I was browsing the feminist tag recently when I found this image:
The person who posted it did so to demonstrate the misogyny present in two major religious texts. I cannot deny that there is misogyny present in most religious texts, and that people often use religion as a justification for sexism. However, as a feminist, I dislike this graphic because it seems to imply that religion is the reason for sexism.
Religion can be used to justify sexism, but religion isn’t the root cause of sexism. Religion, like everything else, was created in a patriarchal culture. Thus, religion will be influenced by patriarchal norms. Religion isn’t inherently sexist, it only becomes sexist when the society that created it is sexist in the first place.
Atheists often use sexist or homophobic passages to highlight the absurdity or religion. I don’t like this because I feel it causes atheists to not look critically about the sexism, homophobia, and racism within their own groups. I have written before about how I feel uncomfortable around atheist groups because of sexism. Atheist groups often think they are immune from bigotry because bigotry, in their minds, is the result of religion. As most of us know, this isn’t true. Bigotry can impede any culture or subculture. Bigotry, ironically, doesn’t discriminate. It is ignorant to think that your group is immune from bigotry for any reason.
In conclusion, we need to stop blaming religion for bigotry that is the result of the greater society as a whole, and atheists need to remember that being non-religious doesn’t automatically make them less sexist than someone who is.
Benevolent sexism [aka chivalry] may not be physically violent, but it has a pretty similar outcome to hostile sexism… A group of psychologists… ran a study to find out does benevolent sexism influence how girls’ feel about their bodies?
The researchers used a simple test to measure the effects of benevolent sexism on how women felt about their bodies (this is called “self-objectification”, looking at your body as men or other women might and turning yourself into an object in your own eyes). The researchers tested two groups of college women. Now, here’s the clever part. In one group, the participants simply filled out surveys measuring self-objectification. In the second group, there was a female and a male research assistant (let’s call them “Susan” and “Tim”) pretending to be participants. The researcher in charge of the group was “in” on the trick. During the experiment, she received a fake phone call that she said was from a colleague who needed a box of research materials brought to another room. She asked “Susan” (whom everyone else thought was just another participant) to carry it, at which point “Tim” stood up and said, “I’ll get that for you,” and took the box. “Susan” sat back down. After this exchange, the real participants filled out the surveys measuring self-objectification.
So, what did that little act of “politeness” do? Well, when they compared the two groups’ survey scores, they found that in the group that watched Tim’s act of chivalry, women felt a stronger sense of shame about their body. They were more concerned about their bodies not fitting into society’s standards of how a woman should look. This group was also more preoccupied with monitoring their appearance (which researchers call “body surveillance”). Basically, the group that saw Tim’s act of “politeness” examined their bodies more to see how they compared to cultural standards of beauty and felt shame about not fitting into what society says women should look like.
But what do we make of these results? How could Tim’s simple act of carrying a box make women feel bad about their bodies? The authors propose that benevolent sexism, even though it may be meant to convey respect, actually reinforces traditional gender roles. Traditional femininity emphasizes the importance of a woman looking attractive (as opposed to intelligent, witty etc.) Without being aware of it, simply being reminded of traditional gender roles can make women more concerned about how they look (as opposed to their accomplishments or personality) which translates into “body surveillance” or women checking themselves out. When women compare their bodies to cultural standards of beauty, they can feel a sense of shame if they think they don’t “measure up.” It pretty much goes without saying that this is harmful to women and girls.
This is my new responce next time I hear some obnoxious lament about the loss of chivalry in society. And not the basic human decentness lament, the why don’t men open doors for women anymore lament.