Sexism Becomes a Rampant Scenario that Weakens Women Empowerment

Posted By: Patience Rutayisire - On:13/07/2018
Sexism in its most basic form is the prejudice, discrimination based on sex or gender.

The Cambridge dictionary defines it as actions based on the belief that members of one sex are less intelligent, able, and skillful than members of the other sex.

Sexism has existed for centuries for the purpose of maintaining patriarchy. It has been enforced over the years culturally, religiously and economically. There are laws in many parts of the world that continually push this narrative.

In India, it is not illegal or improper for a man to rape his wife. In Russia, parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of decriminalizing domestic abuse. This is happening in 2017 people, not 1917 when Vladimir Lenin turned it into a communist state.

Until this year, it was illegal for a woman to drive a car in Saudi Arabia.

For the longest time, people believe that sexism only occurs in its misogynistic form whereby men loath women and consider them inferior. In this form, it manifests itself in the form of violence, rape, honour killings, bans, disinherits. 

Closer home, benevolent sexism permeates every inch of our society. American social psychologists Peter Glick and Susan Fiske who developed the widely accepted Ambivalent Sexism Inventory define benevolent sexism as the evaluation of women that are seemingly positive.

They include the revering of women in mother and wife roles, romanticizing women as objects of affection and the belief that men have a duty to protect women.

In simple terms, cat-calling a woman in the street, asking the woman in the room to serve tea in an office, criminalizing feminism and feminists are some of the common place sexism occurrences.

So what is so bad about this seemingly positive attitude? Glick and Fiske note that they imply women are weak and need to be protected, that they should not deviate from traditional gender roles as mothers and caretakers and that they should be idolized by men for their sexual purity and availability. This deals a big blow to the gender equity discussion as well as restricts women’s personal, professional, political and social opportunities.

Many quarters have pointed to sexism as the main reason why American presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump, now president. Clinton herself said that America liked her just fine when she was in service to others but not when she asked to lead.

The gaps are unwarranted

In spite of having an amazing approval rating of 69 percent when in office as Secretary of State, it was still not enough to sway the public from voting in Donald Trump.

Media was not kind on her either with headlines such as “Here’s What Hillary looks like after paying $600 for a haircut that shut down an entire salon” or “Could Hillary Clinton’s smile cost her election?” It is part of a narrative where women who break the mould and refuse to toe the line are vilified and media acts as a strong propagator.

South African Winnie Mandela was a victim of sexism by the society and the media treated her as such. For the longest time she was only known as Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife once her fight for freedom was largely unreported.

Several discourses have been an inquest whether statements such as “rebellious women never get or keep husbands” are real, insinuating that getting a husband is a token for their good behaviour.

But is it just men who push this agenda? The late Winnie Mandela once said “the overwhelming majority of women accept the patriarchy and protect it. Men dominate women through the agency of women themselves.”


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