, a woman would lose power
(because real power means having control over one's life), which is having the
option to work and not to lose one's gentler side." Sexist tendencies don't
just abuse women in the work place but also at home. The traditional sexist
view of a head of any household is the man. When this idea is threatened, it is
as if their masculinity were being stripped away.
Physical violence is sometimes caused by a sexist man who feels as though
he has to reclaim his home. This is the type of man that feels women should be
kept underfoot. There are plenty of other reasons men batter their wives, but
this ranks highly among them. Contrary to popular beliefs (both of men and
women) the incidents of men who are physically violated in comparison with
women is relatively equal.
Sexist men are influenced by many sources in society, one very basic source
is that of the father. He would often, inadvertently and sometimes purposely
plant the seed of sexism in an impressionable young mind. The media, which is
also sexist tends to portray a woman at home cooking, cleaning, and taking care
of her children. Now with the accusations of sexism running rampant in the
media they have toned down on female portrayal as being weak. They now have
more opposition then they used to have from feminist organizations (National
Organization for Women) and Brian S. Slevin discrimination laws.
Today's sexist man is a careful and disheartened individual. Long gone are
the days when sexist viewpoints can run free in society. This is allowing women
to finally gain momentum in their overall goal for equality. There is somewhat
of a balance between traditional sexist tendencies and the new sexist man. This
balance is maintained by, subtle differences between the two. The traditional
sexist man believed that being a devious man was a good plan in life, and that
devious women were merely plotting against them. But the new sexist man might
say that women use power deviously when they marry for money. Stubbornness and
weakness are still looked at as female traits among many new sexist men. This
balance is a complicated one and traditional sexist beliefs both influence and
reinforce new sexist tendencies.
Some sexist ideology is actually sometimes good for women. Most sexist men
still think women shouldn't work or pay for things. To a woman with low self-
esteem this could be a plus, because she could stay at home and only have to
shop and basically live life as a maid. The new sexist man may split some of
the money making and spending responsibility, but he is eventually the one that
makes the final decision in where and how the money will be spent or saved.
Confusion is often the grave result of this uncertain balance in decision
and responsibility. "A woman often finds she has difficulty fully sharing
responsibility for the income. He finds, often, he has difficulty fully sharing
responsibility for the child care and housework." For women who are not already
married, simply dating can be a powerful dilemma. Many single men share a
sexist ideology and a great deal of women are finding that they have to
compromise on their aggression and power in order to find a mate. Almost all
sexist beliefs hold pride as one of the highest traits of a man. A sexist man
would find the idea of having a successful and aggressive wife to be a threat to
their pride. These sexist tendencies in men lead to allot of disappointment
from women.
Advertising is also a reinforcing characteristic for sexism. Women see a
man sitting behind a big desk giving orders and see women receiving the orders.
Almost all forms of advertising done in the past was sexist. It is still a
sexist industry, but now women can dispute how they are represented in an
advertisement. I interviewed Miss Edie Lanzano of Jackson Hgts. (age 23). When
asked,"How do you feel about the way women are portrayed in advertising?" She
replied,"I think it is very degrading to see a woman always on the bottom of
everything. Also it makes women look like mindless idiots and makes men look
very smart." To get a better feel of how women felt about women's portrayal in
advertising I interviewed two other females. The first was Mrs. Emilia LoSciuto
of Woodside (age 45). When asked the same question she replied,"I feel that
they are being exploited, especially in the way they dress. They seem to be so
ignorant that it makes men look like the greater sex." In my final interview
with Mrs. Mary Fabio of Woodside (age 70) I asked the same question but also
added,"How do you feel about advertising's past portrayal of women?" She
replied,"Some are very bad and most have hardly any clothe on, they are
literally disgusting to see. In the past they were much better then what you
see now. They were much more dignified and respectable looking." Speaking as
a man who has discussed this issue with other men, I can honestly say that most
men sexist or not do not care how women are portrayed either way. I have
discussed women's portrayal in advertising because, next to your parents, many
images of how you should act come about from what you see advertised. These
impressions can cause men and women to become what they are as members in our
In the Christian bible (the old testament) women have traditionally been
thought of as lower or powerless unless they were "specially" selected by God.
Women were given the arduous task of bearing children freeing men up to go about
and attain a job or a powerful status. Until Mary gave birth to the "Messiah" a
boy, no woman had really exuded any power. Of course without God's ordaining
that Mary give birth to Jesus this would never have happened. Jesus went around
and in all the parables and stories told in the bible, women would flock to his
feet and he would always protect and help them. Meanwhile men in the stories
would often attain Sainthood and become heroes. To quote the bible,"God, made
man in his own image." In other words if God is the supreme being then we at
least look like him and women were only created to bear our children. Also when
God created Adam and Eve he took a rib from Adam to make Eve. "Then the Lord
God took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; he breathed
lifegiving breath into his nostrils and the man began to live."
"Then the Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and
grow it. Then the Lord God said,"It is not good for the man to live alone. I
will make a suitable companion to help him. So he took some soil from the
ground and formed all the animals and all the birds. Then he brought them to
the man to see what he would name them; and that is how they all got their
names. So the man named all the birds and all the animals; but not one of them
was a suitable companion to help him. Then the Lord God made the man fall into
a deep sleep, and while he was sleeping, he took out one of the man's ribs and
closed up the flesh. He formed a woman out of the rib and brought her to him."
It is also true that according to the bible "woman" not "man" was the one
that was fooled by the devil and was also the one that forced the fruit onto the
"man." This in and of itself is a sexist idea and teaching of the bible. But
these are only two stories taught by the Catholic church, there are a great many
more. It is precisely because of these blatant sexist ideas that some Catholic
men and women are the way they are. Sexism is found everywhere in our society
and to discuss everywhere that it is found would take forever but I feel I have
covered the most important realms of sexism and there effects on men and women.
Sexism however, remains a major influence on both conscious and unconscious
assumptions in American mass culture.


Berkowitz, Bob, What Men Won't Tell You But Women Need to Know,
New York: William Morrow and Company, 1990

Carison, Dale Bick, Boys have feelings to: growing up male for
boys, New York: Htheneum, 1980

Farrell, Warren, Why Men are the way they are: the Male-Female
dynamic, New York: Mcgraw-Hill, 1986

French, Marilyn, The War Against Women, New York: Summit Books,
1992 Friedman,

Sonya, Men are just desserts, New York: Warner Books, 1983

Halas, Cella, I've Done So Well--Why do I feel So Bad?, New York:
Macmillan, 1978

Lerner, Gerda, The Creation of Patriarchy, New York: Oxford
University Press, 1986

Steinmetz, Suzanne, Victimology, vol. 2, 1977-1978, Numbers 3-4,

Unknown Author, The Bible, Genesis 2,3, New York: American Bible
Society, 1976

Interviews: 1) Edie Lanzano 2) Emilia LoSciuto 3) Mary Fabio


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