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Sexism and the Role of Women in the Modern World

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Clara Lew-Smith

on 9 June 2015

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Transcript of Sexism and the Role of Women in the Modern World

Men and women have coexisted peacefully since the beginning of human life on Earth. It is, in fact, due to the continued presence of both males and females that the species has survived and evolved to its current stage. However, despite the necessity of both genders in ensuring the survival of humans, there is not one place in the world which contains a truly egalitarian society. Rather, women have had to fight for their civil rights to be recognized, and continue in their efforts to transform traditionally patriarchal institutions and customs into more equitable governments and social systems which recognize the rights of all global citizens, regardless of gender.
Background Information
Sexism and The Role of Women in the Modern World
There are multiple lenses through which the widespread use of social media can be seen. From one perspective, it can become a tool for people to express distrust, anger, even outright hate, without fear of serious retribution due to anonymity. Many female online journalists or bloggers who write about important issues are judged by their physical appearance and subjected to sexist comments that, rather than referencing any ideas expressed, are meant to objectify and belittle them despite their intellectual nature. Conversely, social media can be a platform for empowerment. Status or wealth are not requirements for making online accounts, and thus people can work to better understand issues faced by women of all walks of life and create foundations for change.
The barriers women face differ greatly from place to place. It is logical, then, that first world countries, as places with more developed social and governmental systems, would generally have a less distinct gender gap. A mark of a democratic nation (typically seen as more progressive) is that all genders and ethnicities have equal opportunities to succeed and are not stigmatized or stereotyped in ways that are destructive to individuals and the fiber of the nation on the whole. However, despite the progress made as results of efforts by both men and women to create more equal cultures, this is only true to a point. While the inequalities in first world countries may not be evident at a glance, many barriers still exist for females.
First World Countries
As with developed countries, a single broad statement cannot encompass the very diverse cultures of all nations which fall under this category. However, it is sometimes the case that the relatively low standard of living which associates a country with the label "developing country" also creates or fosters an unjust society. In some places, the ideals of an established institution serves to restrict the freedom of women, although this limitation can also be an effect of ingrained culture or a combination of the two.
Developing Countries
There is not complete gender equality in the world today. The good news is, this is recognized both by established institutions (e.g. the United Nations) and many individual persons. The identification of gender bias as a widespread problem leads to discussion about change and the way forward, and there are many organizations and efforts aimed at transforming the world into a place where people are not characterized solely by circumstances beyond their control. This is not a new movement, nor is it an uncomplicated one, but the force of so many dedicated people has the potential to open new opportunities for women and girls worldwide and change the dynamics of politics and culture.
It is truly sad that women who have earned their way to influential positions are still subject to sexism. However, while it may not speak well of society, it is the very reason that it is important that those females have authority. One of the slogans of the Representation Project is "you can't be what you can't see," which is why young females' exposure to depictions of women as strong, intelligent, and unapologetic is so essential in shaping the future of the nation and world.
Powerful Women
Women who hold positions in the public eye (politicians, actresses, etc.) are respected by girls with diverse backgrounds and aspirations, and it is important that there is communication of values and strengths in order for young women to understand not only the challenges ahead of them but how to accept themselves and fulfill their potential. Sexism and gender inequality may be ingrained parts of culture, but the examples being set will ultimately impact the youth of the world such that they become a progressive generation, one that is ready to change the country - and indeed the entire world - for the better.
Positive Role Models
According to the Institute for Women's Policy in Washington, DC, in 2013 women in the United States earned only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, a 22% difference. This is particularly shocking when it is noted that the majority of college and graduate degrees earned in the U.S. are earned by women. Another study maintains that that nearly half of the diplomas earned from highly regarded and rigorous business schools are earned by females.
Another study, published on nerdwallet.com, found that although female CEOs have higher average salaries than those of men, there are so few female chief executive officers that the numbers do not accurately represent the current situation in America.
The United Nations recently released a statement in which it said that not a single country worldwide has established gender equality.
In the United States, which as a country self-identifies with ideals of justice and equality, only 84 of 435 (19.3%) of representatives in the House of Representatives are female.
Even countries which seem very progressive can lack large components of the gender equality mission.
Inequalities of Developed Countries
This video was taken in New York City (as is evident by the title), and although the comments may seem very vulgar or inappropriate, they are not unusual. This is true in a variety of different geographical settings, but in a place such as the U.S. laws prohibiting sexual harassment in schools and workplaces do not extend to the street, and women are often left feeling vulnerable, unsafe, violated, demoralized, dehumanized, objectified, or angry. The disclaimer in the beginning of the video identifying the woman's outfit as "jeans and a crewneck t-shirt", also addresses the idea pervasive in many societies, that women are inviting sexual harassment or abuse by some fault of their own. This is, of course, an erroneous accusation, and it is clear in the video that despite the woman's avoidance of any contact she continues to be harassed.
Barriers for Women
Antiquated Ideas
In India (which is technically categorized as a "newly industrialized country," thanks to its growing economy) a man indicted for rape and murder blamed the victim for the assault and homicide which befell her, claiming that her actions and her garb invited or were responsible for the abuse. He displayed clear signs of anger and mistrust towards females (he estimated that only approximately "20 percent of girls are good") but also an obvious ignorance of the gravity of the situation. He did not exhibit any remorse for his acts, which is additionally atrocious in that it signifies at least one person - and quite probably more - do not recognize the value of a woman's life, independence, or self-esteem.
The Concept of Honor
