Now that the initial introductions are out of the way, why beat around the bush? Lets get right down to the nitty gritty. I’ll start off with a current hot-topic viewpoint in my life, one that I’ve most recently begun to examine and to formulate my opinion on. Here we go:
It is my personal opinion, that I’ve formed through many research studies, personal experience, learning, and other various examples, that sexism is a deeper-seated issue, has been around longer, and will take longer to solve than racism.
Please don’t misunderstand my words. I am not insinuating that sexism is worse than racism. Neither one of them is “worse” than the other, and both are “worse” than each other. Comparing them in this way is like comparing death by fire versus death by drowning. Neither are desirable, neither are warranted, and both are destructive. So I repeat: I do not believe that sexism is worse than racism, nor do I believe that racism is worse than sexism. This is the part that my husband seems to have the most difficulty understanding when we discuss this. They are both “worse” than each other, and neither is “worse” than the other.
Now that we’re all clear, let’s continue.
Since many different definitions for these terms exist, it wouldn’t be a fair argument to continue without properly defining them. So for the sake of this argument, and this argument only, when I say racism, I am referring to the mindset (and the subsequent actions associated with this mindset) of an individual to believe that they are superior to another individual for no reason other than their race/ancestry. The textbook definition of racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” (Mirriam-Webster). For clarity’s sake, for this definition, I am including the idea that black people can be racist, since this particular post/argument does not involve systemic racism (of which is impossible for a minority race to be). When I say sexism, I am referring to the attitude/mindset of men who believe that that women are inherently “lesser” than men, and the stereotypes and actions associated with this mindset. The textbook definition of sexism is the “behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex,” (Mirriam-Webster).
Racism exists. There aren’t many level-headed individuals who will say otherwise. Sexism also exists, except it exists differently. Sexism is quieter than racism. Sexism is, today, more acceptable than racism. Sexism is embedded within every aspect of our society, both consciously and unconsciously. Sexism has existed long before racism. I can say this with confidence through thinking critically about the origins of civilization. Men and women of the same “race” co-existed first, since they grew and evolved in the same geographic location, they looked the same. Men and women of the same “race” were dealing with each other long before coming into contact with individuals from another race. Let me back up a little and give you a mini-biology lesson first.
Every living thing on our planet shares an indisputable purpose: to survive. The survival of your species is an innate instinct that evolves at the very basic level of consciousness; single-celled organisms, amoebas, etc. This is every living creature’s goal, as exemplified through nature. As mammals, our sole purpose remains to survive and to reproduce, as reproduction ensures the survival of a species. Taking into consideration the human body, a woman’s biological purpose is to carry and birth offspring. We can see this through examining her monthly cycle, a fact of life that she can not control, which occurs in every woman regardless of race/religion/creed/location. Her cycle occurs literally like clockwork, which is her body creating a “pre-womb” for a potential baby, dropping an egg, and when the egg isn’t fertilized, the “womb” collapses and exits the body through her period. A painful and debilitating punishment for not fertilizing her eggs. The fact that she can not control it, can not stop it (without chemicals, implants, etc.), and the way it controls her mood, appetite, and body is evidence for her biological purpose: as a creator and host for offspring. Additionally, her breasts sole purpose (another scientific fact, regardless of popular opinion) is to feed and nourish her child. A man’s biological purpose, on the other hand, is to implant his seed into a woman. “Men think with their d*cks,” a common phrase used to describe the male human’s seemingly predisposed obsession with sex, might not be far off the mark. Just a woman has no control over her menstrual cycle, it can also be said that a man has no control over his sexual urges/desires. [Side-note, this is not to say he has no control over his actions regarding the urges and how he handles them, what I am arguing here that he has no control over the presence of them] In fact, it has even been studied and found that there an increased risk for certain cancers associated with not ejaculating enough. According to a Harvard Medical study, it was found that “high ejaculation frequency seemed to protect against prostate cancer,” (Garnick). This provides evidence for the assumption that a man’s biological purpose is to spread his seed, similar to how an oak tree spreads its acorns.
