Sexism Starts At Childhood

Diamond Scott, Staff Writer

We have a problem America, and it’s hurting our nation’s girls and women. The problem we have is discrimination against the female gender. It starts at birth and continues throughout a person’s lifetime.

When children start to distinguish genders, stereotypes start to permanently fall into place. At a young age, girls and boys are taught sexist stereotypes through scolding and mocking in sentences like, “You throw like a girl,”  “Boys don’t cry,” “You need to be ladylike,” and “Girls aren’t as strong as boys.” Eventually these divisive messages are stitched into children’s minds and beliefs such that these become “normal.”

Sexism is prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination of an individual on the basis of gender. Sexism, it seems, has happened for as long as civilizations have existed. In modern society around the world, sexism centers on many things, but the primary one is treating women as objects that can be controlled or, in some instances, even owned. There are still places in modern society of today’s world where women have significantly fewer rights than most other women around the globe, One of the more severe instances of this lack of freedom is found in Afghanistan. According to Al Jazeera, in Afghanistan, more than half of brides are under the age of 16, every half hour one woman dies of childbirth, and 87% of women admit to experiencing domestic violence. Afghanistan is the only country where the female suicide rate is higher than that of males.

Compared to the United States, it’s clear that the treatment of women is severely worse in Afghanistan. However, no matter the level of sexism, it must be addressed – whether it be the ugly truth around places in the world that truly oppress women or other less obvious cases found almost everywhere that simply do so in quiet, subversive ways. Throughout the the United States, sexism existed in the rules that said that women couldn’t work, vote, or have a say in anything but women found ways to fight for their rights. Women spoke out against oppression and began movements to combat the belief that men were superior and women should know their place. Feminism came alive, and the world had fighters who advocated  for women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. But even with the rise of feminism and achievements of women especially in the U.S, sexism still still rears its ugly head and causes issues that have bruise and battere the girls and women.

Today, it exists in forms such as double standards. One prime example of this is the double standard on similar male/female behavior that is interpreted differently based entirely on gender. For example, a woman who is forthright or assertive, and speaks her mind is called bossy, while an aggressive or arrogant man is simply showcasing his leadership skills.

The reason for this is simple: we begin the process at birth. Take a look at simple areas of life such as baby items, including clothes, shoes, diapers, and toys. One look at these items and you see how they divide the genders. Blue is for boys, and pink is for girls. Even as infants, gender is already pushed on children, and the messages of toughness and ladylike behavior are already being driven into them before they can even walk. As they grow older, gender is pushed even harder on children when it comes to toys and clothing. Boys have toys, such as cars, footballs, and clothing, such as hats and sweatshirts. On the other hand girls have barbies, doll houses, and clothing, such as dresses and skirts.

Lahle Wolfe, who advises women in business on startups, management, and business development, wrote in her article,A Look at Gender Discrimination Against Women: Childhood Stereotyping Sets the Stage for Challenges for Business Women,” that “challenges in the form of discrimination for women begin in childhood as young girls may be brought up to believe that they are only suited for certain professions or, in some cases, only to serve as wives and mothers.” Young girls today are being taught as children to “serve” a man and fulfill his needs, but not their own. They are being taught that they “need” a man to be happy and successful simply because of their gender. These young girls aren’t pushed to follow their own dreams and fulfil their life goals because of the gender roles forced on them.

Wolfe goes on to say, “Gender lines are drawn early, and exclusions for women continue throughout adulthood. Studies show that teachers still give more time and attention in math and science to boys while giving more to girls in language arts. Since math and science are vital skills for many male-dominated professions, like medicine, engineering, and architecture, does this encourage little girls to focus on other areas of learning? The divergence in academic path girls and boys choose after elementary would seem to indicate, yes.”

Wolfe’s words are important in understanding how sexism is placed on children at an early age. Actions such as paying attention to a certain gender can unconsciously push them in different directions. When they aren’t getting the attention needed for math and science, they’ll focus more on what they’re being pushed into, such as English. Wolfe goes on to say, “In middle and high school, girls are more likely than boys to be discouraged from participating in sports, and clubs like debate, math, and science. But girls are more likely to be encouraged to participate in after-school volunteer work, social programs, and more passive activities.” This exemplifies the blatant sexism that starts in childhood because of society’s beliefs across the world that boys and girls play different roles. This is pure discrimination. Instances such as this prove that it is burned into children’s minds from the very beginning that they are not equal: Males are expected to achieve and conquer, and one is meant to support and care for the other.

The reality is that women should be allowed to do whatever they want without being limited by what society deems “allowed” for girls and women to do. The day will come soon when there will be just as many women as there are men in the world of corporate America, in the jobs of mechanics and industry, and in the highest level of politics. There will be no such thing as male-dominated occupations. Most importantly when the first female president is elected in America. A female role model in the world who isn’t a celebrity in the modeling, singing, and acting role but one in the politics. A women who isn’t based on entertainment but leadership that young girls can look up to. This can’t happen if sexism is being driven into children’s minds at birth, because it causes a divide that people claim “does not exist.”