Gender Discrimination

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex.[1] Sexist attitudes may stem from traditional stereotypes of gender roles,[2][3] and may include the belief that a person of one sex is intrinsically superior to a person of the other.[4] A job applicant may face discriminatory hiring practices, or (if hired) receive unequal compensation or treatment compared to that of their opposite-sex peers.[5] Extreme sexism may foster sexual harassment, rape and other forms of sexual violence.[6]

Origin of the term

According to Fred R. Shapiro, in American Speech (Vol. 60, No. 1, Spring 1985), the term "sexism" was most likely coined on November 18, 1965, by Pauline M. Leet during the "Student-Faculty Forum" at Franklin and Marshall College.[7] The term appears in Leet's forum contribution titled "Women and the Undergraduate", in which she defines it by comparing it to racism, saying in part, "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."[7]

Also according to Shapiro, the first time the term "sexism" appeared in print was in Caroline Bird's speech "On Being Born Female", which was published on November 15, 1968, in Vital Speeches of the Day (p. 6).[7] In this speech she said in part, "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. Both have used to keep the powers that be in power."[7]

Sheldon Vanauken is sometimes falsely claimed to have coined the term "sexism" in his pamphlet "Freedom for Movement Girls – Now".[7] In the pamphlet the term "sexism" appears without any citation of Leet or Bird, thus leading to the false idea that Vanauken coined it himself.[7]


Certain forms of sex discrimination are illegal in some countries; in others, discrimination may be legally sanctioned under a variety of circumstances.[8]

Ancient world

According to Peter Sterns, women in pre-agricultural societies held equal positions with men; it was only after the adoption of agriculture and sedentary cultures that men began to institutionalize the concept that women were inferior to men.[9] Definitive examples of sexism in the ancient world included written laws preventing women from participating in the political process; for example, Roman women could not vote or hold political office.[10]

Coverture and other marriage regulations

Main article: Coverture

Until the 20th century U.S. and English law observed the system of coverture, where "by marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law; that is the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage".[11] U.S. women were not legally defined as "persons" until 1875 (Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162).[12]

In France married women received the right to work without their husband's permission in 1965,[13][14][15] and in West Germany women obtained this right in 1977 (women in East Germany enjoyed more rights).[16][17] In Spain during the Franco era a married woman required her husband's consent (permiso marital) for nearly all economic activities, including employment, ownership of property and traveling away from home; the permiso marital was abolished in 1975.[18]

In many countries, women still lose significant legal rights at marriage. For example, Yemeni marriage regulations state that a wife must obey her husband and must not leave home without his permission.[19]

In Iraq husbands have a legal right to "punish" their wives. The criminal code states at Paragraph 41 that there is no crime if an act is committed while exercising a legal right; examples of legal rights include: "The punishment of a wife by her husband, the disciplining by parents and teachers of children under their authority within certain limits prescribed by law or by custom".[20]

In the Democratic Republic of Congo the Family Code states that the husband is the head of the household; the wife owes her obedience to her husband; a wife has to live with her husband wherever he chooses to live; and wives must have their husbands' authorization to bring a case in court or to initiate other legal proceedings.[21]

Gender stereotypes

Gender stereotypes are widely-held beliefs about the characteristics and behavior of women and men.[22] Empirical studies have found widely-shared cultural beliefs that men are more socially valued and more competent than women in a number of activities.[23][24] For example, Susan Fiske and her colleagues surveyed nine diverse samples from different regions of the United States. Fiske found that members of these samples, regardless of age, consistently rated the category of "men" higher than the category of "women" on a multidimensional scale of competence.[25] Dustin B. Thoman and others (2008) hypothesize that “The socio-cultural salience of ability versus other components of the gender-math stereotype may impact women pursuing math”. Through the experiment comparing the math outcomes of women under two various gender-math stereotype components, which are the ability of math and the effort on math respectively, Thoman and others found that women’s math performance is more likely to be affected by the negative ability stereotype, which is influenced by socio-cultural beliefs in the United States, rather than the effort component. As a result of this experiment and the socio-cultural beliefs in the United States, Thoman and others concluded that individuals’ academic outcomes can be affected by the gender-math stereotype component that is influenced by the socio-cultural beliefs (Thoman et al. 2008).[26]

There are huge areal differences in attitudes towards appropriate gender roles. For example, in the World Values Survey, responders were asked if they thought that wage work should be restricted to only men in the case of shortage in jobs. While in Iceland the proportion that agreed was 3.6%, in Egypt it was 94.9%.[27]