To many, having a family means having a support group of loving people. Although this is not untrue in Afghanistan, there can be an additional element for young women in regards to familial relationships: fear. For women who run away in order to be with the one they love or escape an unhealthy relationship, their reputations among their own families become "tainted." According to some traditions, it is customary to kill a young woman who has acted in such a way, in order to rid her and her family from shame. Although shelters are available for women, there is still a very real threat, and many young females may never be able to live normal lives or return to their families or homes.
Unsteady Governments
Recently in Turkey, people thronged the streets to protest the death of 20 year old Özgecan Aslan, a young woman who was murdered for resisting rape. Many people believe that this was not an isolated incident, but rather one representative of changing times in Turkey. In the 1970's and 80's, Turkey underwent a period of Westernization, when everyday life was very secular and males and females were generally equal. Now, some argue that current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has instated policies which allow people to follow their religions more freely and according to their beliefs, while others believe that he has created a less equitable society than that of thirty years ago. Some data also suggests that incidences of violence against women has raised dramatically, and the death of Aslan was simply "the last straw."
10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman. YouTube. Hollaback!, 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.
Peace Corps and First Lady Michelle Obama Team Up to Let Girls Learn.YouTube. Peace Corps, 3 Mar. 2015. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.
Rewrite The Story. Vimeo.com. The Representation Project, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
Malala - #TheLast. YouTube. Malala Fund, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.
Advice To Young Women From The Oscars Red Carpet. YouTube. BuzzFeedYellow, 23 Feb. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
"People who don’t spend much time on the internet are invariably shocked to discover the barbarism – the eager abandonment of the social contract – that so many of us face simply for doing our jobs."
--Lindy West, a writer, feminist, and active presence in the media, in an article for The Guardian about being trolled online
Forces of Change
There are a great number of businesses, organizations, and systems (local and global) designed to aid women or encourage their success. The following are several which are particularly innovative or beneficial to women.
The Representation Project
An organization founded in 2011 after the film
Miss Representation
was well received, the Representation Project aims to end the destructive use of stereotypes such that everyone has a voice and a chance to fulfill their own expectations.
Hollaback! is a movement and an organization with the goal of ending street harassment. There is a mobile app which allows people who witness incidents of this nature to write a short post or provide a photo or video, and mapping technology tracks the concentration of reported acts, the data from which can be used as evidence of the need for legislation making street harassment illegal. Hollaback! is spreading globally, and continues to train new members to carry out its mission of allowing all people (statistically, mostly minorities) to feel secure in their right to be in public spaces.
The Malala Fund
Co-founded by Malala Yousafzai, advocate for women's rights (particularly that of education), the Malala Fund means to enable all young females to attend school. Yousafzai, also the co-winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, draws from her own personal knowledge of the obstacles in the path of motivated young women, and seeks to "amplify the voices of girls," "advocate at the international and local level," and "invest in community centered scalable solutions".
National Organization for Women
An organization with much influence, the National Organization for Women addresses many broad feminist and civil rights issues, including equal pay; abortion; health issues; violence against women; racism; and homophobic bigotry.With branches in the District of Columbia and all fifty states, NOW, as it is abbreviated, has the potential to reach many people and bring about revolutionary changes.
Let Girls Learn
An extension of Peace Corps, Let Girls Learn is also a collaboration with President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. It is designed to foster the education of girls worldwide through interaction with Peace Corps volunteers. As First Lady Obama points out, the education of more young women will in turn benefit local and global communities.
Social Media Hand. Digital image. Erka Synergy Communication. N.p., 6 Mar. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
Hollaback! Logo. Digital image. Twitter. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.
NOW Rally. Digital image. Inequality Sucks. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.
By Joyce N. Boghosian, White House photographer [Public domain], <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMichelle_Obama_official_portrait_headshot.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>
By Southbank Centre [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0">CC BY 2.0</a>], <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMalala_Yousafzai_-_13008430294.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>
Text Sources
West, Lindy. "What Happened When I Confronted My Cruellest Troll." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
Barry, Ellen. "Man Convicted of Rape in Delhi Blames Victim." The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 Mar. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.
Rubin, Alissa J. "A Thin Line of Defense Against ‘Honor Killings’." The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Mar. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.
"Is Life Getting Worse for Women in Erdogan's Turkey?" BBC News. BBC, 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.
Girit, Selin. "Loud Calls to Action Follow Murder of Young Turkish Woman."BBC News. BBC, 20 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.
"Pay Equity & Discrimination." — IWPR. Institute for Women's Policy Research, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
"Female Executives Earn 13% More than Men, but May Still Be Underpaid."NerdWallet Investing. NerdWallet, Inc, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
Kelemen, Michele. "U.N. Report: No Country Has Achieved Equality For Women." NPR. NPR, 9 Mar. 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
"Developed Country." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.
"Hollaback! You Have the Power to End Street Harassment." Hollaback!Hollaback!, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
Roberts, Yvonne. "India’s Daughter: ‘I Made a Film on Rape in India. Men’s Brutal Attitudes Truly Shocked Me’." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 28 Feb. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
"What Is Rape Culture?" WAVAW Women Against Violence Against Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
"Transcript." Transcript. Chicago Public Media, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
"Let Girls Learn." Peace Corps -. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
"The Representation Project." The Representation Project. The Representation Project, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
"Stand with Malala." Malala. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
"National Organization for Women |." National Organization for Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
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