Why Sexism and Racism Are Wrong (Obviously Wrong, But Why?)

It's about time, don't you think?
It's about time, don't you think? | Source

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.


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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.

Respect for all. Freedom and liberty for everyone. Peace on Earth. Think about it: not that much to ask, really.
Respect for all. Freedom and liberty for everyone. Peace on Earth. Think about it: not that much to ask, really. | Source

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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Comments 19 comments

Josak profile image

Josak 4 years ago from variable

I could not agree more, the problem is most people do not realize they are racist or sexist even if they are. People on here have told me that people should not speak Spanish in public, that the American Indians were savages that had to be subdued, that African Americans should be grateful for being enslaved because now they are in America, that a woman is a "SLUT" or "WHORE" (their capitalization) if she takes the pill etc etc. the problem is that when you confront them on this they will inform you they are absolutely not racist. * face palm*

Also you forgot religious intolerance, "Moderate Muslims ave shown no evidence that they do not support terrorism

and until they do they have to be treated with distrust" *sigh*

voted up and interesting.

Bob Zermop profile image

Bob Zermop 4 years ago from California, USA Author

Thanks for the comment and vote up, Josak. You're right, I did forget religious intolerance. I'll put at least a mention in there.

ConsciousObserver profile image

ConsciousObserver 4 years ago

I disagree that there are no groups. People do instinctively have a tendency to follow others they admire, in behavior and dress. We are social animals. There are also religious and political groups of people who share similar beliefs. I also agree that viewing people as individuals cuts down on our instincts to judge their character.

Bob Zermop profile image

Bob Zermop 4 years ago from California, USA Author

Thanks for the comment, ConsciousObserver. There are certainly groups in that sense; however, I meant as in rights. Rights, like the right to pursue happiness, belong to the individual, so another's behavior in their "group" does not affect their rights.

ConsciousObserver profile image

ConsciousObserver 4 years ago

Ah ok, I agree with that.

I think there is a delicate balance between finding individuality, while controlling ego and desire for superiority.

Bob Zermop profile image

Bob Zermop 4 years ago from California, USA Author

True that! But I believe in the end allow others to be who they truly are, instead of forcing them to conform to your first impulse of how they "should" be makes the world ultimately more diverse, interesting, and better for everyone.

ConsciousObserver profile image

ConsciousObserver 4 years ago

I concur.

There again is delicate balance between asking and forcing ppl to treat each other nice. If none of us sacrificed a portion of our individuality to respect those different from us, there would be more chaos than currently. Then if we all over sacrificed our individuality, we would be no different than robots and computers.

Bob Zermop profile image

Bob Zermop 4 years ago from California, USA Author

Agreed; it's always a balancing act, and one that needs constant maintenance. But it keeps life interesting!

calpol25 profile image

calpol25 4 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (At Home With My Wonderful Partner)

Hi Bob Zermop

Brilliant hub, I agree with you 100%.

I believe that this day and age we should have moved on from all that sexism, racism stuff and be united together side by side in society. Gay and Straight, Black and White, Male and Female it should not be an issue what colour gender, race, creed, sex, etc is!

Just my thoughts, voted up and awesome :)


Bob Zermop profile image

Bob Zermop 4 years ago from California, USA Author

Thank you, Callum. Hope one day soon everyone will believe the same as you do!

six gun profile image

six gun 4 years ago

The article basically says it is wrong to make generalisations about people.

Of course, this is wrong in itself as it is a generalisation.

It is also silly.

An example is given where the Black guy is unable to be trusted not to mug me.

Statistically it is a fact Blacks commit more street robbery. Statistically a Black guy is more likely to mug you.

You don't know the guy. What do you do?

Do you want to take the risk?

The thing about generalisations based on facts, are that they are generally true.

Are we wrong to base our decisions on general facts?

If we were buying a car.

Reliablilty is a very important issue to us.

We have to decide between a Mercedes and a Ford.

Mercedes are known to be more reliable.

What do we do?

Common sense tells us to go for the Mercedes.

We might get an unreliable Mercedes but statistically we are more likely to get a more reliable car.

You would be stupid to ignore your knowledge and experience.

You might be called prejudiced. That is you are prejudging someone but what do you do if you are walking do the street on a dark night and up ahead you see a Black guy coming your way? The last five times you have been in such a situation you were mugged.

If statistically a particular sex or racial group perform in a particular way and you are dealing with groups - do you ignore the evidence and facts?

That would be stupid.

You cannot criticise people if they apply their experience and knowledge.