A phenomenon known as stereotype threat can lower women's performance on mathematics tests, creating a self-fulfilling stereotype of women having inferior quantitative skills compared to men.[28][29] Stereotypes can also affect self-assessment; studies found that specific stereotypes (e.g., women have lower mathematical abilities) affect women's and men’s perceptions of those abilities, and men assess their own task ability higher than women who perform at the same level. These "biased self-assessments" have far-reaching effects, because they can shape men and women’s educational and career decisions.[30][31]

In language

Sexist and gender-neutral language

Research indicates that the use of "he" in the English language as a generic pronoun evokes a disproportionate number of male images, excluding women in non gender-specific instances.[32][33] Results also suggest that while the plural "they" functions as a generic pronoun for both males and females, males may comprehend "he/she" in a manner similar to "he", since "he" is usually placed before the slash and "she" after it. This is seen by some as a linguistic convention, not driven by gender roles.[34]

In the late 20th century there was a rise in gender-neutral language in the western world, often attributed to the rise of feminism. Gender-neutral language is the avoidance of gender-specific job titles, non-parallel usage and other usage considered sexist. Supporters claim that gender-specific language may imply a systemic bias to exclude individuals based on gender, or is as unnecessary as language based on (for example) race, religion or height.

Anthropological linguistics and gender-specific language

Unlike the Indo-European languages, gender-specific pronouns in many other languages are a relatively recent phenomenon (occurring during the early 20th century). Cultural revolution resulted from colonialism in many parts of the world, with attempts to modernize and westernize local languages with gender-specific and animate-inanimate pronouns. As a result, gender-neutral pronouns became gender-specific (see, for example, gender-neutrality in languages without grammatical gender: Turkish).

Gender-specific pejorative terms

Gender-specific pejorative terms intimidate or harm another person because of their gender. Sexism can be expressed in language with negative gender-oriented implications,[35] such as condescension. Other examples include obscene language. Some words are offensive to transgender people, including "tranny", "she-male", or "he-she". Intentional misgendering (assigning the wrong gender to someone) and the pronoun "it" are also considered pejorative.[36][37]

Occupational sexism

Main article: Occupational sexism

Occupational sexism refers to discriminatory practices, statements or actions, based on a person's sex, occurring in the workplace. One form of occupational sexism is wage discrimination.

In 2008 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that while female employment rates have expanded and gender employment and wage gaps have narrowed nearly everywhere, on average women still have 20% less chance to have a job and are paid 17% less than men.[38] The report stated:
[In] many countries, labour market discrimination – i.e. the unequal treatment of equally productive individuals only because they belong to a specific group – is still a crucial factor inflating disparities in employment and the quality of job opportunities [...] Evidence presented in this edition of the Employment Outlook suggests that about 8% of the variation in gender employment gaps and 30% of the variation in gender wage gaps across OECD countries can be explained by discriminatory practices in the labour market.[38][39]

It also found that despite the fact that almost all OECD countries, including the U.S.,[40] have established anti-discrimination laws, these laws are difficult to enforce.[38]

Gender stereotypes

Gender roles are behaviors and tasks which society associates with each gender. In the United States, men are typically expected to be stoic, decisive, direct, athletic, strong, driven, and brave; women are expected to be emotional, nurturing, weak, affectionate, home-oriented and forgiving.[41]

According to the OECD, women's labor-market behavior "is influenced by learned cultural and social values that may be thought to discriminate against women (and sometimes against men) by stereotyping certain work and life styles as 'male' or 'female'". The organization contends that women's educational choices "may be dictated, at least in part, by their expectations that [certain] types of employment opportunities are not available to them, as well as by gender stereotypes that are prevalent in society".[42]

Professional discrimination against women in the workplace continues. One study found that 50 percent of women in government jobs reported that they had experienced discrimination while performing a work-related task, and 20 percent of female government employees reported that they experienced gender discrimination at work.[43] Women do not receive equal pay for equal work, and are less likely to be promoted.[44]

In 1833, women working in factories earned one-quarter of what men earned; in 2007, women's median annual paychecks were $0.78 for every $1.00 earned by men. A study showed that women comprised 87% of workers in the child-care industry, and 86 percent of the health-aide industry.[45] Others contest the wage gap, saying the difference in pay primarily reflects different career and work-hours choices by men and women rather than sexism.[46]

A 2009 study found that being overweight harms women's career advancement, but presents no barrier for men. Overweight or obese women were significantly underrepresented among company bosses; however, a significant proportion[quantify] of male executives were overweight or obese. The author of the study stated that the results suggest that "the 'glass ceiling effect' on women's advancement may reflect not only general negative stereotypes about the competencies of women, but also weight bias that results in the application of stricter appearance standards to women. Overweight women are evaluated more negatively than overweight men. There is a tendency to hold women to harsher weight standards."[47][48]

Transgender people also experience workplace discrimination and harassment.[49] Unlike sex-based discrimination, the refusal to hire (or firing) a worker for their gender identity or expression is legal in most countries and U.S. states.

