Sex-based male domination in the United States has been present since it’s foundation. It is a relationship that is based on economics and power: economics because women have and still do make less money than men, and many are dependent upon men for their survival; power because in relation to women, many men exercise their will (whether consciously or unconsciously) over women.
We live in a society in which sexually excessive staring, offensive language, inappropriate bodily contact, and objectification/oppression (even economically) is culturally acceptable. We live in a society that professes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for its citizens, but women (like many social groups) are systematically and routinely denied these values, these opportunities, these rights to live a life of their choosing.
If we analyze the concept of power as the exercising of ones will over others, we can see that male domination, and the subjection of women is something that is socially constructed at birth. Possibly even pre-birth. We will be able to see that overall women are socialized to think and behave in a way that benefits those with power (men). On the other hand, overall men are socialized to treat women as an object, as something that is void of human emotions. Thus this type of relationship creates an invisible social gap between the sexes.
Before the birth of a child, parents who know the sex of their baby purchase items that create gender roles i.e. pink clothing and dolls for girls, and blue clothing and toys like fire trucks, police cars, or construction style items. Gender roles are reinforced through the use of media images that portray males as being strong, aggressive, and successful. Opposite are images that portray females as being passive, quiet, and dependent on a knight in shining armor to save her. I would even argue that under a capitalist society which is geared to make money, gender roles are created even more systematically in the areas education, peer interaction, and modern communication technology. All of these examples plays into a system that leave women in a state of subjection. This is a social construct of with men having power over women.
Such images, musical lyrics, toys, and even parenting skills creates a social system i.e. sexism that enforces this system, subjects women to slave/dependent social status, and separates men and women from having positive social interactions, and long healthy relationships. An in depth analysis of sexism is required to understand and combat this social problem that has left women behind for centuries, and while I am not providing techniques to address this issue, I am telling men that we are responsible for what happens. We are to put in more effort to tackle the issue of sexism because we come from that position of power, and have more access to change in this system. We owe it to women to address this issue wherever it comes from because without women, we would not be here. It is women that has given us life. Not the other way around.
In conclusion, Audre Lorde once wrote, “The master’s tools will never be used to dismantle the master’s house.” Frederick Douglass wrote, “Power concedes nothing without demands. It never has, and it never will.” I argue that this is the mentality of a fatalist. A person who does not believe that a better tomorrow is possible. If Gandhi, Nehru, and the people involved in India’s independence under British rule believed this they may have still be under British rule. If the abolitionists of the U.S. possessed this mindset I might have been a slave. If the many people throughout humankind’s history thought like this many people of different societies may have been in worse situations than what we are currently faced with. The master’s house can be dismantled with his/her own tools, and power can concede without demand. It is up to both men and women to believe. If you do not believe in love, justice, equality, liberty, and freedom for all people, and in terms of sexism, the oppressive regime will continue.
– Christopher Smith
This post is part of the weekly blog series by male allies. We need men involved in the work to end the social acceptability of street harassment and to stop the practice, period. If you’d like to contribute to this weekly series, please contact me.Share on Facebook