Discrimination Based on Sex and Gender

Discrimination Based on Sex and Gender

Discrimination based on sex and gender contributes to harassment, unequal treatment, and violence against women, girls, and transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Learning Objectives

Describe the forms of gender-based discrimination that exist in society today

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Sexism or gender discrimination is prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender. It has been linked to stereotypes and gender roles and includes the belief that males are intrinsically superior to other sexes and genders.
  • Sexism contributes to discrimination in the workplace and the wage gap that still exists between males and females today. Extreme sexism may foster sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of sexual violence.
  • Transgender inequality is the unequal protection and treatment that transgender people face in work, school, and society in general. Transphobia manifests as emotional disgust, fear, anger, or discomfort felt or expressed toward people who don’t conform to society’s gender expectations.
  • Transgender people are much more likely to experience harassment, bullying, and violence based on their gender identity; they also experience much higher rates of discrimination in housing, employment, healthcare, and education.
  • Transgender individuals of color—and especially transgender women of color—face additional financial, social, and interpersonal challenges as a result of structural racism in combination with transphobia and misogyny.

Key Terms

  • cisgender: Of gender that matches one’s binary natal sex; of people who identify with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.
  • cissexism: The appeal to norms that enforce the gender binary and gender essentialism, resulting in the oppression of gender variant, non-binary, and trans identities; transphobia.
  • misogyny: Hatred or dislike of women or girls.

Sexism and Gender Discrimination

Sexism or gender discrimination is prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender. Sexism can affect any sex that is marginalized or oppressed in a society; however, it is particularly documented as affecting females. It has been linked to stereotypes and gender roles and includes the belief that males are intrinsically superior to other sexes and genders. Extreme sexism may foster sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of sexual violence.

Occupational sexism involves discriminatory practices, statements, or actions, based on a person’s sex, that occur in the workplace. One form of occupational sexism is wage discrimination. In 2008, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that while female employment rates have expanded, and gender employment and wage gaps have narrowed nearly everywhere, on average women still have 20 percent less chance to have a job and are paid 17 percent less than men. It also found that despite the fact that many countries, including the U.S., have established anti-discrimination laws, these laws are difficult to enforce. In the United States, women account for 47 percent of the overall labor force, and yet they make up only 6 percent of corporate CEOs and top executives. Some researchers see the root cause of this situation in the tacit discrimination based on gender, conducted by current top executives and corporate directors (who are primarily male).

image

Wage gap: This graph illustrates the median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers, by sex, race, and ethnicity in the U.S., 2009. Across all races and ethnicities studied, women consistently earn less than men.

Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. According to feminist theory, misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women. Although the exact rates are widely disputed, there is a large body of cross-cultural evidence that women are subjected to domestic violence significantly more often than men. In addition, there is broad consensus that women are more often subjected to severe forms of abuse and are more likely to be injured by an abusive partner. The United Nations recognizes domestic violence as a form of gender-based violence, which it describes as a human rights violation and a result of sexism.

Transphobia and Transgender Discrimination

Transgender inequality is the unequal protection and treatment that transgender people face in work, school, and society in general. Currently, transgender individuals are not protected in 33 U.S. states from being fired for being transgender or not conforming to gender norms. Transgender people regularly face transphobic harassment and violence. Ultimately, one of the largest reasons that transgender people face inequality is a lack of public understanding.

Transphobia is similar to homophobia, racism, and sexism, and manifests as emotional disgust, fear, anger, or discomfort felt or expressed toward people who don’t conform to society’s gender expectations. The related term ” cissexism ” refers to the assumption that transgender people are inferior to cisgender people. Both transphobia and cissexism have severe consequences. Transgender people are much more likely to experience harassment, bullying, and violence based on their gender identity; they also experience much higher rates of discrimination in housing, employment, healthcare, and education (National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2010).

Transgender individuals of color face additional financial, social, and interpersonal challenges, in comparison to the transgender community as a whole, as a result of structural racism. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the combination of anti-transgender bias with structural and individual racism means that transgender people of color experience particularly high levels of discrimination. Specifically, black transgender people reported the highest level of discrimination among all transgender individuals of color. As members of several intersecting minority groups, transgender people of color—and transgender women of color in particular—are especially vulnerable to employment discrimination, poor health outcomes, harassment, and violence. Consequently, they face even greater obstacles than white transgender individuals and cisgender members of their own race.