Wage gap

Main article: Gender pay gap

Several studies[which?] have found that women earn a smaller average wage than men. Many economists and feminist scholars have argued that this is the result of systemic gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Others, however, maintain that the wage gap is a result of differences between the choices that men and women make in the workplace, such as more women than men choosing to be full-time parents or work fewer hours to be part-time parents.

Eurostat found a persistent, average gender pay gap of 17.5 percent in the 27 EU member states in 2008.[50] Similarly, the OECD found that female full-time employees earned 17 percent less than their male counterparts in OECD countries in 2009.[38][39]

In the United States, the female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.77 in 2009; female full-time, year-round (FTYR) workers earned 77 percent as much as male FTYR workers. Women's earnings relative to men's fell from 1960 to 1980 (60.7 percent to 60.2 percent), rose rapidly from 1980 to 1990 (60.2 to 71.6 percent), leveled off from 1990 to 2000 (71.6 to 73.7 percent) and rose from 2000 to 2009 (73.7 to 77.0 percent).[51][52] When the first Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, female full-time workers earned 58.9 percent as much as male full-time workers.[51]

The gender pay gap has been attributed to differences in personal and workplace characteristics between women and men (such as education, hours worked and occupation), innate behavioral and biological differences between men and women and discrimination in the labor market (such as gender stereotypes and customer and employer bias). Women interrupt their careers to take on child-rearing responsibilities more frequently than men.

Wage discrimination is theorized as contradicting the economic concept of supply and demand, which states that if a good or service (in this case, labor) is in demand and has value it will find its price in the market. If a worker offered equal value for less pay, supply and demand would indicate a greater demand for lower-paid workers. If a business hired lower-wage workers for the same work, it would lower its costs and enjoy a competitive advantage. According to supply and demand, if women offered equal value demand (and wages) should rise since they offer a better price (lower wages) for their service than men do.[63]

Research at Cornell University and elsewhere indicates that mothers are less likely to be hired than equally-qualified fathers and, if hired, receive a lower salary than male applicants with children.[64][65][66][67][68][69] The OECD found that "a significant impact of children on women’s pay is generally found in the United Kingdom and the United States".[42] Fathers earn $7,500 more, on average, than men without children do.[70]

Possible causes

According to Denise Venable at the National Center for Policy Analysis, the "wage gap" is not the result of discrimination but of differences in lifestyle choices. Venable's report found that women are less likely than men to sacrifice personal happiness for increases in income or to choose full-time work. She found that among adults working between one and thirty-five hours a week and part-time workers who have never been married, women earn more than men. Venable also found that among people aged 27 to 33 who have never had a child, women's earnings approach 98% of men's and "women who hold positions and have skills and experience similar to those of men face wage disparities of less than 10 percent, and many are within a couple of points".[71] Venable concluded that women and men with equal skills and opportunities in the same positions face little or no wage discrimination: "Claims of unequal pay almost always involve comparing apples and oranges".

Glass ceiling

Main article: Glass ceiling

The term "glass ceiling" is used to describe a barrier to advancement based on gender discrimination. In academic achievement, improvements have been made. However, as of 1995 in the United States women received about half of all master's degrees but 95–97% of the senior managers of Fortune 1000 and Fortune 500 companies were male;[72] of Forbes Global 2000 companies, 5% of senior managers were women.

The United Nations asserts that "progress in bringing women into leadership and decision making positions around the world remains far too slow."[73]


Objectification is treating a person, usually a woman, as an object.[74] Sexual objectification is where a person is viewed primarily in terms of sexual appeal or as a source of sexual gratification. This is sometimes regarded as a form of sexism.[75]

In advertising

Traditionally, in Western countries, advertising was regulated under "obscenity" laws. These dealt with nudity and "indecent" poses, not with objectification itself.

