Most people are familiar with the idea of the Glass Ceiling. The concept that it is harder for women to reach high ranking and executive positions because of gender discrimination. As a woman, I have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace in a variety of ways and it can be extremely frustrating and unfair.
“The glass ceiling is a barrier “so subtle that it is transparent, yet so strong that it prevents women from moving up the corporate hierarchy.” From their vantage point on the corporate ladder, women can see the high-level corporate positions but are kept from “reaching the top”… The glass ceiling “is not simply a barrier for an individual, based on the person’s inability to handle a higher-level job. Rather, the glass ceiling applies to women as a group who are kept from advancing higher because they are women.” More information about the glass ceiling can be found here.
This glass ceiling phenomenon is caused by many factors.
Many men feel that women are distracted from their work with the responsibility of household chores or raising a family. In addition, women workers can seem less valuable because many have to take maternity leave at some point in their career, so they have to pause their work and the company has to hire someone to fill in for them for a short time. According to one expert, the “glass-ceiling can also be attributed to years of male leadership in the corporate world which has created a masculine, patriarchal working environment.” Men have dominated the business world throughout history and have created somewhat of a ‘boys club’. They like to work with other men because they feel that they are better suited to be leaders and men are more likely to hire people that they feel are similar to them, namely men. More information on the causes and effects of the glass ceiling can be found here.
All in all, this problem has become a cycle that perpetuates itself. Women are overlooked and given less opportunities, then because not as many advance as high as men, men believe that they are not suited for the position and only hire other men. Of course there are many contributing factors including outdated gender roles, sexism and sexual harrassment in the workplace, the gender pay gap, and more. The point is, if we do not become educated on this issue and its causes and work to end it, then it will continue like a feedback loop. Women can be just as capable and intelligent as men, we just need to be given the chance to prove that.
Religion has a great influence on the culture that it presides in. In America, we say we do not have a national religion, but studies have shown the the majority of Americans are Christians or believe in the Christian god. More information and statistics about religions practiced in the United States can be found here.
Because so many Americans identify with Christianty, I think it is important to examine how this influences our attitudes on gender and gender roles.
In the Christian Bible, it outlines many rules of conduct for women and men. Specifically it talks about family dynamics and the gender roles that a husband and wife should adhere to. “The wife is to “submit”, “respect”, and “serve as a helper”, and is explicitly delegated the role of caring for the household and children…Attempts to resist this chain of authority are said to be a result of not “want[ing] to acknowledge or submit to God as our head.” In other words, if a wife wants equal status with her husband when it comes to setting rules for the children, she is clearly being defiant against God himself.” More information about religious ideas and biblical teachings regarding gender roles can be found in the article linked here.
There are many more examples of Christian ideals for women that seem to highlight the view that women are secondary to men and their role is to serve men and not take care of the house and the children, nothing more. As a women, I find these statements to be demeaning and sad. I respect other people’s religions and beliefs, but these rules seem extremely discriminatory and archaic.
We have seen time and time again in modern society that women have valuable skills and ideas to offer and can be in a variety of roles and positions, not just housewife and mother. Regardless of religious beliefs, I think that many people can agree that these ideas have become outdated. I think it is extremely important to practice tolerance and open mindedness when it comes to religion, but it is also important to examine the gender roles and ideas ascociated with it and to consider if they still have a place in our modern society.
We live in a society where gender roles are strongly defined and have the influence to shape our opinions. One of the most damaging gender roles for men is that they are taught that vulnerability and showing emotions makes them weak.
In reality, vulnerability and expressing emotions is a very important aspect of interpersonal relationships and self growth. The gender stereotype that men must not show their negative emotions and instead keep them bottled up, can be very detrimental to both the man and our society as a whole. Shame is a very powerful emotion and motivator and men are shamed often for not acting “manly” enough, or not lining up enough with our society’s predetermined definition of masculinity.
“The number one shame trigger for men is being perceived as weak. Men walk this tightrope where any sign of weakness illicits shame, and so they’re afraid to make themselves vulnerable for fear of looking weak.” More information about shame and its societal effects on men can be found in the article linked here.
