How and why did sexism begin

What is sexism? : No society without sexist remnants

The Berlin CDU young politician Jenna Behrends has started a debate about sexism in her party and has received support from CDU General Secretary Peter Tauber and Diana Kinnert, member of the “CDU 2017” reform commission. Behrends accuses the Berlin CDU boss and still Senator for the Interior, Frank Henkel (also CDU), of having called her - like her little daughter - a "cute mouse" and asked a party colleague whether he "fucks" her. Depending on the reading, the allegations can also be used to harm Henkel, to accelerate a renewal of the party - or to promote one's own career through the scandal, as critics say.

On Saturday, Family Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD) also called for an intensified fight against sexism in politics and society: "I would like more men to speak out against sexism," she told the Funke media group and shared her own experiences: She was called a “coastal Barbie” and Union faction leader Volker Kauder (CDU) said about her that she shouldn't be so weepy. That was “nothing world-changing, but that's where it starts,” said Schwesig.

The CDU vice-chairwoman Julia Klöckner told Tagesspiegel: “We're talking about a problem that affects society as a whole.” The demarcation “what is perceived as a funny saying or injury” is “tricky”: “Transitions are often fluid and are also felt differently . What matters is how we define sexism and when it really is sexism. By the way, there is also sexism towards men, ”said Klöckner. For her, the “absolute expression of sexism” is “the view that only veiled, veiled women are decent women - the idea that women's hair, face and skin, figure are offensive and must therefore be veiled. Incidentally, it is also a sexist assumption towards men that they would not have a grip on themselves and would no longer be in control of themselves if a woman was not covered. We also have to talk about this sexism. "

What is sexism?

Sexism has two main aspects. First, there is a structure - biological or religious prejudices that lead to people being devalued and discriminated against because of their gender. This can lead to the exclusion of women from certain professional or social groups, for example to the withholding of the right to vote or the right to education. It can also help, for example, that women receive less wages than men for the same work. For a long time it was said that women could not fly an airplane because they were less reliable, for example because of hormonal fluctuations. This has been refuted many times.

Second, it is about individual and collective behavior, attitudes based on stereotypes about a gender. Donald Trump's verbal attacks against competent women are just as much a speaking example as his preference for female models. Outdated images often work in a similar way, sorting women into categories of either witches and whores or saints and graces.

Where is the line between a joke and a disparagement?

Wherever verbal degradation is felt as such and where it has a concrete, negative effect. “Why does the blonde go to the job interview with two mattresses on the roof rack? Because the application said that she should bring her documents! ”Some women find such a joke deliciously funny because it makes fun of superficial fashion girls as well as the obviously grotesque genre of“ blonde joke ”. Others find this type of humor offensive.

In 2013, the “Stern” journalist Laura Himmelreich published an article entitled “Der Herrenwitz”. In it she described how the FDP politician Rainer Brüderle had given her the "compliment" at a hotel bar a year earlier: "You can also fill in a dirndl." FDP top candidate as sexism, the politician saw himself as a victim of a campaign.

Both women and men deal with centuries-old stereotypes in their reactions. Depending on your own experience, ability to reflect and self-confidence, traditional clichés are slowly breaking open - laughing can definitely help.

What role does the internet play?

The Internet acts as a catalyst for public debate - in a good and bad sense. This also applies to the discussion about sexism. The mere fact that incidents can be made known quickly via the Internet already causes behavioral changes. Because the risk of being pilloried online for a careless comment is great. Social networks are also an ideal forum for opening a debate to a wide audience. The Twitter debate #aufschrei, established by the feminist Anne Wizorek, in which women reported their personal experiences with sexism in 2013, was awarded the Grimm Prize as a media project. On the other hand, there is also shameless harassment on the Internet: crass sexist insults against politicians, celebrities and journalists show how deeply sexism is still anchored in society.

How big is the problem?

There is sexism everywhere. It began on page one of our written history: Eve seduced Adam to eat the forbidden apple from the tree of knowledge - so "the woman" was to blame for the expulsion of people from paradise. Adam was the victim of this act. Then both accused each other - before the male God, the Lord.

Sexuality, the physical differences between men and women, has always puzzled people and inspired them to create myths, especially since during the nomadic epochs it was not known for a long time that and how the act of procreation and pregnancy were dependent on one another. Then, with sedentariness in agrarian societies, women, children, livestock and land counted as “possessions” of the man. Brides could be bought, daughters sold like things. The value of the goods was determined by the dowry, the virginity and the appearance. The reduction and degradation of women to a "natural" and "God-willed" object status lasted for thousands of years.

It was only around 200 years ago, with the French Revolution, that questions about human rights for all, including women, began. All contemporary societies - premodern, modern and postmodern - are dragging along relics from bygone eras. In the present there is no society that does not have sexist remnants. Lower rights and lower wages for women, superficial depictions of “top models”, disparaging roles that limit the house and household - all of this is part of the basis of anti-female sexism.

Is politics particularly affected?

Sexism exists in all areas of society. But politics is under special observation: a single incident can quickly turn into a public scandal. But politicians are no better people than lawyers or police officers. As in many other areas of life, men have long been dominant in politics; The collegial interaction with women at eye level meant a learning process, especially for older members of parliament. Some may see themselves threatened by an aspiring woman in their own career planning and - whether consciously or unconsciously - defend themselves verbally. Of course, this does not only occur in politics.

