Learn About Gender Discrimination in Society

Impatient Man Waiting for Woman to Iron Shirt
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The difference between sex and gender is that sex refers to our biological and physiological traits, whereas gender refers to the roles society assigns people based on their sex. Gender discrimination occurs when there is a bias based on a person's sex, and that leads to defining the roles that he or she should play in society.

An example of gender stereotypes exists in the belief that it is the woman's job, simply because of her sex to stay home and take care of the children. Another example is the belief that women are unable to make decisions as well as men because women are more emotional than men. Or, that only males are capable of being mechanics because they are bigger or stronger. Or, that only men can be firefighters because they need the upper body weight to carry the heavy gear. Because men experience bias as well.

An example of gender discrimination would be if a woman was denied a job, or was paid less than a man would be paid for the same position. Or, that a female received a lower compensation and benefits package solely on the basis of her being female. In the United States, discriminating against anyone on the basis of their physical sex or gender is illegal, but it happens all the time.

Changing the Face Of Gender Discrimination

In order for there to be a change in perceived gender roles, two important considerations come into play:

  • Both sexes are at least partially to blame. Men and women both have gender roles that are defined by any given society, and gender roles and stereotypes are created by, and also perpetuated by both sexes. By the same token, women are not the only ones demanding equality, many men also fight hard for the rights of women. And, men are also discriminated against because they may seek what is perceived as a female job (such as a nanny) and are passed over in favor of a female applicant. Dominant thinking in society is not always what wins out—it only takes a single agent of change to serve as a catalyst to protect the rights of anyone whether it be women, the gay community, or the disabled. 
    • Social attitudes must be changed. Gender roles and stereotypes exist in society at large. In order for discriminatory practices to end, change must begin with societal values and attitudes. Also, equal rights must be enforced by laws on a local and federal level.

    Men Shouldn't Be Treated as the Enemy

    Men should not be treated as the enemy. Women need to seek change in society's views—which includes changing how some men think, but it also includes changing how many women think.

    The real enemies behind gender stereotypes are ignorance, intolerance, and stagnant societies that resist change. One of the outcomes of blaming men for gender discrimination is that society is also saying that men are calling all the shots. And it sends a message that women are powerless victims of society when clearly that is not the case.

    There Are Real Dangers For Women Who Seek Change

    In countries where women are imprisoned, tortured, or even put to death for asserting their rights, they are victims of their governments, societies, and cultures. In these countries, change is difficult to accomplish and often dangerous when attempted. In countries where extreme patriarchy exists, women are stripped of their rights and dignity.

    Although these male-driven societies revolve around the gender stereotype that men are superior, many of these attitudes stem from religious beliefs and thousand-year-old traditions and rituals that even women have been slow to challenge—understandably, out of fear for their own lives, but also out of respect for long-standing values.

    But in the United States women have laws protecting their rights to assert themselves, including in the right to vote and file lawsuits against discriminating employers.