Social issue of sexism is something I believe that people have not entirely thought about in depth, as it is indeed a very complex problem which is prevalent in all societies. Before I go engage with my main reasons and points for this discussion, I must induce certain disclaimers or initial misconceptions about this issue; sexism is not just subjected to men and women alone -some could probably argue that in itself is sexist to think- but individuals who are also transgendered and have non-binary gender identity are also prone to sexism (or to be politically correct: Cissexism) thus, I will refer to these individuals as ‘non-men’ at times throughout this blog. I would like to add that my goal is to argue the existence of systemic sexism, not to challenge or solve it. Lastly, I will make it clear now that both non-men and men suffer from sexism, the severity of it is what varies as non-men groups are clearly affected more.
To start off I shall first discuss what systemic sexism means.
“If you can accept that there is sexism that is a systemic problem due to historic discrimination, then you can begin to see why it can be so difficult to identify and challenge. Apparently, innocuous things build up to create a society that perpetuates oppressive ideologies and practices.”(site).
So systemic sexism is essentially sexism that is normalised, implicit and institutionalised. Thus, we can definitely state that systemic sexism is a result of patriarchy – a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. I would also like to carry on the point that systemic sexism could be a product of history (like many another systemic issues) as it could be the patterns in social groups that have evolved over decades and centuries which gave rise to it E.g. Gender roles, denominations in religions, development of sub-cultures (such as Papua Guinea)
Furthermore, when I describe Sexism as ‘systemic’, I mean that a number of different factors interact and result in the oppression of people perceived to be non-men. Sexism doesn’t exist in isolation: It is ingrained into institutions like the education system, religious bodies, the legal system, the media, governments, corporations, and even charity organisations. These institutions have power, and often – intentionally or not – they uphold male privilege while oppressing those who aren’t men, some examples to illustrate this is the fact that women are statistically likely to earn less than men for doing the same work, and she’ll never be able to earn as much as what her male counterpart would earn (The full-time gender pay gap is 10%, and the average part-time pay gap is 34.5%). And regarding the systemic disadvantage non-binary gender and transgender individuals: A 2008 study in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that genderqueer and other non-binary individuals were more likely, suffer physical assaults (32% vs. 25%), experience police brutality and harassment (31% vs. 21%), and opt out of medical treatment due to discrimination (36% vs. 27%) compared to transgender individuals who identified within the gender binary. The social injustice is real.
It is important to understand that Systemic Sexism has nothing at all to do with the values we identify ourselves with, The gendering of the terms ‘feminism’ and ‘patriarchy’ can make it hard to understand that in the context of gender discrimination in the current socio-political system both men and women (as well as others) are sexist. I see ‘The patriarchy’ as a system that does not refer to a male conspiracy to seize power, but a society that privileges men and is sometimes normalised and implicit. Nearly all of us have accepted and perpetuated this organised and ingrained sexism. For example, women wearing makeup to hide their supposed faults on their skin and to promote youthfulness to attain the physical attraction men desire from women, as well as men being pressured into exerting their “masculinity” through certain activities and jobs. sexism which occurs on an individual level I would consider to be gender-based prejudice, not systematic sexism.
What main points should you take from this discussion? Well the prime one being that gender-based prejudice occurs at an individual level and should not be confused with systemic sexism (excuse my political correctness), as systemic sexism views and describes sexism as a system that places male individuals on top (male privilege patriarchy) and provides more privileges to cisgendered than transgendered or non-binary gender people.
I will reiterate this again as I close this writing, the social injustice in society is real, these social issues must be addressed and acknowledged before any talk on solving the problem is done. So I encourage there to be further discussion and debates on this social issue if any hope of solving such issues is to be seen.