Today, some countries (for example Norway and Denmark) have laws against sexual objectification in advertising.[76] Nudity is not banned, and nude people can be used to advertise a product if they are relevant to the product advertised. Sol Olving, head of Norway's Kreativt Forum (an association of the country's top advertising agencies) explained, "You could have a naked person advertising shower gel or a cream, but not a woman in a bikini draped across a car".[76]

Other countries continue to ban nudity (on traditional obscenity grounds), but also make explicit reference to sexual objectification, such as Israel's ban of bilboards and other images that "depicts sexual humiliation or abasement, or presents a human being as an object available for sexual use". (Art 214)[77]


It is theorized[by whom?] that pornography contributes to sexism by objectifying women and portraying them in submissive roles.[78] Robin Morgan and Catharine MacKinnon suggest that certain types of pornography also contribute to violence against women by eroticizing scenes in which women are dominated, coerced, humiliated or sexually assaulted.[79][80]

Feminists opposed to pornography (such as MacKinnon) charge that the production of pornography entails physical, psychological and economic coercion of the women who perform and model in it.[81][82][83] Opponents of pornography charge that it presents a distorted image of sexual relations and reinforces sexual myths; it shows women as continually available and willing to engage in sex at any time, with any men, on their terms, responding positively to any requests. MacKinnon states:

Pornography affects people's belief in rape myths. So for example if a woman says "I didn't consent" and people have been viewing pornography, they believe rape myths and believe the woman did consent no matter what she said. That when she said no, she meant yes. When she said she didn't want to, that meant more beer. When she said she would prefer to go home, that means she's a lesbian who needs to be given a good corrective experience. Pornography promotes these rape myths and desensitises people to violence against women so that you need more violence to become sexually aroused if you're a pornography consumer. This is very well documented.[84]

Supporters of pornography and anti-censorship activists (including sex-positive feminists) argue that pornography does not seriously impact a mentally-healthy individual, since the viewer can distinguish between pornography and reality.[85] They contend that both sexes are objectified in pornography (particularly sadistic or masochistic pornography, in which men are objectified and sexually used by women).[86]


Anti-prostitution feminists argue that prostitution is a form of exploitation of women, which is the result of discrimination of women (lack of professional opportunities for women, poverty) and of patriarchal views on sexuality which stipulate that unwanted sex with a woman is acceptable, that men's desires must be satisfied at any cost, and that women exist to serve men sexually. They argue that the consent of the prostitute is seriously undermined by the strong direct (pimps) or indirect (social circumstances) coercion.[87][88][89][90][91][92] The European Women's Lobby condemned prostitution as "an intolerable form of male violence".[93]

Carole Pateman writes that:[94]

"Prostitution is the use of a woman's body by a man for his own satisfaction. There is no desire or satisfaction on the part of the prostitute. Prostitution is not mutual, pleasurable exchange of the use of bodies, but the unilateral use of a woman's body by a man in exchange for money".

Media portrayals

Some feminist scholars believe that media portrayals of demographic groups can both maintain and disrupt attitudes and behaviors toward those groups.[95][page needed][96][97][page needed] These images are often harmful, particularly to women and racial and ethnic minority groups. For example, a study of African American women found they feel that media portrayals of African American women often reinforce stereotypes of this group as overly sexual and idealize images of lighter-skinned, thinner African American women (images African American women describe as objectifying).[98] In a recent analysis of images of Haitian women in the Associated Press photo archive from 1994 to 2009, several themes emerged emphasizing the "otherness" of Haitian women and characterizing them as victims in need of rescue.[99]

Sexist jokes

Sexist jokes can be a form of sexual objectification, which reduces the subject of the joke to an object (e.g., "What do you do when your dishwasher won't work?" Answer: "You hit her"). They not only objectify women or men, but can also condone violence or prejudice against men or women. "Sexist humor—the denigration of women through humor—for instance, trivializes sex discrimination under the veil of benign amusement, thus precluding challenges or opposition that nonhumorous sexist communication would likely incur."[100] A study of 73 male undergraduate students by Ford (2007) found that "sexist humor can promote the behavioral expression of prejudice against women amongst sexist men".[100] According to the study, when sexism is presented in a humorous manner it is viewed as tolerable and socially acceptable. "Disparagement of women through humor 'freed' sexist participants from having to conform to the more general and more restrictive norms regarding discrimination against women."[100]

Gender discrimination in politics

Suffrage is the civil right to vote. Gender is sometimes used as a criterion for the right to vote. Some Western countries allowed women the right to vote relatively recently: Swiss women gained the right to vote in federal elections in 1971,[101] and Appenzell Innerrhoden became the last canton to grant women the right to vote on local issues (in 1991, when it was forced to do so by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland).[102] The first country to grant unrestricted rights to vote and stand for parliament was Finland (then the Grand Duchy of Finland) in 1906.[103] French women were granted the right to vote in 1944.[104][105]