You cannot criticise people if they apply their own preferences to their own actions and life.

If you dictate people must act in a particular way you are being a dictator and a totalitarian.

And this is what much of this "anti-racism" and "anti-sexism" is about.

It is about controlling what people do in their own lives.

This is much worse than any comment about Asians being better at math.

Bob Zermop profile image

Bob Zermop 4 years ago from California, USA Author

Hi six gun. I appreciate you taking the time to comment and will respond in kind. 

My opposition to stereotyping doesn't lead me to conclude that we should force ourselves to ignore common sense and treat everyone as if they were identical. I'm not a large person, and I admit, when I see 6 big guys in hoodies tossing things at a wall, I get cautious. 

That's stereotyping. I don't deny it. However, I also don't think it's wrong - until I find myself pushing that mental assumption on people who have given me no reason to think in such a way. 

You mentioned statistics, and how you believe they justify some sorts of stereotyping. I don't agree. From what I see, your reasoning is based fallaciously. 

Statistically speaking, you are completely correct: African Americans are more likely to commit violent crimes. However, are any individual African Americans by definition/by nature  necessarily inclined so? I would say the answer is no, but even if you disagree (and assuming you let others live on in peace), my defense of even a very small minority is in the hub. If you think about a gentlemanly elder wearing  a neat suit and think he's going to rob for no other reason than that he's black, then you have become the reason I'm wary of any stereotyping. 

Like I said in the hub, the reason I am uncomfortable with any kind of stereotyping, even the most benign, is that I feel it encourages a mentality that should not be encouraged.  I don't  think stereotyping is wrong per say, but I do think it is dangerous and potentially very damaging. So this is why we need to keep an open mind, to allow indvls who don't "fit the mold" to be themselves without fear of unjust consequences.

Thanks for stopping by, and please feel free to point out any ambiguity in my response. 

threestones 3 years ago

Very nicely explained....stereotypes are benign when they are not enacted upon by powers that be, so there is nothing wrong with stereotypes per se, but as it often happens, stereotypes become the basis for action, policy or what have you, by the powerful people. That's why sexism or racism, even when it is expressed in benign terms, needs to be resisted.

I'm a new follower of this hub from San Diego. Just spent some time browsing some of the most thoughtful entries on this hub. Great hub page!

Bob Zermop profile image

Bob Zermop 3 years ago from California, USA Author

Hey, threestones. Thanks for your comment - 100% agreement, and loved seeing "the powers that be" from someone else (something I say all the time). Welcome to Hubpages! Look forward to seeing you around.

Sanxuary 3 years ago

Lets try some backwards thinking and leave the stereo type thing behind. Here is a few questions to ponder. Is everyone perhaps not equal at all? Fair is fair in terms of treatment and entitlements but is the term that all people are equal a bad way to look at things? When I decide everyone is different I do not make 5 foot Sally and 65 year old Jim lift 36 bags of 60 pound concrete. I never said they could not do it but sometimes you give it to Hercules. The same rings true if you paint a sign you need a painter and not someone who does not care. If he is a bad painter, does he have a bad attitude? Choice and claiming no choice is my next question. If someone is born Gay then was some one born straight not gay? If you wanted could you change your preference if you wanted to? I am not opposed to choice and I would not care what your choice is but do I not have a right not to care? When it comes to race and sex I do not believe choice is an option for any of us so why do we discriminate or demand others to understand something we have no interest in knowing? Next question, what would happen if we decided men and women were different and instead worked to create an equal working environment by changing the environment so that everyone could work equally. Regardless of men and women even physical labour divides men from men and women from women based on physical make up and physical conditioning. I once asked a farmer if Immigrants were not allowed to work the farms, would Americans do it? He told me not a chance. Last question. Is the greatest conflict in the work place today the fact that men want to be treated like men and do women want to be treated like women? It can be pretty hard to have both and still demand to be treated like a Co worker and its just as complicated when you try to be nothing but a co-worker.

Bob Zermop profile image

Bob Zermop 3 years ago from California, USA Author

Hi Sanxuary. I'll respond as best I can, and please correct me if I misunderstand any of your comments or questions.

First, I'm completely confident in saying that people are not equal, and are in fact quite individual. My stance AGAINST (sorry, no italics) stereotyping is in fact because of this. I'm also frequently exasperated with "political correctness", and I'd like to emphasize that a stance against stereotyping is not the same as advocating a blind eye to our individuality. In fact, this is just what a stance against stereotyping is trying to prevent, by avoiding putting individuals into false groups and allowing each person to be themselves. I agree with what you've implied - the opposite extreme of packing individuals into rigid boxes is... packing individuals with into rigid boxes with the opposite description.

