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Gender and Social Oppression
Systems of oppression such as racism, heterosexism, and sexism unfortunately constitute a large part of society today. These have existed for a long time beside other evils that are less common in the contemporary world, for example colonialism and nativism. It is an agreed upon fact that all these forms of subjugation are, in fact, frowned upon, no matter who the victim is. However, it is also true to say that when it comes to these forms of oppression, different genders experience them in different ways. Civilization has always been finding a way to provide for double standards among men and women. This is how matters stand: one of the genders experiences unfair treatment purely because they are of that particular gender, especially biased against women. It is due to these facts that this essay sets out to examine, just where gender meets oppression in daily life.
Women for a long time, and in almost all the societies, had to endure the treatment that was quite different from their male counterparts. For example, as in the days following the civil war, people of the black race had to suffer the maltreatment in general. It was however, worse for the black women who were regular victims of terroristic rape in order for those, who were proslavery to assert their dominance over the black race (Clinton and Silber 146).
In contemporary times, oppressive forms such as sexism tend to target women. At the work place, for example, it is still, unfortunately, a common occurrence for women to be underestimated and passed up for leadership positions. Even though there has been a tremendous increase in the number of employed women today, stereotypes still dictate, what jobs women can hold. Managerial positions are entrusted to men, while women continue to hold jobs that are not as prestigious or well paying (Cliffsnotes). It is also not surprising to find that women get a pay lower than male counterparts do for equally demanding jobs. This is the regrettable norm of society to date.
The divisions in the treatment of men and women come out clearly in literature. Oppressive tendencies, that have women as their main and most wounded victims, have to end. The rise of feminism seeks to address issues of this nature as they arise. As Hooks (4) points out, in the end, feminism is not about according more rights to women, rather, it seeks to free women from the notion of a patriarchal society and sexism. This is the way to go for a society, working towards changing the face of the interface between gender and oppressive forms.
From the readings, the role of women, both black and white in the civil war cannot be overemphasized. Clinton and Silber (27) paint the picture of a revolution that was male dominated at the onset. Even though the major participant societies made provisions for members to let their wives in on their dealings, the societies were careful not to admit any women. Women like Harriet Tubman, who took on vigorous roles in the fight against slavery, commanded the respect of their male counterparts (Clinton and Silber 22). It was later in the revolution that more women assumed active roles in the revolution during the civil war era and went as far as dressing up as men to fight in the wars. According to Hooks (57), white women finally admitted that there was a need to combine the anti-feminist movement with the anti-racist movement. This is what ended in positive results for black and white women. All of the events, outlined by Clinton, Silber, and Hooks, eventually led up to women suffrage.
Women suffrage was a positive step for civilization. However, it is saddening that women had to go through so much just to earn the right to vote. This is a representative of the situation today, whereby women have to apply a certain degree of aggression in order to penetrate male dominated fields. Women have to work harder in order to demonstrate their worth to men and earn respect as their equals. John Brown, for example, used the words ‘the most of a man, naturally; that I ever met with’ to refer to Harriet Tubman (Clinton and Silber 22) only after she displayed physical aggression in fighting for the end of slavery.
These incidents of women dressing up as men in order to defend their right only reinforce the theory that gender is a social construct. Women behave as society wills them to in order to gain approval. Physical aggression is, naturally, a reserve for men, according to civilization. Women are ideally supposed to stay calm and appear feeble. Even so, when it counted, women took on aggressive roles in the war and in that period, they were men. They adapted to new roles that were initially for men.
I learnt gender through watching older role models engage in activities, done by people of that particular gender. As we are born, appropriate role models are clear-cut for us; boys will learn how to be men from their dads and uncles, while girls learn how to be women and the community’s expectations of them from their mums and aunts. Some gender norms remain challenging to get around even after childhood. However, I manage to resist these norms and expectations by associating more with individuals that are open-minded in that respect. I tend to shut out people, who say that women cannot participate in something, or that discriminate against men for doing something naturally reserved for women, for example cooking. In addition, learning to respect the abilities of individuals from either gender to be the best, keeps me from discriminating against either gender.
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