Women's suffrage in the United States was achieved gradually at the state and local levels during the 19th and early 20th centuries, culminating in 1920 with passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." Since women gained the right to vote in the U.S., they have emerged in local and state politics and as presidential candidates. Although women are capable of gaining political power, gender stereotypes persist in politics. Data from the 2006 American National Election Studies Pilot Study measured "perceptions of women's and men's issue competency".[106] One question asked was "Who would do a better job in the U.S. Congress handling crime—a Democrat who is a man, a Democrat who is a woman or would they equally do a good or bad job?"[106] The same question was rephrased, replacing "Democrat" with "Republican" The data indicates that voters use gender stereotypes for both Democrats and Republicans. When asked the question, voters stated that the male would do a better job in handling crime. When "handling crime" was changed to "handling education", they said that women would do a better job. The researchers believe that the voters responded as they did because "women politicians are perceived to possess typically feminine traits such as being warm and sensitive and are believed to be expert on 'so called' woman issues such as education. Moreover, male politicians are perceived to possess typically masculine traits, such as being assertive and tough".[106] About 2 percent of voters (average: 1.9% Democrats in Congress, 2.3% Republicans in Congress) believed that men would do a better job handling education, while about 6.4% (average 6.8% Democrats in Congress, 6.2% Republicans in Congress) said that women would do a better job. While voters may believe that women do a better job in certain areas than men (and vice versa), the survey then limits the analysis to respondents affiliated with a specific political party. When Republicans were asked the same questions about issue competency in education and crime, the results show that about 26 percent of Democratic women state that female Democratic politicians would do a better job handling education while just under 20 percent of Republican women held the same belief. More Republicans believed that Republican men are better able to handle crime (36 percent) than Democrats believed of Democratic men (14%).[106]

The researchers conclude that "although it is often argued that any gender effect will disappear in the presence of the party cue, [they] find that gender stereotypes transcend party. Both Democratic and Republican politicians are believed to differ by gender in perceived issue competency and issue positions...Democrats are more likely to hold gender stereotypes that benefit women in politics. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to see an advantage for women on the issue of education and are less likely than Republicans to see a men advantage on the issue of crime".[106] While Democrats are more likely to believe that women are better able to handle education, Republicans believe that men are better able to handle crime. "Overall, gender stereotypes appear to be more detrimental to the electoral chances of Republican women than Democratic women. In the end, this research offers support for the notion that women and men who run for office are viewed through multiple lenses by a public employing a range of stereotypes to the degree that people continue to see women and men as possessing different issue competencies".[106] This indicates sexism, since one's gender should not indicate capability in handling crime or education. The split by political parties demonstrates that, based on the data and conclusions, Democrats believe that women are better able to handle education while Republicans believe that men are better fit to handle crime.[106]


Sexism takes a number of forms, and is sometimes subtle or unconscious.


The Smithsonian American Art Museum reported in its 2011 survey of American civic art that there were 5,193 public statues in the United States of individuals; of these, 394 depicted females.[107]

Child marriage

Main article: Child marriage

A child marriage is a marriage where one or both spouses are under 18.[108][109] Girls are disproportionately the most affected.[108] Child marriages are most common in South Asia, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, but occur in other parts of the world, too. The practice of marrying young girls is rooted in patriarchal ideologies of control of female behavior, and is also sustained by traditional practices such as dowry and bride price. Child marriage is strongly connected with the protection of female virginity.[110] UNICEF states that:[108]

"Marrying girls under 18 years old is rooted in gender discrimination, encouraging premature and continuous child bearing and giving preference to boys' education. Child marriage is also a strategy for economic survival as families marry off their daughters at an early age to reduce their economic burden."

Consequences of child marriage include restricted education and employment prospects, increased risk of domestic violence, child sexual abuse, pregnancy and birth complications, social isolation.[109][110]

According to the UN, the ten countries with the highest rates of child marriage are: Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Guinea, Mozambique, Mali, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, and Malawi.[111]

Controlling women's dressing attire

Laws that dictate how women must dress are seen by many international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, as a form of gender discrimination.[112] Amnesty International states that:[112]

"Interpretations of religion, culture or tradition cannot justify imposing rules about dress on those who choose to dress differently. States should take measures to protect individuals from being coerced to dress in specific ways by family members, community or religious groups or leaders."

