When the word sexism is mentioned, what do you associate with it? The first thing that comes to mind probably has something to do with traditional gender roles. You know the basics: women staying home, barefoot and pregnant, remaining subordinate to their husbands. The idea that the sole purpose of a woman is to simply please her husband and bear his children seems a little outdated.
It's true that we have come a long way as a society when it comes to traditional sexism. At first glance, it may even seem like traditional sexism is a thing of the past. After all, it is 2016. Women are now our CEOs, our scientists, and even our presidential candidates. Some of the most influential people in our society are women. Sexism, as we typically perceive it, is dead, right?
Wrong. Sexism is defined as "Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex."
While the stereotypical definition of sexism is less prevalent, its central principle still remains. Traditional sexism has mutated into something completely unrecognizable. It consists of casually often unknowingly discriminating against women due to the subconscious stigma forced upon us by society.
This mutation is called subtle sexism, and it's hiding in plain sight.
Most prominently, subtle sexism has made its home in the workplace. Imagine working in an environment that plays host to gender discrimination. The prejudice happening within your company's doors comes in the form of microaggressions and double standards. At first glance, you probably don't even notice that it's happening.
Microaggressions come into view through actions that are often overlooked. Usually, these actions are comments that, superficially, seem well-intentioned and perhaps even meant as a compliment. These aggressions include statements like "Wow, you're a pretty good manager; for a woman," or "Hey, do you think you could whip up some snacks for the corporate meeting next week?" Statements like these result in a hostile work environment for women due to the fact that they campaign for stereotypical feminine behavior hidden behind "complimentary" language.
Subtle sexism also manifests itself in the form of double standards. Women are held to opposite standards in the workplace than men in countless ways. Not only are they expected to do their jobs, but they often expected to be an example of refined femininity.
Take performance reviews, for example. In a study published by Fortune.com, it was shown that the types of feedback given to men and women in the workplace differed drastically. The study showed that both men and women received constructive criticism on their reviews. However, women were also hit with attacks on their temperament.
Here's an example of critical feedback provided to a male employee during this study: “Hone your strategies for guiding your team and developing their skills. It is important to set proper guidance around priorities and to help as needed in designs and product decisions.”
Now compare that to critical feedback provided to a female employee: “You can come across as abrasive sometimes. I know you don’t mean to, but you need to pay attention to your tone.”
When a manager gives an employee a rundown of their accomplishments at work, it's to be expected that the only basis for the review is the employee's work ethic. So if this is true, why do the performance reviews of women reflect their character?
Strong men are called driven and motivated. Strong women are called bossy and irrational.
So how do we battle these forms of subtle sexism? As college students, many of us are yet to enter the workforce. This gives us an opportunity to stamp out sexism at its roots by educating one another on the prejudice that can occur right in front of us. It is vital that we rid the world of this passive-aggressive behavior so that we may create safe work environments for women.
In exterminating subtle forms of discrimination, we are one step closer to obliterating sexism altogether.
No matter our gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sex, we are all equal. It's time we started acting that way.