What I mean to state here in this article is why stereotyping is inherently wrong, with stereotyping ENCOMPASSING many elements of today's "political correctness" movement. All kinds of false grouping is stereotyping. I loved one of your comments: "Regardless of men and women even physical labour divides men from men and women from women based on physical make up and physical conditioning." Exactly right - this shows how "divisions" and differences are at an indvl level, NOT at a "group" level, like men, women, black, or old.

For this reason your last statement drew my attention. "The fact that men want to be treated like men and do women want to be treated like women?" What do men prefer, what do women prefer? Do all men prefer the same thing? Of course not, but then what can we use to create a policy that could fairly institutionalize common differences? To me, it seems neither majority opinions or averages are good enough - I see no reason why we shouldn't prefer that individuals are treated as individuals. Equal rights haven't proved easy to come by, but I share your hope that a truly equal working environment will be created - but not through institutionalized sexism, racism, ageism, or any other kind of fallacious stereotyping.

I'm not sure if I've answered your comments correctly, but feel free to follow up with anything new. Thanks for your comment.

Sanxuary 2 years ago

Stereo typing is always wrong when it's a false assumption based on no true facts. Even if it is true the question why can be a false assumption, such as cultural etiquette. Everyone from the south likes crawfish, gumbo and NASCAR for example. Still there is a lot of south and did we say it to be mean? I met a lot of people who fit the stereo type, still I met a lot of people who do not, then again you do not have to be a Cowboy to wear boots and a hat. Defining a difference does not have to be mean but when it is mean we condemn it and decide when it is not mean it is. A woman who likes you wants you to treat her like a woman to a point and this could be easily seen as sexist. If you our not interested in the guy its sexist no matter what you do. The question is where do you draw the line and I am sure it is somewhere when it becomes harassment. The line is far stricter for men then women because we assume men are much stronger then women making men the bigger threat. The legal system has always seen it this way, so all men are stereotyped right? Its like going to dinner with a woman and assuming that sex is a possibility, when you made it clear it was a celebration for achievement and you did not want to throw away the moment to make it special. We would not think New Years was a date if you told that person we should go somewhere and be in the festivities. If you were married the assumption would have never happened because the assumptions have changed. Now imagine its a member of the same sex and you are clueless. We have gone to great lengths to tear down stereotypes but if some were not true it would have never been a stereotype. There are lots of gangsters who like rap music and wear baggy pants, then again there is a whole lot who do not. If you have a gang problem and your kids start looking the part it might throw up a red flag. If you dress like a monk and hand out flowers at the airport you our probably some kind of monk. Sometimes If you do not like being stereotyped, you need to stop doing that to your self. If you have been accused of being a sexist, you might want to figure out why. We could only assume that people are stereotyping you.

ClassyAtl profile image

ClassyAtl 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Stereotyping exists today because we are individuals who are afraid to step out of our comfort zones and get to know people of different ethnicities and experience their culture for ourselves. We rely on the thoughts and beliefs of others as it relates to various cultures and races of people. I firmly believe in individualism. If everyone on the continent were the same, we would live in a very boring environment. Nothing would be spontaneous because everyone would think alike, dress alike, and act as robotic drones just merely existing in the same space. We are living in the 21st century. Technology is rapidly changing but attitudes about race, class, ethnicity, stereotypes, and sexism are very prevalent in our society.

Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 22 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Regarding the Asian stereotypes, I have an Asian American friend who tormented himself trying to match the Asian overachiever stereotype in school because he actually felt that's what he should be doing to reach his potential. His mixed European American adoptive parents encouraged the stereotype, reacting way out of proportion to his performance in school, which, overall, was substantially better than average and way,way better than his European American sister's. She resented being held to a much, much lower standard, too, as well as being disturbed by seeing her brother get called on the carpet for the same grades she got praised for.

We joke about it now, almost two decades later, but when he was a boy and a young man it was very upsetting and depressing to him. I met him by tutoring him for a physics class he was failing because his aptitude for math is only about average, maybe a little less than average. He is so sweet, funny, and kind we became friends. He ate Tums and Rolaids like candy back then because his stomach was always upset. The whole thing made it take a long time for him to discover his true aptitudes lie in the arts and in helping people.

Anything that unnecessarily hurts a person's happiness that much can't be a good thing.

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