In many places, women who do not dress in socially and legally proscribed ways are often subjected to violence (for instance by the authorities, such as the religious police, by family members, or by the community).[113][114]

Criminal Justice

Studies have shown that for identical crimes, men are given harsher sentences than women. Controlling for arrest offense, criminal history and other pre-charge variables, sentences are over 60 percent heavier for men. Women are more likely to avoid charges entirely, and to avoid imprisonment if convicted.[115][116] The gender disparity varies according to the nature of the case (for example, there is a smaller gender gap in fraud cases than in drug trafficking and firearms). This disparity occurs in U.S. federal courts, despite guidelines designed to avoid differential sentencing.[117]

There are many reasons postulated for the gender disparity. One of the most common is the larger caregiving role of women.[115][116][117] Other possible reasons include the "girlfriend theory" (whereby women are seen as tools of their boyfriends),[116] the theory that female defendants are more likely to cooperate with authorities,[116] and that women are often successful at turning their violent crime into victimhood by citing defenses such as postpartum depression and battered wife syndrome.[118] However, none of these theories can account for the total disparity,[116] and sexism has also been suggested as an underlying cause.[119]

Transgender people are consistently discriminated against in jails and prisons. They are almost always put in the jail based on their sex and not their gender identity and are denied the ability to be able to take hormones or get sexual reassignment surgery and if they do they are never moved to prisons of the other gender. Studies show that trans people face an enormous amount of harassment and are at higher risk for sexual assault when they are not placed in prisons that match their gender identity.[120]

Domestic violence

Main article: Domestic violence

Domestic violence takes a number of forms (including verbal, physical and psychological abuse), which vary across the gender spectrum. Domestic violence is tolerated and even legally accepted in many parts of the world. For instance, in 2010, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)'s Supreme Court ruled that a man has the right to physically discipline his wife and children if he does not leave physical marks.[121]

According to a report of the Special Rapporteur submitted to the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (2002) concerning cultural practices in the family that reflect violence against women (E/CN.4/2002/83):

The Special Rapporteur indicated that there had been contradictory decisions with regard to the honour defense in Brazil, and that legislative provisions allowing for partial or complete defense in that context could be found in the penal codes of Argentina, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Peru, Syria, Venezuela and the Palestinian National Authority.[122]

Honor killings are a form of domestic violence which continues to be practiced in several parts of the world. The victims of honor killings are usually women.[123] Victims of honor killings are killed for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate, or engaging in homosexual relations.[124][125][126]

Stoning (a form of punishment in which a group throws stones at a person, usually until the victimn dies) is associated with domestic disputes, especially those involving accusations of loss of chastity, adultery or the refusal of an arranged marriage. Recently, several people have been sentenced to death by stoning after being accused of adultery in Iran, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Mali and Pakistan.[127][128][129][130][131][132][133][134][135]

Practices such as honor killings and stoning continue to be supported by mainstream politicians and other officials in some countries. In Pakistan, after the 2008 Balochistan honour killings in which five women were killed by tribesmen of the Umrani Tribe of Balochistan, Pakistani Federal Minister for Postal Services Israr Ullah Zehri defended the practice:[136] "These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them. Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."[137] Following the 2006 case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani (which has placed Iran under international pressure for its stoning sentences), Mohammad-Javad Larijani (a senior envoy and chief of Iran’s Human Rights Council) defended the practice of stoning; he claimed it was a "lesser punishment" than execution, because it allowed those convicted a chance at survival.[138]

Hate-motivated sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault are considered to be acts of hate. Their relationship to sexism is the frequent desire on the part of the perpetrator for power over the victim. The Center for Women Policy Studies stated that "victims almost always are chosen for what they are rather than who they are"; a woman is more likely to be attacked because of her gender than her individuality.[139]

Research into factors motivating perpetrators of rape against women frequently reveals a pattern of hatred towards women and pleasure in inflicting psychological and physical trauma, rather than sexual interest.[140] Mary Odem posits that rape is the result not of pathology but of systems of male dominance, cultural practices and beliefs which objectify and degrade women.[141]

Mary Odem, Jody Clay-Warner and Susan Brownmiller consider that sexist attitudes are propagated by a series of myths about rape and rapists.[141]:130–140 [142] They state that in contrast to those myths, rapists often plan a rape before they choose a victim[141] and acquaintance rape (not assault by a stranger) is the most common form of rape.[141]:xiv[143] Odem also asserts that these rape myths propagate sexist attitudes about men, by perpetuating the belief that men cannot control their sexuality.[141]

