Why Sexism and Racism Are Wrong (Obviously Wrong, But Why?)
Why Sexism and Racism Are Wrong
Now I've been on Hubpages for roughly a month, am finally home from abroad, and have had some time to get to know the site.
While not pervasive, it seems that there is a fair amount of racism and especially sexism floating around. Some of it is blatant, but more often it's quite subtle and perhaps even unintentional.
In this hub, I'm going to explain my attitude towards sexism and racism - why I think they're wrong and a few logical steps I see to address them.
Definitions and Examples
First off, let me define how I, at least, am using racism and sexism. The definition I have for racism is attributing a characteristic (any characteristic) to someone solely based on their racial features or nationality.
Example 1: Because that man is black, he can sing well.
Example 2: Because that student is Asian, her favorite subject must be math.
Example 3: Because that man is black, I can't trust him not to mug me.
All of these are racism. The first black man might sing like a screeching cat scraping down a chalkboard. The student might hate math and love Swahili. The second black man might be the most friendly and trustworthy person out there.
Same with sexism. Example 1: Because he is a man, he must be physically stronger than a woman.
Example 2: Because he is a man, he can't know how to wash the laundry properly.
Example 3: Because she is a woman, she will have a nervous breakdown when given dire circumstances or bad news.
Reasoning: Why They're Wrong
Racism and sexism (along with related matters, like ageism and religious discrimination) are just specific varieties of stereotyping. Why is this so damaging? Some of these statements might be sometimes or even usually true.
For example, look at example 1 for sexism: "Because he is a man, he must be physically stronger than a woman." I don't think anyone would disagree that generally men are physically stronger than women, but I also don't think anyone would claim this is always true. So it is stereotyping based on sex, which is sexism.
Is that just pedantry? How is that assumption hurting anyone? How many female mixed martial-arts champions are we really going to meet? It does, though. Let me illustrate how through a few more examples.
Some of the statements are clearly far more damaging. Look at example 2 from racism: "Because that student is Asian, her favorite subject must be math." I can say that in my experience this is generally true, but forgetting the generally could have damaging consequences. Her teacher could pass her over for opportunities in English, or give her more work in math than her ability calls for. Or college acceptance committees might be so shocked at her 500 in Math SATs that they forget they don't expect most (white, brown, or black) people to have exceptionally high scores.
It's forgetting the "generally" that makes stereotyping stereotyping. If you remember the generally, then you could be making a cultural observation (Asians tend to study math) or considering probability or statistics. When the "generally" gets dropped, however, the stereotyping begins. And it sometimes gets dropped even when we say the word, because we forget to also remember its meaning.
Its meaning: Grouping is a fallacy. People are individuals.
Look at another example, Example 3 in racism: "Because that man is black, I can't trust him not to mug me." Because of this mentality, people are offended, people are hurt and, sometimes, people are killed.
Think of sexism, and of how it shaped society and continues to affect it. Women's rights - their ability to be recognized as individuals - were nonexistent for centuries. Many talented artists, scientists, or whatever else were suppressed and, in the best scenario, forced to use circumspect methods to be true to themselves.
This still occurs today, but nowadays, after the feminist movement, a "phenomenon" of "reverse" sexism has begun to appear. This could either refer to men being the victims of sexism, or women with the "classic" feminine qualities feeling pressured to hide their nature. Which among those forms of stereotyping is the worst is, in my view, completely irrelevant. It's the mentality that causes the problems.
All of the earlier statements in both sets are wrong, because they're both fallacious and damaging. Fallacious because stereotyping is logically unsound (I'll get there in a minute) and damaging because of the mentality stereotyping encourages. Stereotypes limit individuals by creating preconceptions in others' minds about them, which compromises their freedom, or maybe right, to be true to their nature.
If enough people have this mentality, it would greatly compromise the liberty of those being stereotyped. This could affect them both ways. Either they are pressured to fit into the mold, or they feel the need (understandable) to break the mold by forcing themselves against the current. Both of those inhibit living a life freely.
Individuals are just that, individual. What one black individual does has no direct correlation to the behavior of another black individual. Think about it. I often hear statistics brought up as justification for stereotyping. 10 people are in a classroom. One of them goes outside and kills a passerby. Has everyone in the room committed one-tenth of a murder? Yes would be a ridiculous answer, because this collection of individuals has no "hive mind". So do women, men, blacks, whites, Asians, blondes, old folk, young folk, fat people, short people, or poor people have hive minds?
(Also, a brief tangent for clarification. What I'm saying: individuals are not bound by nature to fit neatly into our stereotypes. I am not suggesting that we disregard problems that seem to target particular sets of people. Recognizing underlying causes of those problems is crucial to progress - and also something, in fact, inhibited by (the xenophobia created by isolation, which itself was created by) stereotyping.)
Apply the question to sexism. The answer: what one woman does has no effect on another woman. What one woman thinks isn't what another woman thinks. People do not go in groups - people are individual. From this chain of reasoning, we conclude that nobody can represent or speak for their "group", as there are no real groups, only individuals. This is a basic truth once you ponder it, but it seems to be often forgotten.
I hope this hub seemed obvious and unnecessary to you. I believe if that were the case for the world, many of its problems wouldn't exist.
As always, comment and questions will be loved and cherished!
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