At this point, we should agree that biologically, our bodies have evolved in such a way that promote the most efficient way to survive and reproduce. Since a woman is the holder and creator of life, it was of utmost importance during the primitive years of our species to protect her and to provide for her; since her purpose is more precious and time and resource-consuming than his. Realizing this, part of his purpose becomes to provide for her and his offspring by hunting, providing shelter (cue the idea of property rights), protecting his property from predators, etc. This protector-mentality has been carried over through the millennia and still persists today. It is his duty to protect his property, including his woman. From the very inception of society, and due to the very nature of the process of reproduction, a woman’s place was under the man. It was his responsibility to protect and provide for her, which meant that she was his.
As time moved on, eventually tribes met other tribes, humans found other humans who look similar, yet different. Many may have gotten along perfectly, and many may have fought wars we’ll never learn about. Some may have been more advanced, less advanced, spoke different languages, made different tools, etc. Maybe they worked together and shared knowledge, maybe they feared each other and wiped each other out; we don’t really know exactly what the beginning of modern society looked like. What we do know, however, is that somewhere along the line, someone decided it would be a good idea to enslave a group of people for prosperity purposes. The enslavement of one race of people by another race of people has happened time and time again, and is one of the only persisting aspects of society that we can still see today. As we have seen through history (e.g. ancient Egypt, colonial America, the USSR and the Nazi regime during WW2), viewing from a purely financial aspect, having slaves is possibly the most efficient way for an empire to flourish and to complete their goals. The slaves on the other hand, were faces with a much less desirable outcome. Regardless if the average citizen agrees or disagrees with the enslavement initially, it eventually becomes “normal” to the empire, and people get used to it. In getting used to it, they grow to believe that they are superior to the enslaved race, otherwise they wouldn’t be enslaved.
It goes without saying that slavery is an abhorrent practice than every partaking society should be ashamed of, but in looking at it through an objective lens, it is easy to see how a benefitting empire would use any reasoning they could to try to justify the enslavement. Racism, then, became the obvious choice. “They’re savages,” or “they’re uncultured” becomes the common rhetoric, and people start to believe it. When I was a teenager, I remember learning about the history of slavery in the United States in high school. Growing up in the North-East, I wasn’t faced with these types of issues in my day-to-day life, and in my white sub-urban bubble, it wasn’t necessary to think about these things. But one day I wondered to myself, why is it that so many people from the deep-South, living in squalor below the poverty line, while collecting welfare, are so undeniably racist. Regardless of the history of slavery, why was it that now, hundreds of years after slavery was abolished, people are still clinging on to that Confederate mindset of white supremacy? Then I realized, if there were no slaves brought over to America, then those same people, the un-educated farmers in the deep-South, would be considered “bottom of the barrel” or the lowest rung on the ladder of America. Since they had their slaves, however, no matter that they did or said or thought, nothing would put them at the bottom (in their heads), because the African slaves were below them. This is the same mindset that holds true today. In a racist’s mind, nothing they do or say will put them “beneath” a member of the race that they see as inferior to their own.
Racism then, with its roots in slavery, became the biggest issue in society’s mind, as it should be. Human beings were hung, burned alive, forced to work against their will without compensation for 200+ years, but this isn’t a history lesson on slavery. Since racism was more in-your-face and more undeniable than the widely-accepted sexism that has existed since the dawn of self-awareness, it was chosen first. We can see this exemplified in the legalization of black men to vote in America in 1870 with the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, while women didn’t get their right to vote until 1920 with the 19th Amendment.
Although neither racism nor sexism are going to be solved anytime soon, there has been markedly more strides in racial equality over the last 100 years than sexual equality, and the trend will continue.
The Constitution. 15th and 19th Amendments.
Garnick, Mark, M.D. 24 Feb 2011. “Does Frequent Ejaculation Help Ward Off Prostate Cancer?” Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved from harvardprostateknowledge.org/does-frequent-ejaculation-help-ward-off-prostate-cancer