Sexism and Violence Against Women

The following is a progressive  list of the many forms of sexism and violence against women and how they create a “web” of oppression.  The many forms of “non-violent” sexism work to create circumstances that severely restrict and reduce women’s lives (read the Bird Cage Analogy).  I will cover each of these in more detail in later posts.  This continuum comes from Stout and McPhail, 1998.

Instituionalized Sexism– Women’s reduced/oppressed status within institutions like government, religion, home, society, marriage, corporations, etc…

Psychological Wounding and Gender Socialization– The result of growing up in a culture that hates and devalues girls and women.  Consider the “like a girl messages”…Don’t act like a girl because girls are weak, of less value, stupid, crazy, bad athletes, etc… Anything that is considered to be feminine is devalued.  Men and women are socialized in VERY different ways. Women are socialized to be “feminine” and men to be masculine, but then women are devalued for all of their feminine qualities.

Gendered Language/Communication– The usage of androcentric (male-centered) language in religious texts, text books, everyday language, etc…  God is always a man. History books are “HIS” story, not “Her” story.  History is a record men’s lives.  It mostly excludes women’s. Consider these words: Mankind, Kingdom, Human, Hero, History, etc…All of these indicate the masculine.

Controlling Women’s Bodies-Medical bias towards women; controlling women’s access to birth control and reproductive services, refusal of health insurance companies to cover procedures for women that they cover for men.

Economic Assault-pay inequity; “feminine professions” are devalued and paid significantly less, the glass ceiling; women’s unpaid labor; women’s “role” to care for children and stay home with them; social security; the feminization of poverty; women in old age.

Sexual Harassment-educational bias towards women; sexual harassment in the workplace

Pornography, Prostitution, and Human Trafficking– The harm done to women by certain kinds of pornography; the harm done to women who appear in pornography; Prostitution being seen as a “legitimate” profession even though most women are “forced” into prostitution as a result of all of the other forms of sexism and violence against women.

Sexual Assault; Rape- Self-explanatory….but stats about sexual assault against girls and women;

Intimate Partner Violence– The use of coercive control, usually by a male intimate partner, to threaten, control, intimidate, etc…their female intimate partner.  IPV exists in heterosexual and homosexual relationships and can also be used by women to control men, but there are some very important distinguishing factors that must be considered.

Global Violence Against Women– Femicide (sex-selective abortions) female genital mutilation; human trafficking; sex slavery; child brides; forced/arranged marriages of little girls to old men.

Feminism Defined

Although Feminism is widely misunderstood because people like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck have distorted it so unjustly,  Feminism as defined by feminists is reflective of bell hooks definition from “Feminism is for Everyone”.  Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.  Men can be sexist.  Women can be sexist.  Gender or sex doesn’t matter anymore.  We’ve all been so indoctrinated by patriarchy and sexism that most people cannot recognize it when they see it.  Women often “feel” it but cannot name it.  

Sexism Defined

There are two kinds of sexism.  Hostile sexism is overt, aggressive sexism.  It’s relatively easy for most people to recognize (most people). Some examples are hating/disliking women and girls (or anything feminine), discriminating against girls and women,  dehumanizing women and girls, assaulting women and girls, etc…Easy enough.  However, benevolent sexism appears to be harmless and somewhat beneficial for women;  except that it isn’t.   Benevolent sexism is the thinking or idea that women are more “moral”, “pure”, “innocent”, or “weak” than their male counterparts.  “Save the women and children first” is a form of benevolent sexism.  “Putting a woman on a pedestal” is a form of benevolent sexism.  It seems harmless, in fact “chivalrous” at first, but benevolent sexism is why Oklahoma has the highest female incarceration rate in the WORLD.  When societies have expectations for women that are unattainable (i.e. pure, innocent, moral, etc…) women are held to expectations that are unrealistic and impossible for ANY woman to uphold.  Women are good and bad.  As are men.  Consider this, men who murder their spouses spend about 15 years LESS in prison than women who murder their spouses.  Juries convict women at a higher rate and give them much longer sentences because women are supposed to be “good”.  When women are not good, they are defined as evil or crazy.  Since no woman can achieve the expectations, we all fail miserably; which then makes it really easy to hate women.  Women who are hated because they cannot achieve the expectation of perfection become easy targets for violence. Which means all women because none of us are perfect.


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