Gender Relations The world today must deal with many problems ranging from environmental problems to economic problems. The solutions to those problems, on the other hand, are not too difficult to find. There is a problem, however, that our society has been dealing with it for a long time. That is sexism or gender discrimination.
By definition, gender is the sex-role we, human beings, identified to emphasize the distinctions between males and females, whereas sexism is the discrimination by members of one sex against the other, especially by men against women, based on the assumption that one sex is superior. For every existing problem, there must be some causes and reasons which bring it to the front of us, and there must be a solution which we need to find in order to get rid off it. Strangely, gender discrimination becomes a problem we have been struggling with it for centuries and still cannot come up with a perfect solution. Will it really becomes a problem we have to face forever? Due to the physical and psychological differences between men and women, culture and tradition have created gender discrimination which is most often used to refer to men's attitudes towards women.
Sometimes, grammatical expressions and sexist names in language can also reveal this unequal set of attitudes and behaviors which belittle women and prize the power of men. By the effort of education, sexism against women has become a noticeable part of our society and it is fortunately on its way to a solution. By nature, the physical and psychological differences between men and women are most likely the original causes of sexism. Men are physically stronger than women; and women are psychologically milder than men. Way back to the beginning of human history while people do not have any education, the ones who can fight better seem to be the dominants of the society.
Men can do certain work better than women, such as hunting animals, cutting woods or breaking stones and so on. There is no question that that is the main reason men usually dominates the society through history. Generally, men are more aggressive than women. In " 'I'll Explain It to You': Lecturing and Listening", the author Deborah Tanned mentions, "Leet-Pellegrini suggests that the men in this study were playing a game of 'Have I won?' while the women were playing a game of 'Have I been sufficiently helpful?' " (215). This reveals that women are more interested in the relationships between men, whereas men are more interested in earning respects from others.
In addition, women are the ones giving birth to the infants and feed the infants. Therefore, women certainly need more time at home to take care of the children. Due to the division of work in the family, men are more likely to get working outside the house; and women are more likely to be housewives and take care of everything inside the house. As time goes on, men want to keep the power of dominance. They give women no voting rights, limited rights to property. And in most respects, women are subject entirely to their fathers or husbands.
Traditionally, rights to property and nationality pass through the male line, with the result that women's legal status was generally inferior to that of men. Charlotte Perkins Gilman describes this situation in her essay "The Yellow Wallpaper" as "in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard" (401). The shady circumstance gives us a feeling that women in the old time are like prisoners who have no freedom and legal rights and under the control of masculine power. Furthermore, socialization plays a more important role in more present gender discrimination. First, do we know when we begin to be aware of our gender? Perhaps, we, males and females, are taught to be different when we are little babies.
Parents often choose blue for boys and pink for girls; parents often have boys to play basketball, baseball or football and girls take dance. Children are encouraged to prefer the games, clothing, modes of speech, and other aspects of culture usually assigned to their sex. For example, boys are told to be brave and not cry and are given guns and cars as toys; girls are given dolls and playhouses so they can mimic the traditional female home-making role. Similarly, many boys and girls tend to excel only in the areas of study traditionally attributed to their sex. This is why boys are dominated in many fields such as science and engineering, and girls are more likely to place themselves in the fields such as nursing, accounting, business and so on. Last but not the least, cultural media such as television and film may help perpetuate sexism by presenting stereotypical images of men and women.
For instance, television programs often present women only as housewives or mothers and describe men doing exciting work outside the house. To take another example, an action film may feature women who are physically attractive to men. As a result, introducing and teaching children the incorrect or sexist culture and behavior in the early age will cause the children to absorb sexist attitudes and even affect other people. All in all, physical and psychological differences between men and women are impossible to change because they are natural. Consequently, sexism is originally caused by these obvious differences and predisposed to hold by generations.
The grammatical expressions in languages and its sexist names given to some specific objects are also important factors which have perpetuated sexism in our lives. Sexism in English is a typical example in this case, and of course, it carries certain assumptions about gender roles. Unfortunately, most of those assumptions tend to prize the power of masculinity and demean the social status of women. For example, English contains expressions which imply that all people are male: the use of "he" as a generic pronoun; "man" as a typical person; or the inclusion of "man" in job titles such as "chairman", but not "chairwoman".
Of the same purpose, some English expressions also imply that men are first, and women follow. An obvious example would be the habitual listing of the masculine first such as "men and women", or the use of the diminutive endings, "-ess" or "-ette" to apply to women's jobs such as "stewardess" and "usherette". Those feminine suffixes give us a direct but false feeling that women are not as important or powerful as men. Moreover, many objects are named in English base on the attractiveness and sexiness of a woman's body and the physical strength and accomplishments of a man.
As a result of her research, Alleen Pace Nilsen emphasizes this idea in her essay "Sexism in English: A 1990's Update" that in American culture, "A woman is sexy. A man is successful" (278). Eponyms are more often taken from men's names than women's names. This implies that men seem to contribute more to our society than women do. However, eponyms taken from women's side are often related to women's body. Such as, The Teats, Nipple Peak and Squaw Tit are metaphors based on the similarity of the shapes of the mountains and women's breasts.
The grammatical expressions in languages and sexist names to specific objects can only remind and introduce people about sexism. Due to the fact that sexism comes into people's minds through the ways they are learning, changing the ways of education would be an extremely important factor to the solution of sexism. Even though the physical and psychological differences between men and women are natural which means unchangeable, people can change the ways they behave and think by introducing and teaching themselves the correct attitudes toward sexual distinctions of men and women. For instance, parents should treat the children of different sex equally, such as choosing them the same color of clothes, same sort of toys, same kind of games, and teaching them the same modes of speech. In school, teachers should cultivate the students to any kind of study fields and encourage them to develop themselves in the fields of their interests but the in the fields that are traditionally attributed to their sex. And the most important is that the culture media should be placed into the role which presenting men and women in equal social status.
I believe that the world has already recognized the importance of education in treating sexism. That is why many activists in the world have achieved a steady improvement in women's legal rights last century. In order to have perfect equality between men and women, both men and women should learn the correct attitudes toward sexual differences. Men and women are somehow physically and psychologically different. Therefore, culture and tradition have created sexism which is generally against women. In addition, grammatical expressions and sexist names in language can also reveal this unequal set of attitudes and behaviors demeaning the social status of women.
Fortunately, education has been contributing great helps in the progress to improve women's rights in many parts of the world recently. As a result, a "brand-new" gender relation is not far in the future.