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It's a social construct
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Spectra and binaries
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, astronomer [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.

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.[2] 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 in 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 most extreme scenarios, women themselves, once they married, became legal property like children, a status known as coverture.[3] The narrator of Thackeray's 1848-1850 novel Pendennis suggests: "These women were made for our comfort and delectation, gentlemen, —with all the rest of the minor animals." 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, as well as other 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 for 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 by 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. 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.[4] 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. [5] 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. [6]

Sexist discriminations against men[edit]

  • According to Pew Research, Americans view men less positively when it comes to most moral traits relating to leadership, with both sexes favoring women and women in particular having a bias towards their own sex[7]. For example, 80% of Americans believe women are more compassionate than men, versus only 5% believing men are more compassionate. However, for unknown reasons this doesn't translate to Americans preferring women as leaders. [8]
  • In the United States, men are required to register at the Selective Service System (so that they can be called to compulsory military service if the need arise) within their 18th birthdays,[9] while women are not.[10] Legally speaking, men who do not register can be punished by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, albeit the last legal prosecution of a non-registrant has been in 1986.[11] Non-registered men can be ineligible for federal student financial aid, federal job training and federal employment, and - in some states - state employment and driver's licenses.[12]
  • According to a 2012 paper, men receive prison sentences that are on average 60% longer than women's for the same crime[13] and women are twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted.[14]
  • In several European countries (e.g., in Albania,[15] Austria,[16][15][17] Belarus,[18] Bulgaria,[16] Croatia,[16] Czechia,[19] Italy,[20] Lithuania,[16][21][22] Macedonia,[15] Moldova,[15] Poland, Romania,[23] Russia,[24] Serbia,[15] Slovakia,[17] Switzerland,[18] and Ukraine[15][25]) the retirement age for men is up to 5 years greater than the retirement age for women, despite the life expectancy for men in those same countries being up to 11 years less than that for women.[26]
  • In the United States, breast cancer research receives about twice as much funding as prostate cancer research ($88,348,750 vs $44,185,252 in 2017[27]), although there is a similar probability that a woman will die of breast cancer and a man will die of prostate cancer (respectively 2.64%[28] and 2.43%[29]). This is despite the fact that male cancer researchers are much more likely to receive grants than women (3 times more likely based on one UK study).[30]
  • In the UK, 99.2% of refuge places for victims of domestic violence are reserved for women, although men constitute 40% of domestic violence victims.[31]
    • On a related note, a 2006 survey conducted in Glasgow found that 60% of women surveyed found domestic violence against men acceptable, while 35% actually admitted abusing their male partners.[32]
  • A 2015 study, conducted on 873 tenure-track faculty at 371 universities/colleges from 50 US states and the District of Columbia, showed that female applicants for assistant professorships in biology, engineering, and psychology are preferred over identically qualified males with matching lifestyles (single, married, divorced) at a rate of 2:1.[33]
  • According to a U.S. court rulingWikipedia from 1993, a woman in Kansas can sue a man for child support even if the "man" was underage at the time and/or was the victim of a crime the woman perpetrated on him. The ruling extends to all sex offences perpetrated by the woman, essentially meaning that female rapists can sue their victims for child support.
  • In India, it is legally impossible for a woman to be charged with rape[34] or for men to be a victim of it, even if their rapist is a man.[35] While male-on-male rape is punishable as an "unnatural offence" and carries a hefty prison sentence,[36] these laws do not cover heterosexual vaginal intercourse.[37] This seemingly results in a legal loophole where a woman can get away with sexually abusing a man as long as they only have vaginal intercourse with him.

Sexist discriminations against women[edit]

  • In some countries whose laws are based on Islamic jurisprudence, women have less rights than men. In Algeria, the sharia-derived family code treats women as minors under the legal guardianship of a husband or male relative.[38] Under Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system, adult women need permission from a male guardian to travel abroad, marry, or leave prison. Women also face difficulty in renting, filing legal claims, opening a bank account, starting certain businesses, and receiving health care.[39][40] In Tunisia, inheritance laws entitle female heirs to only half of the share of property of their male peers.[41]
  • In China, a preference for sons has existed for centuries and has resulted in sex-selective abortion,Wikipedia neglect, abandonment and infanticide of female infants.Wikipedia[42][43]
  • Health insurance plans sometimes cover Viagra so older men can still get their penises hard,[note 1] but do not cover birth control or necessary medical procedures such as emergency abortions.[note 2] Accordingly to some feminists this is a big issue.[44] 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.
  • Even in progressive and liberal nations, the average wage of women is less than the average wage of men. In STEM jobs, a study showed that sexism plays a role in explaining the difference in wages of men and women. In the study, two versions of a fictitious resumé were produced and the only difference was the name at the top ("Jennifer" and "John"). Despite having the same qualifications and experience as John, the scientists in the study were less willing to mentor or hire Jennifer, and offered her a salary that was, on average, 13% less than John.[45] 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.[note 3]
  • Published material by women academics is less frequently cited than comparable publications by male academics.[46]
  • 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.[47][note 4] 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.[48]
  • For many diseases research and treatment concentrate on male subjects, with women sometimes excluded entirely from studies and treatment guidelines often focusing on men.[49]
  • With about 90%, the predominant victims of domestic violence are women [50] and domestic violence against women is typically more severe.[51]
  • When in pain, women are less likely to receive adequate care due to biases against perceived "feminine" traits.[52]
  • A study conducted on the popular development platform GitHub has shown that code from women is considered as less valuable, but only when the gender is disclosed. [53]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. But surely this is of some benefit to women too, right?
  2. In the new "Obamacare" policy, birth control and annual visits to prescribe that birth control must be covered starting in 2012.
  3. There does, however, appear to be an age-related bias in gender pay inequality (c.f. [1]). 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.
  4. In peace time women suffer disproportionately from sexism, in war time men are pressured or conscripted to fight and die.


