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Sexism is a belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to or less valuable than the other and can also refer to hatred or distrust towards either gender as a whole, or creating stereotypes (Britannica Para 1). Instead of considering individual merits, many people base their opinions toward a certain gender, which often lead to biased stereotypes (Blau 57). Women are usually viewed as feeble, weak being in need of support. Throughout the history, the feminist movement fought against such deep-rooted views. As a result, it is apparent that women now have much more political representation and get higher education. The passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a small victory; however, the fight to end sexism continues until this day (Blau 64). Even though many people argue that women are now equal to men in the United State, it is not true because explicit sexism is still prevalent in the workplace, media stereotyping can be seen in most places, and gender role reinforcements are taught to children.
The most obvious form of discrimination is the difference in financial compensation for the same, exact job specification. The Equal Pay Act came into effect in 1975 (Overall 83). It seemed like a huge transformation in the workplace where women were always paid less than their male counterparts. After the Equal Pay Act, it was considered illegal to differentiate the wages for the same work based on gender alone. Starting from the 1980s, the gap between the wages of men and women narrowed significantly. The New Earning Survey in 1980 indicates that on average, men got paid 40% more than women. In 1992, the gap had narrowed even more to 25%; however, there still is a significant wage difference in highflying jobs. (Kowaleski 184). The same survey showed that the hourly wage of women were on an average 70.9% of men in 2009 (Kowaleski 189). One very important problem is that women are usually placed on the lower ladder of work force, meaning it may be very difficult to compare the skills and the respective salary at the same time. Simple analysis of numeral figures does not take many other factors involved in apparent sexism in modern society.
Another area of prolonged sexism in the workplace is the women’s chance of getting promoted to executive levels. In terms of sheer number, more women are getting jobs than ever, reaching 46% of the work force; nevertheless, only 3% of women hold chief executive position. The rate of increase in the number of women executives in the last two decades is less than 2% making women still linger on the very bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. With more women getting jobs, it encourages other women who were reluctant to move into the labor market to do the same and become more career minded. Although woman now make up 46% of the work force, only 3% of woman hold chief executive positions. This has only increased by 2% in the last 20 years (Kowaleski 202). Two US reporters writing in The Wall Street Journal coined the term “glass ceiling” (Blau 157). This type of discrimination varies between countries but in the United States it has legal ramifications. The United Nations has stated, in 2006, that women struggle to break through a “glass ceiling” and that their leadership positions remain too slow (Christopher 224). The term “glass ceiling” describes a perceived barrier to advancement in our society. In the United States the government funds a group called the Glass Ceiling Commission, which works to help fight the “glass ceiling” and they also collect statistics to look in to the rampant discrimination in American society based on gender or ethnic background. The GCC stated: “Over half of all Master’s degrees go to women, yet 95% of the Fortune 500 companies are men.” It is a clear indication that certain stereotypes and gender biases are still hindering the equality in our society.
The last form of explicit sexism in the workplace is the lack of support for child-birth and child-rearing women. The Employment Act 1978 gives women, going through pregnancy and child birth, the right to have time off with no loss of position (Overall 286). This is only given, however, to women who have a career involving full time and continuous employment and stops just 29 weeks after childbirth (Overall 287). Parental leave, flexible hours, and care of the child are left for the employer and employee to discuss. This is a very complex problem because women are most often considered the primary caregiver, making it very difficult for them to give up their maternal duties. Nursery provisions for women who want to go back to work after fulfilling their domestic duties are appalling. Only 2% of work places have nursery facilities and the male dominated government seems to think that the problem doesn’t exist (Burg 43). Taking into account that most women would like to have at least one child, there is going to be a lot of women in low paid jobs because women must carry on with many roles to perform. Women will most certainly turn to part-time employment, which means they will most likely suffer from lower job security and compensation.
Many people believe women are now treated fairly equal in workplaces because they see more women working in administrative positions and in the field of politics. Although it is true that there are many laws enacted to secure better working environment, statistics and reality still demonstrate wide gap between the male and the female workers (Burg 89). As of year 2009, the number of women entering college exceeded that of men; however, proportion of men and women in the labor market, especially in the management positions, is still far from being balanced (Berg 116). Sexism in workplaces is prevalent in the modern society.
Mass media is the main force to be blamed for gender stereotyping causing sexism. Women are most often portrayed as sexual objects. With the growing influence of media, young men are using women in pejorative ways to gain their masculinity. The explicit lyrics and visual stimulations used in the media are usually focused in the glorification of sexist, misogynist and patriarchal ways of thinking to attract mainstream culture. Teens blindly follow and mimic many of the ideas portrayed with sexist viewpoints (Burg 172). Sadly, the women are vastly degraded in the music industry and the music videos by being represented in a disrespectful manner with an emphasis placed only on their body. This denotes them as a sex symbol, and women’s reputation will continue to deteriorate because that is what the media and culture demands (Berg 174).
Not only are many well-liked songs demeaning in manner, but so are the popular videos that people watch. The television industry is a major influence of young men’s minds. They learn through media that the path to masculinity remains in using women as their primary tool (Burg 189). The extent of such influence is so vast that young children mimic the vulgar actions and often consider these figures as their role models (“Sexism” Para. 5). The brainwashed children continue watching explicit scenes of apparent sexism believing that such sexist behavior is acceptable in society. Women, on the other hand, are also brainwashed to believe that the best way to attract men is to use the sex appeal (“Sexism” Para 7). Both men and women are constantly absorbed in the skewed messages sent by the mass media; this is causing unconscious gender stereotyping, leading to unceasing sexism in the modern society.
Male dominance is the final factor to blame for gender stereotyping done by the mass media. People deeply involved in making music, videos, or commercials are predominately males (Burg 173). Just like workplaces, males dominate the mass media. They see everything through their perspectives and interpret them with their point of views. In films, men are usually portrayed as super-heroes and protagonists saving the world from doom or feeble counter parts from danger. Women are usually portrayed as a subordinate to men. Without central male figure at the center of the plot, woman alone cannot function properly. Girls get the latent message here believing that the Prince Charming has to rescue them from dire situations. Brainwashing and gender stereotyping can be done most effectively through the mass media and it is responsible for unceasing sexism in our society (“Sexism” para 4).
Some argue that gender stereotyping in the media is comparable to violence. Just because the audience sees the violence, it doesn’t mean that it automatically gets translated into crime. It is true in that exposure to gender stereotyping will not always lead to sexism; however, in order to reduce and prevent further acts of sexism and discrimination, the frequency and the context must be controlled very strictly. The mass media must accept more female perspectives and interpretations to portray the reality. Without active involvement from all corners of our society, sexism will not cease to exist.
In order to uproot such sexism from our society, younger children must be taught properly; however, as of now, gender role reinforcements are taught in various directions to young children. Little boys and girls learn from the very early stages of their lives that certain gender roles and characteristics are expected of them. The young children get their initial ideas from what they see most often, such as parents, teachers, toys, or TV programs. Subconscious imprinting occurs throughout their childhood, and such deeply rooted stereotypes go all the way to the end of their lives (Burg 231). Certain colors represent certain gender even before birth. Pinks and pastels are most often associated with girls, while blue and green are representative of male characteristics. Toys are also predestined according to gender stereotyping. Boys are taught to play around with robots and cars. Girls are usually attracted to dolls and princesses. The packaged boxes of the plastic tool set usually portray boys as models. Dolls and kitchen sets always have girls as models, indicating that boys are in charge of doing the outdoor activities, while girls stay home and do household chores. These seemingly unrelated gender roles are deeply ingrained in the children’s minds from the earliest stages of their lives.
Stronger support of traditional child rearing methods comes from parents who insist that the “old way” is the best. Parents or the caregivers in the earliest stages of life influence the perspectives of their children. Many mothers, for instance, explicitly tell their children how to act in front of an opposite gender. Girls are constantly pressured to act polite, shy, or naÃ¯ve. Boys are pressured with certain standards, such as academic achievement, manners, or bravery. Parents and caregivers incessantly pressure their children with set standards to perform (Akrami 68). Later, when they reach certain age, women are told not to be bossy or out-spoken. At the same time, men are told take care of the weak and to take control. These stereotypical gender biases are constantly rooted to children until they become adults. (Barnette 72).
Proponents of gender role reinforcements taught to children argue that it is the most basic job of the parents to teach their children the most natural state of being (Davis 34) There’s nothing wrong with teaching children how to live their life; however, forceful brainwashing or constant reinforcements regardless of the children’s unique character will definitely become a problem. The parents were educated like that from their parents. That’s probably the reason why many people blindly insist certain characters or traits to their children. Parents must realize that the world is changing. Gender stereotypes must be fixed or eradicated altogether according to the pace of change in the modern society. That’s the key to more understanding and wider scope of perspective.
To sum up, sexism is alive and well in our society. It is prevalent in our society, especially in the workplace, granting only partial benefits and opportunities to women. Gender stereotypes are strongly reinforced and taught in the media and in our own homes. To accomplish an absolute equality in our society, both men and women must work together for a very long time with respect. Drastic change is very unlikely, but small changes in thoughts will definitely improve the problem of sexism and discrimination in our society.
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