If I got up here and said, “I'm going to start lifting weights so that I can be stronger. I want to have big muscles.” What would your response be? If the concept doesn't bother you, then do you know a guy who thinks muscled women are “gross” or “repulsive”? Would it be different if a guy as skinny as me came up here and pronounced his desire to be bigger and stronger?
In America, we've made a lot of progress on sexism, but there are still barriers that prevent women and men to be considered as equals in society. While most people know the common decency not to act on sexist values, the beliefs still lay in their core and surface in various ways, such as advertising, media portrayals, sexist jokes, gender discrimination, and stereotypical gender roles.
Often times, women are encouraged to stick to their gender roles because the “biological differences” cannot be ignored. Human females have two 'X' chromosomes on their 23rd pair while men possess an X and Y. Men, on average, are taller, have more muscle above the torso, and a differently shaped pelvis bone. Men also have more testosterone, which leads to increased muscle, bone, and body mass. When compared to all of our properties that make us human, we're really not that different.
But if humanity is considered to share a bond in our species likeliness, then why does society encourage us to be disparate and divided? Diversity is a good thing. Diversity is a happy, peaceful acceptance of all our beautiful differences. But sexism is not. The definition of sexism: prejudice or discrimination based on sex, or behavior that fosters stereotypes of social roles based on sex. Stereotypes can be snap judgments, but sexism has always been deeper than snap judgments and more of a core belief.
We live in a place where women are expected to be weak and it's disguised as courtesy. How many of you remember sitting in school and having the teacher ask for some “strong guys” to help lift some hefty boxes? Or heard the insult shouted by an opponent, “Come on! You hit like a girl!” Or how about that little super bowl ad that somehow sexualized a woman eating a greasy hamburger.. or all of the other ads targeted at men by using attractive women like a bone in front of a dog. Side comments or opinions don't always hurt women, but the societal idea of a woman being inferior to a man or even his property is damaging to the morale and well being of women.
An argument is made that nobody stops a man or woman from doing a traditional opposite-gender job or role. But I beg to differ. I work in a place where I have to push heavy stuff on a daily basis. The first time I experienced workplace sexism, at 17 years old, was during an interview as my hiring manager handed me the job expectations. “Not that you look frail or anything, but are you sure you can do this?” I thought it was funny, and laughed it off. My expectations included simple things like sweeping floors, standing for long hours, pushing carts, and regularly lifting 30 pounds. I've always been on the weaker, can't-open-a-jar, side. I figured it would be hard at first, and I would just have to get used to it over time. I did. But other people didn't, and it wasn't noticeable when it should have been obvious that the job was trivial and easy for me.
I can hardly go a day without some elderly person, typically a man, commenting on my ability to do my job of bringing shopping carts inside.
“Push! Come on! You're never going to get married if you don't push!”
“Those carts look like they could squash you like a cuttlefish.”
“Those are too heavy for you.”
“Push! Come one! Muscle up, muscle up! Haha!”
“It must be a policy here to pick the smallest girl they can find to push carts.”
“Hey hun, you gotta make them boys get out here and get them carts.”
“Okay you're not allowed to push any more buggies in. Make a boy do it. They have bigger muscles than women.”
What is wrong with me doing physical labor? Should I feel like I have to prove myself to someone? Can I escape from these comments when I get paid to be there? Should I just put up with them because it's my job and everyone must get these comments, even though my equally skinny male coworkers have never experienced the kind of jagged phrases I get?
Gender roles are prevalent throughout all history. Since equality is a fairly new American concept, most people in history thought there must have been one sex inferior to the other, hitherto women were inferior to men. Famous philosopher Plato considered women as defective human beings. “It is only males who are created directly by the gods and given souls.” Numerous other philosophers, such as Thomas Aquinas, followed Aristotle in the belief that women were a seed that failed to develop into a man. Roman family law considered the wife as property of the husband and could be punished in any way he saw fit because of the “weakness” or “stupidity” of her sex. This same belief continued into early American history. While wife beating was illegal in almost all states by 1870 – 83 years after the constitution was signed – the cult of domesticity was still highly encouraging women in the 19th century to have piety, purity, domesticity, and submissiveness. “True women” were considered soft, delicate, and weak in comparison to men by “appointment of God.” This idea is not very surprising, considering church law was founded in Decretum Gratiani with the same Roman Law belief systemwith basic ideas such as “the wife is not created in the same image of God,” “wives are subject to their husbands by nature,” and “(the gender) woman signifies weakness of mind.” These same beliefs kept women from being priests or deacons, teaching in church, and baptizing for many years. Sexism even trickled down into world renown scientists such as Charles Darwin, who repeatedly argued that women were “less cerebral and more emotional” and that culture kept women from natural selection. However, there were several flaws in his argument that science has since reevaluated, such as the smaller size of the human female brain in comparison to the male brain. Whereas Darwin believed that intelligence was in direct correlation to brain size, evidence shows that whales have larger brains than humans and humans have the same brain-to-body mass ratio of mice, which would therefore make all humans as smart as mice. Modern scientists (at Stanford) now conclude that the “molecular organization of neural connections, or synapses, is what truly determines a brain’s computational capacity,” therefore making Darwin's “biological intelligence” justification of sexism, and all of his similar supporters, obsolete.
Today, feminism is becoming standard with each new generation that's born. There is “Hit Like a Girl” commercial trending showing the new empowerment of young girl's confidence in their athletics. While this commercial is the first of it's kind to make headlines, it shows where society is heading. While we may not see ourselves as equals in the household, workplace, public, or any of the other facets of life, it is our responsibility to change the public opinion for our children. If not us, then who will?
There is hope for the future.
Wijngaards, John. "Women Were Considered Inferior Creatures." Women Can Be Priests. Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, n.d. Web.
Bergham, Jerry, Ph. D. "Darwin's Teaching of Women's Inferiority." Darwin's Teaching of Women's Inferiority. Institute for Creation Research, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.