"Sex" refers to our biological and physiological traits; "gender" refers to the roles society assigns people based on their sex. Gender discrimination is when there is a bias based on a person's sex, that leads to defining the roles he/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 (female) to stay home and take care of their children. Other examples include the belief that women are unable to make decisions as well as men because women get their periods and men don't.
An example of gender discrimination would be if a woman was denied a job, or was paid less than a man would be paid, or received a lessor 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 (it also happens against men.) [Gender Discrimination Against Men]
Changing The Face Of Gender Discrimination
In order for their to be 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. 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. For example, many employers still do disciminate against people for reasons of bias -- clearly, their thought process is behind the times. But when they do so, they are still breaking the law.
- Social Attitudes Must Be Changed: Gender roles and stereotypes leads to in the workplace against women and against men -- and in society at large. In order for discriminatory practices to end, change must begin in societal values and attitudes, but equal rights must be enforced by laws because individual members of societies will never all think the same.
Are Men The Real 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 resists change. If we blame men for gender discrimination we do two things:
- Forget that women, who make up almost 50% of the world's population (for every 107 males born there are 100 females born) also play a major role in gender definitions in societies; and
- By blaming men for calling all the shots, we are also saying indirectly that women are powerless victims of society, and that is not always true.
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. In countries where extreme patriarchy exists women are stripped of their rights and dignity. Although these male-driven societies revolve around the gender stereo type that men are superior, many of these attitudes stem from religious beliefs, and thousand-year old culture, 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. Women are are beaten into submission either physically or psychologically by their societies, may simply accept "that is just the way it is."
But in the United States women are not stoned for wearing shorts to the beach or kissing a man in public. Women in the U.S. have laws protecting their rights to assert themselves, including in the right to vote and file lawsuits against discriminating employers. Things do not always work out in our favor (women are still subjected to the glass ceiling and unequal pay) but we still have the freedom to speak, resist, challenge, and change.