In response to acquaintance rape, the "Men Can Stop Rape" movement has been implemented.[144] The U.S. military has begun a similar movement, with the slogan "My strength is for defending".[145]

In Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti, it is argued that in the US rape is most often popularly depicted (in the media, in public discourse, in movies etc.) as stranger-rape (with a stereotypical stranger who "jumps out of the bushes"), despite the fact that most rapes do not fit this stereotype. In presenting rape in this way to the public, patriarchal society ensures that women are kept under control, at home/indoors, living their life according to traditional gender roles and expectations, dressed 'modestly'. This leads to an ideology that women are safe at home (ignoring rape by family members/partners), and to blaming of victims.[146]


Women have traditionally had limited access to higher education.[147] When women were admitted to higher education, they were encouraged to major in less-intellectual subjects; the study of English literature in American and British colleges and universities was instituted as a field considered suitable to women's "lesser intellects".[148]

World literacy is lower for females than for males. Latest data from CIA World Factbook shows that 79.7% of women are literate, compared to 88.6% of men (aged 15 and over).[149]

In some parts of the world, girls continue to be excluded from proper public or private education. In parts of Afghanistan, girls who go to school face serious violence from some local community members and religious groups.[150][150]

Girls' educational opportunities and results have greatly improved in the West. Since 1991, the proportion of women enrolled in college in the United States has exceeded the enrollment rate for men; the gap has widened over time.[151] As of 2007, women made up the majority—54 percent—of the 10.8 million college students enrolled in the United States.[152]

Research has found that discrimination continues; boys receive more attention and praise (and more blame and punishment) in the grammar-school classroom,[153] and "this pattern of more active teacher attention directed at male students continues at the postsecondary level".[154] Over time, female students speak less in a classroom setting.[155]

It is also argued that the educational system has become "feminized", allowing girls more of a chance at success with a more "girl-friendly" environment in the classroom;[156] this is seen to hinder boys by punishing "masculine" behaviour and diagnosing boys with behavioural disorders.[157]

In 2011 a United States Bureau of Labor Statistics report found that women are more likely than men to earn a bachelor's degree by age 23.[158][159] A survey conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools similarly found that in the 2008–09 school year, women earned 50.9% of doctorates and 60% of master's degrees.[160]

Girls earn higher grades than boys until the end of high school; in some districts, girls achieve higher marks despite similar (or lower) scores than boys on standardised tests.[161]

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons". WHO states that:[162]

"The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women."


"Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths."


"FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women".

According to a 2013 UNICEF report, 125 million women and girls in Africa and the Middle East have experienced FGM.[163] The highest prevalence in Africa is documented in Somalia (98 percent of women affected), Guinea (96 percent), Djibouti (93 percent), Egypt (91 percent), Eritrea (89 percent), Mali (89 percent), Sierra Leone (88 percent), Sudan (88 percent), Gambia (76 percent), Burkina Faso (76 percent), Ethiopia (74 percent), Mauritania (69 percent), Liberia (66 percent), and Guinea-Bissau (50 percent).[163]

Female infanticide and sex-selective abortion

Female infanticide is the killing of very young female children. It is an extreme form of gender based violence.[164][165][166] Female infanticide is more common than male infanticide, and is especially prevalent in parts of Asia, such as parts of India and China.[165][167][168]

Sex-selective abortion involves terminating a pregnancy based upon the predicted gender of the baby. The abortion of female fetuses is most common in areas where the culture values male children over females,[169] such as parts of the People's Republic of China, India, Pakistan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Caucasus.[169][170] One reason for this preference is that males are seen as generating more income than females. A 2011 report on Science Daily stated that the trend grew steadily during the previous decade, and would probably cause a future shortage of women.[171]

Forced sterilization and forced abortion

Forced sterilization and forced abortion are forms of gender-based violence.[164]

Forced sterilization was practiced during the first half of the 20th century by many Western countries (including the US) and there are reports of this practice being currently employed in some countries, such as Uzbekistan and China.[172][173][174][175]

Forced abortions are today associated mostly with China. Although they are not an official policy of the country, they result from government pressure on local officials who, in turn, employ strong-arm tactics on pregnant mothers. In 2012, a highy publicized case of a forced abortion involving the photo of the fetus has sparked international outrage.[176]

Military service

Military service has been considered a gender-specific duty. Some countries, such as Israel, require military service regardless of gender. Others (such as Turkey and Singapore) still use a system of conscription which only requires military service for men, although women are permitted to serve voluntarily.

