Information icon.svg See the 2017 Moderator election results here!


From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Part of a series on
Icon gender.svg
Spectra and binaries
Check our privilege
Social justice
Icon SJ.svg
Not ALL of our articles
So yeah, it's just a shirt. And it's just an ad. It's just a saying. It's just a TV show. It's just the Internet. Yes, but you almost make as much as a man does. It's just a catcall. It's a compliment! It's just that boys will be boys. It's just that she's a slut. It's just that your dress is too short. It's just that we want to know what you were wearing at the time, ma'am. It's just it's just it's just. It's just a death by a thousand cuts. No one cut does the deed. In the end, they all do.
Phil Plait[1]

Sexism is discrimination against people due to their perceived gender, biological sex, or both. Sexism can take the form of blatant discrimination such as only assuming men are qualified to do particular work, or thinking women are best at home with the children, or far more subtle views about the value of particular genders as friends, co-workers, or simple humans.

Far and away, women experience the most blatant forms of sexism, the most outright of which is pure misogyny. While not legally barred from any particular position in the "Western world", women face extreme discrimination in positions of power such as political office, upper management in corporations, the medical field and academic fields. Even such areas as publication, directing television or movies, or being recognized for personal achievements show marked discrimination against women in those areas. In the United States, 31% of women have claimed harassment by co-workers including superiors [2], compared to 7% of men in the workplace, though this number is growing as women move into more positions of power[3].

Discrimination against men is not unheard of, though it's uncommon and is somewhat different from that which is experienced by women. Men, traditionally, experience this kind of discrimination when they attempt to step into traditionally female roles, such as nurses, elementary teachers or stay-at-home parents. Men also fare somewhat poorly in child custody battles, since it is still a common practice to give children to the mother unless the father can show clear reasons why this is a bad choice. Men are the majority of those who are involuntarily drafted for war. Most countries only conscript men, with only a few also conscripting women (such as Norway and Israel).[note 1]

History of sexism[edit]

What is labelled today as "sexist" has been "just the way things are" for the majority of history and across the world. Women's roles have been almost universally limited to hearth and home in historical society, even in societies like the Hopi, Jewish, and Okinawan, where women held the family name and property, and were considered an important source for leadership.[4] In most societies, limits on women's freedoms were common, though those limits could range from not being able to leave the home, to not being able to own property to simply not being accepted as equal in business relationships to men. In many societies including all of the so-called Western societies, men institutionalized sexism against women. Until the so-called modern era, women in the West received limited education, were not considered acceptable into academic circles, were not considered valuable within business; though they were, of course, important commodities, women in most Western countries did not have the right to vote until the 20th century. In the worst scenarios, women themselves, once they married, were legal property like children, a status known as coverture. It is these very patterns of institutionalized sexism that are the hardest to break out of.

The concept of actual equality between the sexes begins in the early 20th century, when writers such as Simone de Beauvoir begin to challenge the notion of women's inferiority and non-personhood. Scientists like Marie Curie and Margaret Mead; figures like Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart made inroads on what it means to be a woman and what limits a woman must face. And Margaret Sanger argued for the right to plan when to have children, and a woman's right to control her own body. Of course, such equality has not been achieved everywhere and even in more progressive nations it is still opposed by some conservatives, even those who have benefited from increased equality such as Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, and the "Roe" in Roe v. Wade, who later became a pro-life protester.

Common conservative views[edit]

Many conservatives constantly make two points: sexism isn't real, and that men are sexually discriminated against too.

