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Sexism and social standards in the now

Rearing its ugly head only occasionally in the headlines throughout recent years only makes this social issue more serious and difficult to confront.

Sexism is one of the most covert social problems of today, yet it can be found in just about every aspect of life; from television to books and films, and from clothes to toys and even cereal boxes, this matter invades the lives of American people day in and day out, whether we’re aware of it or not. This is precisely why it is such a big deal. This issue attacks us from all angles, something like buck shot, almost impossible to avoid.

From the moment we come into this world we’re given a set gender role, or behaviors considered appropriate for whatever particular sex we are. For example, it is common for a girl to be given a very feminine name and to be dressed in a commonly accepted color for newborn girls – pink. The same thing goes for boys, who are commonly given masculine names and dressed in blue outfits, a stark contrast from the girl’s pink. Even celebratory items such as balloons and decorations make it definitively clear what the infant child’s sex is, like banners that read, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” It’s plain to see that society is very interested in making sure that these gender roles are set into motion from the very start.

Certainly and undeniably, this sets the foundation for this issue as a social one and not an individual one. Sexism has very little to do with personal, conscious choice since its roots run so very deep. We’re almost hard-wired for sexism.

According to Dictionary.com, sexism is defined as discrimination based on gender, or attitudes, conditions and behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender. This happens all the time, with society usually being completely unaware of it.

Take for instance the age old phrase that many young children use in school while growing up, “You hit like a girl!” This is meant to be highly derogatory, and is usually directed from a boy to another boy during some kind of competitive action. Girls may or may not take offense to this when they hear it, but either way they usually don’t realize, especially at such a young age, that this is a blatant sexist remark. There is no biological advantage that a male has over a female when it comes to hitting a baseball with a bat; however, this point demonstrates how dense this issue is, and how early it starts.

Fortifying my belief in this problem as social and not individual is the fact of how long it’s been in existence. As long as the human record indicates, men have almost always been the dominating figure over women. Very few cultures have adopted structures where the female is the head of the family or social group. I’m sure it’s easy for many people to picture the caveman dragging his mate by her hair into their cave, which is a common sexist depiction of early human life, really meant to convey the fact that men have always – and the underlying “will always” – rule over women.

Social institutions play an important role in the perpetuation of this social issue, and are probably the most important in keeping it alive. Of the countless examples I could mention, some include the income disparity between men and women, with women making 77 cents to a man’s dollar; the fact that many religious groups are headed by men and not women, some even going as far as to forbid women as leaders, such as with Catholicism; and of course a great majority of the media with their persistent portrayal of the sex kitten, femme fetale woman figure that is laughingly supposed to represent the majority of the female population. Each of these examples allows men to comfortably slide into a sexist attitude against women.

Sexism isn’t only concentrated between men and women, in fact a great deal of sexism lies in the discrimination toward gays and/or individuals with gender roles outside of the commonly accepted standards, such as metrosexuals.

Being that this issue affects probably 99 percent of society, it is definitely a problem that everyone, not just some, will encounter at some point in their life.

Attempts have certainly been made to combat this issue, many of which have been very successful, such as the Women’s Rights Movement, beginning in the early 19th century and the spread of homosexual acceptance and gay rights, which really took hold starting in the late 20th century.

Compared to even 10 or 20 years ago, due to these ongoing, incredible thrusts toward sexual equality, it is clear that a substantial amount of improvement has been made in fighting sexism in our society. Women are no longer expected to simply become homemakers, but instead are called to prominent universities and colleges nationwide to earn solid educations and gain important experience that will bring them closer to the top in financial and societal success. Women are now high-demand doctors and big shot lawyers, as well as they are teachers and nurses. With the next presidential election approaching a woman will be running for the highest office in our nation’s government, this being one of American history’s firsts. Also, gays are continually gaining acceptance and recognition within a society that only 50 years ago wouldn’t even have given the issue a second thought.

It’s truly an exciting time for those interested in gender equality.