Philosophy 220 Sexism Definitions Sexism: 1. Prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially: discrimination against women. 2. Behaviors, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex. Prejudice: negative beliefs or attitudes about people because of their race, sex, ethnic origin, etc.. Having such beliefs makes a person a sexist or racist. Discrimination: actions or practices directed against individuals or groups on the basis of their race, sex, ethnic origin, etc.. Intentional vs. Unintentional Interpersonal vs. Institutional Moral Theories? Consequentialism: sexism is wrong because of the negative consequences of such beliefs and practices. Kantianism: all persons regardless of biological sex are deserving of equal respect and thus sexism violates the categorical imperative, as it treats people as means rather than as ends in themselves. Frye on Sexism Frye’s challenge is to provide an account of sexism that captures what is (for her) its pervasive character and has the capacity to convince the skeptic. Her approach is to start with the relatively noncontroversial claim that processes of sexidentification are ubiquitous and pervasive, and then argue that as institutionalized in our culture, these processes have the effect of systematically privileging males. Her focus then is primarily on institutional sexism. Sex-Marking Sex-Marking: the ways in which we respond to members of a biological sex. Example: Couple goes to a restaurant, waiter addresses the man but not the woman On Frye’s account, even the most innocent appearing interaction between people is heavily determined by marked sex-differences. What about the handshake? Sex-Announcement Sex Announcement: the ways in which we announce our sex to others Example: Style of dress Not only are these forms of determination common but they are enforced to a significant degree by social norms. Small children; “Queen,” “Dyke.” What Does it Mean? Frye acknowledges that the pressure to mark and announce our sex is equally present for men and women. However, she argues that the implications of this pressure are markedly different for men and women. “…one feature which never tends to his disadvantage…is his maleness…one feature which always tends to her disadvantage is her femaleness” (237c2). Moving in the public sphere, dominant forms of interaction, (marking and announcing) all, “…tend systematically to the benefit of males and the detriment of females” (238c2). Subordination and Oppression The systematic consequences of the differential meaning of sex marking all tend, on Frye’s account to accomplish the subordination of women. That is the practical meaning of sexism: oppression. “…a system of interrelated barriers and forces which reduce, immobilize and mold people who belong to a certain group, and effect their subordination to another group…” (238c2). Physical, material oppression is expensive; much better to accomplish it by producing the subordination as a system of cultural norms. The Myth of the Natural Many people who contest this point of view point to “natural” differences between men and women. Frye doesn’t deny that there are biological differences. Rather, she argues that the differences themselves do not explain or account for the socialization around sex roles that we experience. Breaking Bad Habits The first step towards reversing our current situation is to look around and notice that not everything is as clear and certain as it appears. When we notice this, we are in a position to take on our own habits, struggling against those which encourage and enforce subordination and oppression. Frye’s Definition of Sexism “The term sexist characterizes cultural and economic structures which create and enforce the elaborate and rigid patterns of sex-marking and sex-announcing which divide the species, along lines of sex, into dominators and subordinates. Individual acts and practices are sexist which reinforce and support those structures, either as cultural or as shapes taken on by the enculturated animals. Resistance to sexism is that which undermines those structures by social and political action and by projects of reconstruction and revision of ourselves” (241c2). Garcia on Racism and Sexism Garcia examines the common assumption that racism is an appropriate model for understanding sexism. While ultimately wanting to affirm this assumption, he argues that most instances of this assumption, based as they are on inadequate accounts of racism, provide an inadequate account of sexism. He supplies what he considers to be a better account of racism, thus allowing a more adequate treatment of sexism. Limits of our Thinking about Racism Most attempts to make the comparison in question rely on an account of racism that fails to capture the complexity of the phenomenon. Things that go missing include: 1. Racist attitudes can persist in the absence of racist institutions or ideology. 2. Racist institutions need not be systemic. 3. Racism does not require the concentration of power. ● As a result of problems like these, common accounts of racism end up failing to encompass a whole range of attitudes and behaviors that must count as racist. What We Believe and How If focus on oppressive practices doesn’t do the job, what about focus on prejudiced beliefs? This focus doesn’t seem to work either. It is easy to come up with a couple of counter-examples: 1. Is a person who has a belief because they’ve been indoctrinated into it a racist? 2. Can’t someone act in a racist fashion without holding associated beliefs? Many theorists have responded by insisting that it’s not just what you believe but how you believe it: as an ideology resistant to criticism or in “bad faith.” A New way of Thinking Racism While Garcia does not think that this strategy is successful, it does suggest an approach that he thinks does the work necessary. The key turns out to be not the racist’s beliefs nor the social systems which they encourage but in her “desires, hopes and goals.” Racism, on this understanding is, “race-based ill will” (245c2), a “commitment to opposing the advancement of those whose race she makes her enemy” (Ibid.). Advantages: 1) accounts for development from attitude to action; 2) provides resources for better account of institutional racism; 3) cannot be extended to counter-racist attitudes or institutions. What is Sexism? Given this account of racism as “race-based ill will,” Garcia offers a definition of sexism as, “…sex-based disregard or ill will” (247c1). There are he suggests some important advantages to this account. 1. Makes it explicit that sexism is opposition to women’s interests. 2. Makes sexism obviously immoral. 3. Allows us to understand a particular form of sexism: sexist paternalism. Sexist Paternalism Sexist paternalism occurs when it is argued that special consideration or limitations of their behavior is due women on the basis of their “special situation.” Like all paternalism, this type of justification of sexspecific treatment is vicious when, “…it is rooted in disrespect, a failure to regard and to treat members of one sex, as having the full rights and status that it is one of the marks of the virtuous to accord all people” (248c2).