People taking this line of argument will generally argue that pay discrimination and glass ceiling are not a factor of sexual discrimination, but are in fact a reflection of women's own choices to work for less, their choices to put family first, as well as their choices to take time off to have those silly babies of theirs. This argument has been fully dispelled,[citation needed] however, by looking at women in legal and medical positions who have chosen not to have children, or have chosen to only take time off for the 2 months of birth and recovery - equivalent to men taking off for a long holiday sabbatical. It should be noted that in the medical field, specifically, female residents are more preferred to joining lower paying specialities, while male residents are more preferred to joining higher paying specialities.[5] Even when choices exactly the same to their male counter parts are made, women are still making 20% lower salaries, and do not achieve partner as fast if at all. [6] Still, conservatives persist in arguing that such discrimination isn't happening.[better source needed]

On the other hand, they do argue that men are constant victims of discrimination. Conservapedia, for example, has an article about sexism and sexual discrimination, which lists only examples of perceived discrimination against men. This includes a rant that women-only spaces are accepted and encouraged, while men-only spaces are almost universally abhorred as sexist. Equally, men's rights groups argue that men do not have a fair shake against women; they are considered rapists and abusers without trial; they are mistreated by the courts; and are forced to pay overquoted sums of child support instead of given the option to care for their own child. Other arguments include skepticism in the perceived gender-pay gap, arguing that the pay-gap is an effect caused by freedom of choice rather than any large factor of discrimination. [7]

Other examples[edit]

Feminists generally consider the following to be examples of sexism in western society:

  • Health insurance plans sometimes cover Viagra so older men can still get their penises hard,[8] but do not cover birth control or necessary medical procedures such as emergency abortions.[9] Of course, this is because this is what the policyholders want rather than what's best for the patient; many plans also cover Supplemental Complementary Alternative Medicine, because it attracts more customers.
  • Women have historically not been allowed to serve in combat infantry in the US, a position that has never been considered by the Supreme Court.[10][11] The US Military also has different physical fitness standards for males and females, both of which the US Marine Corps is starting to undo. In 2016, the government announced women would be allowed to serve in all roles, including regular combat infantry.[12]
  • Insurance premiums differ for men and women because of known rates of accidents and claims (particularly in driving) differ between the two. This is set to end in Europe due to an EU ruling on gender equality (as are pension payouts).[13] This has already ended in the US's health insurance premiums due to the ACA, though it's not entirely in women's favor; while pregnancies are ridiculously expensive, men overtake women in average expense around age 40.
  • Even in progressive and liberal nations, women still do not earn equal pay for the same job as men. Of course, there are an abundance of apparently biological explanations why the women aren't worth as much as the men in these positions, and thus the man should earn more than the woman, but to be fair, these apologist arguments are typically only presented by the most dedicated of anti-feminists.[14]
  • The belief that men are better at science and math, while women are "naturally" better at communication and care giving. Boys and girls are educated differently, on subtle levels, reinforcing this sexist myth.[citation needed] Published material by women academics is less frequently cited than comparable publications by male academics.[15]
  • Objectification of women in media, especially advertising.

Other people might also include:

  • Men receive prison sentences that are on average 60% longer than women's for the same crime.[16]
  • Mandatory combat service for men only.
  • Objectification of men in media, especially advertising.

See also[edit]


  1. However, this is also a manifestation of sexism against women, who are still not allowed into many military roles, particularly combat positions.


  3. [1]
  4. Contrary to the "Man The Hunter/Woman The Gatherer" dichotomy in which Ugg the Caveman went out hunting for mastodon while his wife ran the daycare cave, sexual division of labor and gender roles were sometimes more complex and fluid in prehistoric and hunter-gatherer societies. See, e.g., Frances Dahlberg's Woman the Gatherer.
  8. But surely this is of some benefit to women too, right?
  9. Though it should be noted that in the new "Obamacare" policy, birth control and annual visits to prescribe that birth control must be covered starting in 2012.
  10. See Schlesinger v. Ballard and Rostker v. Goldberg.
  11. In peace time women suffer disproportionately from sexism, in war time men are pressured or conscripted to fight and die.
  13. BBC News - Insurance and pension costs hit by ECJ gender ruling
  14. There does, however, appear to be an age-related bias in gender pay inequality (c.f. [2]). Younger women tend to make nearly as much as men of the same age for the same work, while older women tend to make less. This may be because the older women were hired at a time when sex discrimination was legal, and the standard of pay raises as strict percentages thus limits their income; or for all we know, it may be because they're being discriminated against based on their youth and beauty.
  15. How to reduce the gender gap in one (relatively) easy step
  16. Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases