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What Is Sexism?

Feminism Definition

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Sign says

Sign from Slutwalk, Melbourne, May 2011

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Sexism means discrimination based on sex. Sexism can be compared to racism; in both the differences between two (or more) groups are viewed as indications that one group is superior or inferior. Sexism can refer to either the belief of the person doing the discriminating or their words and behavior.

Feminist Origins of the Word

The word "sexism" became widely known during the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1960s. At that time, feminist theorists explained that oppression of women was widespread in nearly all human society, and they began to speak of sexism instead of male chauvinism. Whereas male chauvinists were usually individual men who expressed the belief that they were superior to women, sexism referred to collective behavior that reflected society as a whole.

Related concepts:

  • Patriarchal Society - A society controlled by men.
  • Compulsory Heterosexuality - The prevailing belief that heterosexuality is the only "nomal" relation between the sexes, based in part on the fact that men benefit from a heterosexual society.
  • Sexual Politics - Kate Millett's examination of how thoroughly society is dominated by men.
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