This kind of shaming can have a variety of consequences on the man and his life. Not only will society look upon him poorly because he is not adhering to the societal gender norms that our culture perpetuates, it can affect his health and personal life greatly as well.
“It is the external and internal suppression of men’s desires and aspirations that contributes to epidemic levels of male anger and reactivity, male depression, alcoholism, domestic violence, divorce and suicide.” More information on the effects of suppression in men can be found here.
Not only are these health effects very negative for the man himself, the problem can become much more far reaching. When a man turns to violence as a solution for his suppression, it can affect his family and friends and even have an impact on society itself.
It is important that we become more aware of this problem and work on being more tolerant in our own lives and as a society. We all experience hard times and negative emotions and should be free to share those with our friends and family without fear of shame. If our society became more tolerant on this issue, I believe we would see less violence, depression, and alcoholism in men, as well as a variety of other positive personal and societal effects.
One large problem regarding gender inequality today is the shortage of women in politics. Many say that if women want to be in politics and are qualified enough, they will get there, but what they overlook is that there are many prevailing attitudes and damaging stereotypes that can make the road to public office much harder for females.
Although women make up a little over half of our total population, their representaion is not even close to being where it should be. “Not only has the United States never had a female president, women still make up far less than half of Congress. This year, women hold 98 of 535 seats in Congress. That’s just 18%.” More information on these facts and statistics can be found here.
In addition, even though we consider ourselves to be one of the most developed and advanced countries in the world, this is an area where we lag behind considerably. “The United States [ranks] 78th worldwide in female political representation.” Many much less developed countries come before us when it comes to perentage of women in office, including Rwanda, Cambodia, and Costa Rica. More information on these rankings and greater insight into this problem can be found in the article linked here.
I believe there are many factors that discourage women from running and also make their path to victory much more difficult than their male counterparts. Long held attitudes, many stemming from religious traditions, of women being subservient and possesing less leadership skills have contributed to how we view women in society and in their occupations. Many also feel that women are simply too soft and emotional to handle the stress and pressure of public office, especially that of the president.
Unfortunately, our society tends to reinforce these ideas, even when presented with a qualified and mature candidate like Hillary Clinton. The cultural feedback loops created by misogyny and the objectification of women as well a variety of other factors are a huge contributor, in my opinion, to this problem of political underrepresentation. The first step to changing our society is changing our attitudes. I hope with time that once we experience a women in the White House, it will open the door for greater numbers of women in office as well as greater acceptance.
Many women are familiar with the very common societal phenomenon of slut shaming. Growing up as a woman in our society can be hard because there are so many areas in which women are judged very unequally to their male counterparts and are subjected to punishment for things that are not objectively their fault.
Thoughout school, women’s dress codes are much stricter than men’s and women are told not to wear certain things that might distract their male classmates, instead of placing blame on the male classmates for not paying attention in their classes. “When speaking with Leigh Gaskin, a professor in gender and women’s studies, she said the way that women and girls are told to dress a certain way, specifically in high school, sets them up to be slut-shamed in a lot of ways.” By telling a women that their clothes distract men, educational institutions are basically saying that men can’t control themselves and their sexual impulses, and the women are the ones responsible for this. It also presents the idea to men that women are a sexual conquest. “When a woman has multiple partners, she’s labeled a slut, whereas men are seen as players, who have “scored,” so to speak. This is an example of the double standards that women are often subjected to.” More information on slut shaming and these examples can be found in the article linked here.
I believe slut shaming is part of our cultural history of male dominance and women being seen only for their beauty and virginity since ancient times. Although in our modern society, we have progressed far when it comes to gender equality, this double standard is still very much alive and can be very damaging.
“Slut shaming has a multitude of negative impacts on young girls ranging from inferiority complexes to alarmingly low self -worth and -respect due to the double standards that surround slut shaming. Brought on by a condemnation of female sexuality in a society enthralled by sensuality, slut shaming is an all too common nightmare for many adolescent girls.” More information about the effects of slut shaming can be found here.
It is important to understand that sex is a basic human need and we all have the right to decide what we do with our own bodies. If we stopped the dichotomy of judging girls and praising boys for sexual activities, I think we would see higher self-esteem in girls and a step in the right direction towards a more objective and gender equal society.