  2. 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.
  3. See the Wikipedia article on coverture.
  7. one wonders whether Pew Research selected men based on political views
  9. Who must register?, When to register, Selective Service System.
  10. "Women Aren't Required to Register". 
  11. Hasbrouck, Edward. "Prosecutions of Draft Registration Resisters". National Resistance Committee. 
  12. "Benefits and Programs Linked to Registration". Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. December 21, 2010. 
  13. Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases
  14. Study finds large gender disparities in federal criminal cases. Michigan Law. November 16, 2012.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 Інформація про поточний пенсійний вік у різних країнах, Консультаційна компанія "Стратегія Лайф" [2]
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 " - Avain asiantuntijan työeläketietoon". Retrieved 23 July 2016. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 2009 Ageing Report: Economic and budgetary projections for the EU-27 Member States (2008–2060). Joint Report prepared by the European Commission (DG ECFIN) and the Economic Policy Committee (AWG), [3], p. 78.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Kłos B., Wiek emerytalny kobiet i mężczyzn, "infos", 7.02.2008
  20. "Età pensionabile". 
  21. Bitinas, Audrius; Maccioni, Alessandro Fiori. "Lithuanian Pension System’S Reforms Transformations and Forecasts" (pdf). Universal Journal of Industrial and Business Management (Horizon Research Publishing) 2 (1): 13–23. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  22. Seputyte, Milda (9 June 2011). "Lithuania Raises Retirement Age to 65 to Help Narrow Budget Gap". Bloomberg (Vilnius: Bloomberg L.P.). Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  23. "Casa Judeteana de Pensii Arad". Retrieved 23 July 2016. 
  24. "Communists oppose government initiative to raise pension age". RT. 22 April 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  25. "Ukraine Needs a Smaller and More Humane State – VoxUkraine". Retrieved 23 July 2016. 
  26. "Life Expectancy at Birth, by Gender, 1970 and 2014". 
  27. "American Cancer Society: Current Grants by Cancer Type". 2017. 
  28. "American Cancer Society: How Common Is Breast Cancer?". 
  29. "American Cancer Society: Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer". 
  30. A systematic analysis of UK cancer research funding by gender of primary investigator, Charlie D Zhou et al, BMJ Open, 8:4 (2017)
  31. Denis Campbell (September 2010). "More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male, report reveals". The Guardian. 
  32. "Survey finds male abuse approvable". June 28, 2006. 
  33. Williams; Ceci (2015). "National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112 (17): 5360-5365. 
  34. Nagendar Sharma (6 March 2013). "Only men can be booked for rape". Hindustan Times. 
  35. Sophiya Chaudhary (30 August 2021). "Men Are Raped Too, But Apparently Not, According To Indian Rape Laws". Women's Web. 
  36. Section 377, Unnatural offences
  37. Sukhmandeep Singh (24 January 2023). "What is an unnatural sexual offence?". 
  38. "Algeria – Constitution and Laws". U.S. State Department (2011). Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  39. Saudi Arabia: Repression Overshadows Women’s Reforms. Human Rights Watch. January 18, 2018.
  40. Saudi Arabia allows women at football game for first time. BBC. January 12, 2018.

    There are many things that Saudi women are still unable to do without permission from the men in their lives, including:

    • Apply for passports
    • Travel abroad
    • Get married
    • Open a bank account
    • Start certain businesses
    • Get elective surgery
    • Leave prison
  41. "Will Tunisian Women Finally Inherit What They Deserve?". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  42. China's great gender crisis. The Guardian. November 3, 2011.

    China's preference for sons stretches back for centuries. Infanticide, the abandonment of girl babies and favourable treatment of boys in terms of food and health has long produced a surplus of men. In the past two decades, the gap at birth has soared: the advent of ultrasound scans has allowed people to abort female foetuses, even though sex-selective abortion is illegal.

  43. Policy or a disaster? The BMJ. August 29, 2006.

    The policy which limits couples to one child has caused a disdain for female infants; abortion, neglect, abandonment, and even infanticide have been known to occur to female infants.

  44. Georgette Bennett (October 2017). "Why Cover Viagra If Contraceptives Aren’t Covered?". Huffington Post. 
  45. Why does John get the STEM job rather than Jennifer? The Clayman Institute for Gender Research. June 2, 2014.
  46. How to reduce the gender gap in one (relatively) easy step

    Crunch the numbers in different ways and the results are always the same: articles written by women in IR [international relations] are cited less than men, all else equal.

  47. See Schlesinger v. Ballard and Rostker v. Goldberg.
  49. Gender bias in research: how does it affect evidence based medicine?, Anita Holdcroft, J R Soc Med. 2007 Jan; 100(1): 2–3.
  50. EIGE (2012). "Review of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the EU Member States". Publications Office of the European Union. doiWikipedia:10.2839/612. 
  51. Rogers, Kenneth (2010). Clinical manual of prevention in mental health. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing. p. 245. ISBN 9781585623471. 
  52. The inequality in how women are treated for pain
  53. Women considered better coders – but only if they hide their gender