In the United States, all men must register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday.[177] The system does not require women to register, leading to criticism that it discriminates against men by forcing them into a dangerous role based on gender.[178]


Main article: Misandry

Misandry is the hatred of men and boys as a societal group or as individuals.


Main article: Misogyny

Misogyny is the hatred of women and girls as a societal group or as individuals.

War rape

Main article: War rape

War rapes are rapes committed by soldiers, other combatants or civilians during armed conflict, war or military occupation, and are distinguished from in-service sexual assault and rape committed amongst troops.[179][180][181] It also encompasses situations in which women are forced into prostitution or sexual slavery by an occupying power, such as Japanese comfort women during World War II. Sexual violence and rape as a weapon of war also affects a large number of men, although it is less-often reported.[182]

Sexual slavery

Main article: Sexual slavery

Sexual slavery occurs when people are coerced into slavery for sexual exploitation. The incidence of sexual slavery by country has been studied and tabulated by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) with the cooperation of a number of international agencies.[183] Sexual slavery also includes single-owner slavery, the ritual slavery associated with certain religious practices, slavery for primarily non-sexual purposes where non-consensual sex is common and forced prostitution.


Main article: Transphobia

Transphobia refers to prejudice against transsexuality and transsexual (or transgender) people based on their gender identification. Whether intentional or not, transphobia can have negative consequences for the object of the negative attitude. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement opposes sexism against transsexuals. One form of sexism against transsexuals is "women-only" and "men-only" events and organizations, which have been criticized for excluding trans women and trans men.[184][185]

Oppressive fashions and gender stereotypes in fashion

Feminists argue that certain fashion trends have been oppressive to women; they restrict women's movements, increase their vulnerability and endanger their health.[186] The fashion industry is dealing with a great deal of criticism, as their association of thin-models and beauty has said to encourage bulimia and anorexia nervosa within women, as well as locking female consumers into "false" feminine identities.[187]

The assigning of gender specific baby clothes from young ages is often seen as sexism as it can instil in children from young ages a belief in strong gender stereotypes.[188] An example of this is the assignment in some countries of the color pink to girls and blue to boys. This fashion, however, is a recent one; at the beginning of the 20th century the trend was the opposite: blue for girls and pink for boys. In the early 1900s, The Women's Journal wrote: "That pink being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." DressMaker magazine also explained: "The preferred colour to dress young boys in is pink. Blue is reserved for girls as it is considered paler, and the more dainty of the two colours, and pink is thought to be stronger (akin to red)."[189]


Today, in most countries of the world, it is considered inappropriate for boys to wear dresses and skirts, but this, again, is a modern worldview: for example, from the mid-16th century[190] until the late 19th or early 20th century, young boys in the Western world were unbreeched and wore gowns or dresses until an age that varied between two and eight.[191] Also, throughout much of the history, in most cultures, men have worn skirt like clothes and worn long hair. In many parts of the world, such as much of sub-Saharan Africa, it is considered "normal" for women to wear very short hair, with the hairstyles of boys being the same to those of girls.

Antisexism movements

In Ecuador, the Pink Helmets (Cascos Rosas), created in May 2011 by 18-year-olds Freddy Caleron and Damian Valencia, sought to unite young men against machismo.[192] The Pink Helmets published a manual with suggestions to end violence in society, relationships, within families, and among friends. The Pink Helmets' founders and participating members, who call themselves neomasculinos and are 15–20 years old, visit schools and the streets to give talks and participate in festivals (such as the Quito Fest) in collaboration with UN Women (part of the United Nations) to increase awareness of violence and the movement against it.[193] Chauvinism and violence are common in Ecuador, with 40% of children under age 15 saying that they have witnessed acts of violence at home. According to the National Plan for the Eradication of Gender Violence of the Government of Ecuador, 80% of women have been victims of violence at least once and 21% of children and adolescents have been sexually abused[194] (no official data provide a concrete number of women who have been killed or injured by men). The movement aims to promote gender equality, eliminate gender violence against women and encourage a "dialogue of respect between men and women from adolescence without hesitation to criticize sexist concepts that live in their culture".[195]

See also


Further reading

  • Kail, R., & Cavanaugh, J. (2010). Human Growth and Development (5 ed.). Belmont, Ca: Wadworth Learning.


External links

  • Gender Discrimination Law in the United States
  • Gender Stereotypes - Changes in People's Thoughts
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