Given that we are living in a society that privileges men, it should come as no surprise that women tend to be relatively disadvantaged. These disadvantages faced by women can take many forms: from the gender pay gap that favors men, to the fact that men make up the majority of all our elected officials and CEOs, and even to women not outperforming men in college by a wide enough margin. Indeed, women are sometimes even disadvantaged by the ways they benefit from the system that sees men as stronger, more agentic, and competent than women. These facts may be shocking to hear, I know, as it forces us men to confront the deeply sexist social world of benefits and privileges that we are collectively granted access to on the basis of our gender alone and nothing more. It should go without saying, but these gender gaps are clearly unwarranted and unfair and, as such, it is a moral imperative to correct them. So it’s time to check our privilege, cast any doubts aside, and take a good, hard examination at some of the most sexist institutions in our society.
“Alright; I checked my privilege. What’s step two?”
At the recent event where the Playstation 4 was previewed, I was shocked to hear that men completely dominated the talks; in fact there were no female presenters. A chilling thought, I know. It’s almost as if men were telling women that women are unfit to play video games! What might come as an even greater shock to you is that large segments of the American workforce display similar levels of what is very clearly sexism. These fields are basically boys clubs with a metaphorical “no girls allowed” sign nailed to their doors in the form of rampant sexism and misogyny; fields that are simply inhospitable environments for women. These kinds of hostile sexism against women (and, because sexism = discrimination + power, men can never be the victims of sexism; they are just victims of discrimination, which is a totally different thing) box out large numbers of women who are otherwise qualified and eager for the jobs they are denied by society. One good for instance would be the field of construction, where the workforce is almost entirely male. Faced with such a clear gender gap, one can only be left gasping, wondering what steps our government and society are taking to remedy such obvious sexism. It’s not like women are too incapable or incompetent to build houses, after all.
Women’s worries don’t end with the field of construction, however: similar gender gaps are seen in fields like plumbing, lumberjacking, and firefighting. As we know that the sexes are born completely equivalent to one another in terms of their physical potentials and psychological interests and motivations, these gender gaps can clearly only be the result of sexist socialization. Dismantling the sexist social constructs of our culture – constructs which were clearly created by men in the first place – is required if we ever hope to see the 50/50 split between men and women who are willing and able to fix your septic tank that we’ve all been dreaming about. As it stands right now, women are disproportionately forced into careers deemed appropriate for them by the patriarchy: nursing, child care, and secretarial work, all of which involve women outnumbering men by more than four-to-one.
Now I know there are some naysayers out there who might, in their ignorance (due to their privilege if they’re male and internalized sexism if they’re female), actually believe that there might be some biological differences between men and women at the physical or psychological levels that can explain these differences. That is to say, we don’t always need to resort to sexism to explain any and all the gender differences we see. The go-to example that many of these patriarchy-apologists tend to raise is that of the difference in upper-body muscle mass between men and women. Proponents of this sex difference cling to the myth that selection has acted on men and women differently in this regard, as having more muscle mass might help men dominate their rivals in competitions relevant to successful reproduction. The implication there would seem to be that, historically, men and women did not behave identically which, as we know, must be false on the basis of it sounding sexist to me.
What those biological-determinists clearly overlook is the fact that men are socialized to exercise their upper-body more than women; without such socialization, these differences would surely vanish. Now there’s the slightly inconvenient fact the differences in strength between men and women might remain even after attempts were made to control for exercise, but let’s not forget that such tests were carried out using WEIRD samples. Further still, it’s unlikely that researchers were able to fully control for all the relevant sexist socialization forces, as many of them are exceedingly subtle. As it should now be clear that researchers have failed to fully control for such variables, one is forced to accept the undeniable conclusion that these variables must be driving the differences in strength between men and women. There’s just no alternative explanation.
So how can we go about remedying this problem? Simply put, women need better social mentors and role models in order to counteract the toxic messages that society is putting forth. This proposal comes in two parts. The first is that we must make it mandatory for men and women to take all the same classes and participate in all the same activities, so as not to send the message that one sex ought to have a certain set of interests. Special attention needs to be paid to the aforementioned skills and careers were men and women are most divergent on the professional level. This means that it needs to be mandatory for all students to take classes in nursing, early childhood education, logging, and firefighting.
The second part of the proposal acknowledges that change needs to take place on the professional level as well, so as to minimize any implicit or subtle messages that children might receive through the media or facts about reality. This means that we need to mandate, effective immediately, that all employers ensure that each job position on their staff is compromised of equal numbers of men and women who are making precisely the same wage (as they are both clearly as qualified, motivated, and work as much as the other). The worst offender in this regard is clearly the professional sporting industry. The world of sporting is so socially-backwards that they still enforce segregation on the basis of gender, for crying out loud! Not only does such a policy effectively tell women that it’s unlikely they’ll ever grow up to be a professional football player, but it goes further, suggesting that they’re so much less a person that they can’t even compete against the men. Here’s a memo for the professional sporting leagues out there: it’s not the 1960s anymore – segregation’s illegal.
I think I speak for all of us when I say enough is enough. It’s time to make our stand and put an end to all gender disparity, whether that disparity be in America, the world at large, or even in other non-human species. In fact, especially in non-human species. For too long have sexist messages penetrated non-human minds, resulting in sexually-dimorphic ornaments or behaviors. In some cases, the sexism has been so bad that males end up about twice as large the females; truly disturbing examples of the power of the patriarchy. We need to ensure that these non-human species have positive role models to look up to, and understand that their sexist behavior has larger social ramifications for other forms of life. Once we stop accepting this kind of behavior in other species, we might finally be able to stop accepting it in our own.