How far is the equality of women in business, science, sport, culture and the media?

The psychologist Charlotte Diehl from Bielefeld University examined “sexual harassment and sociosexuality” in a research project and found that the perception of sexism is often concentrated on the workplace - because “there are relatively good legal regulations for this area and therefore greater attention is paid is. But sexism occurs in many everyday situations, women are nowhere safe from it, ”she explains. In the café, during leisure time or in public spaces, however, it is much easier to “escape” direct calls and subtle attacks.

To date, almost 80 percent of the professorships at German universities are held by men. The Science Council has repeatedly stated that women are massively hindered in their scientific careers by prejudices against their gender, men's associations dominate the appointment process and women are structurally excluded. How the “gender bias” can penetrate science has been made clear by a study published in the magazine “Science” using the example of the “cult of genius”. Special male domains are therefore subjects whose representatives believe that success in their field cannot be achieved without “natural brilliance”. However, the respondents typically associated innate intellectual talent with men.

Ten years ago, Lawrence Summer was forced to resign as President of Harvard University for sexism. He had declared that female brains were more artistic and less suitable for science than male ones, which provoked protests from female mathematicians and physicists.

Sexual harassment is also a problem at German universities: the Federal Conference of Women’s and Equal Opportunities Officers at Universities has just warned art colleges to better protect female students from sexualized discrimination and violence.

In sport, women and men - with their respective specializations in sports - seem to have equally good chances; However, if you look at the structures and composition of the associations and clubs, it is by no means the case: sport is a man's world.

In 2014, 200 women directors criticized the fact that 85 percent of all film directing jobs in Germany and Europe are given to men, even though 42 percent of graduates from German film schools are women. They demanded a share of 30 percent women directors by 2017 and 50 percent by 2024 for cinema and TV productions by public TV channels, film subsidies and politics Percent introduced.

In many acting ensembles in German theaters there are significantly more men than women - this is always justified by the classical stage literature, which is dominated by male figures. The “ProQuote” media initiative has just determined that 95 percent of the chief editorships of German regional newspapers are men - 82 percent of their deputies are also male. It is not entirely unlikely that this dominance of men will continue to color images of the sexes in terms of content and culture.

Is sexism a question of hierarchy?

According to Diehl, it is “the classic cliché that the boss takes advantage of being in a stronger position, that he can afford it. But the statistics show that sexism occurs more frequently on the same hierarchical level. ”This could be related to the fact that there is more competition for advancement opportunities there.

And female bosses are also victims of sexism. However, they are usually not directly addressed with derogatory remarks. Because unlike women who are sexistically insulted by their superiors, female executives can defend themselves. Nevertheless: to call a Federal Chancellor “Mutti” or to call a Defense Minister “Flinten-Uschi” or “Raketen-Ursel” is sexist. Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) was repeatedly shown in pictures in which the new defense minister was riding a missile. Harald Kujat, ex-inspector general of the armed forces, qualified her because she had no idea about the military and led the armed forces like a housewife. It is quite common for ministries to be appointed from outside the specialist field.

In France, 17 former female ministers described experiences with sexist discrimination in May and threatened to take aggressive action against misconduct by male colleagues in the future. Hillary Clinton also has to put up with a lot in the current US election campaign: Her opponent Donald Trump tries to portray her as physically weak.

Are men affected by sexism too?

How not? Prejudices against one gender lead to further prejudices against the other. So there is also sexism towards men and there are traditional, outdated stereotypes of masculinity. Last but not least, conscription, where it only applies to young men, can be called discriminatory. The dictum of the killed Harvard President was based on a prejudice not only against women, but also against men, whom he classified as less musical, sensitive, and social - which is hardly suitable for men like Mozart, Flaubert or Gandhi.

There is no doubt that men and especially male children and young people suffer from the demonization or humiliation of women: If the mothers, sisters and friends they love are portrayed as “bad”, “impure” and “inferior”, they lose Trust and closeness. Both genders, fathers and mothers, are usually responsible for the type of representation. Because both can be trapped in traditional role clichés - otherwise sexist prejudices would not have been able to stabilize over the generations.

How serious are the consequences?

Sexism contradicts the Basic Law, Article 1: "Human dignity is inviolable" - and Article 3, Paragraph 2: "Men and women have equal rights". Basic sexist assumptions can massively limit people's potential. Prejudices and stereotypes can degrade, restrain, and humiliate individuals, and thwart their rights and freedoms. In doing so, you cause psychological, social and economic damage. Because sexism is the basis for violence, especially against women - and violence against women has consequential costs in the billions around the world, as a UN study on the global and regional consequences of violence against women found.

If the female participant in a meeting with a majority of men is mistaken for the hostess who is supposed to bring the coffee by male participants, she can be amused at having been misjudged. If the woman then gives an excellent lecture without the colleagues in the hall being able to acknowledge it, this has negative consequences for her professional path - and also for the research or business area concerned. The social costs for this are high. Where the potential of women is foregone for sexist reasons, society as a whole loses everything that these women could achieve - economically, politically, culturally, socially.

Where women are treated and negotiated as objects, as things, be it through sexual violence or discrimination, their dignity and self-respect are threatened. Physical as well as psychological injuries are inflicted on them, which in turn have enormous consequential costs for the economy and also for the health system. This does not even include the misfortune that men, women and children have to endure due to an actually outdated, poorly functioning, only symbolic order.

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