The Wounded Warrior  

HeuristicTourist 58M
1 posts
12/20/2005 1:51 pm

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

The Wounded Warrior

Sexism hurts women. In fact it is the name for the oppression of women. "Oppression" is the systematic inflicting of hurts on an individual (or groups of individuals) because of her (their) perceived membership in a group. In this case it is institutionalized aggression against certain people because they are female, or appear to be female.

Sexism is different from- but related to- the Female Sex Role. The Female Sex Role is a set of feelings, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and appearances that make up what society considers to be appropriate for women and girls. Society rewards compliance with the Role, and punishes variations from it. Some of these Role expectations are oppressive in that they require female humans to repress or deny parts of their humanity. Some of the punishments meted out for non-compliance are brutal and/or lethal.

So Sexism is not the same as the Female Sex Role, and the Female Sex Role is not the same as the Female Human. But they are all "related." Each woman has to "deal with" her own individual humanity- soul, personality, gifts, weaknesses, etc., in the face of a constellation of societal expectations for how she should "be" as a woman, and a whole arsenal of mechanisms by which she is limited, discounted, held back, disenfranchised, and even physically threatened and/or hurt due to sexism.

Who enforces these social expectations of the Female Sex Role? Is it men? Men only? Who perpetrates- and perpetuates- sexism? Men? Men only? It seems patently obvious that women participate in their own oppression. Why would they do that? It must have something to do with how the sexism is installed at an early age. Women- as girls- are socialized to limit themselves and each other. Transgressions are punished with the most potent weapon girls have: ostracization.

Meanwhile, boys are being taught how to be men. To be sure, testosterone plays a role in the differences in behavior patterns between boys and girls, women and men- so there is a biological component to social sex differences. The interpretations offered to children for what their behavior means begin to shape them from an early age. Boys are taught that they are expected to be violent, but only in certain circumstances. Along with this presumption of a violent nature, there is a cult of male toughness, as well as a host of codified agreements regarding who can be hurt, when, and for what reasons.

Men are limited by certain role expectations, but are we hurt by them? Are we oppressed? A well-known study years ago asked lots and lots of people to list the traits and characteristics of one of three types of people, "Men," "Women," or "Humans." When the lists were tabulated and compared, the lists of what people expected "Men" to be like closely matched what people expected "Humans" to be like, and the list of "Woman" attributes was much different. It could be argued that men are not only oppressed, we're not even very limited.

Even if it were our only limitation that we were socialized to be the agents of sexism- which it isn't- that should be intolerable to both men and women. It should- at least for the sake of women- be stopped. How are we men and women even to recognize it, let alone stop it? The ways men oppress women are socialized into each boy starting very young. Who is the main agent for teaching boys how to be male, a.k.a. agents of sexism? That's right: dear old mom.

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