Ending Sexism Together: Confusion 2

The Myth that Sexism has Ended

Despite important gains, the oppression of females persists.

In the US we can celebrate specific historical and contemporary struggles where women have organized and won key rights, including suffrage, access to reproductive healthcare and reproductive autonomy, increased sexual freedom, and greater access to the paid work economy. Each of these victories has been hard fought and is important to acknowledge and celebrate.

Many of these hard-won gains, however, are under attack, have been rolled back, and have even been co-opted by oppressive forces in society — as we saw with the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

As long as sexism is in place, these battles will continue. When sexism ends, they won’t be necessary anymore.

The persistent neo-liberal ideology around sexism promotes the false idea that individual will power and personal accomplishment can negate the existence of sexism. It also views sexism as a condition that can be “overcome” by individual females.

This neo-liberal ideology trivializes the hardships and exploitation in females’ lives to personal short comings: “bad decisions,” and/or the result of their “backward” cultural background (for example their “race,” nationality, etc.). Like all other oppressions, sexism is institutional and systemic and cannot be reduced to encourage women to “work harder.”

Holding to the myth that sexism has ended supports a dynamic of paternalism, racism, and genocide.

The myth that sexism has ended for White women and women of industrialized nations, but not for BIWOC globally, is racism and promotes genocide. For White women and women in industrial nations, this shows up as paternalism and “savior” patterns. For BIWOC globally, the myth reinforces pressure to assimilate, which is a form of genocide, in the futile hope that this lie could be true for them as well: that if they could just “be more White” or “more Western” they wouldn’t have sexism. 

Acknowledging that sexism exists and identifying it in our unique cultural contexts will be essential for us to unite as females to end this oppression globally. It will also require us to work with male allies. To do so, we’ll need to dismantle the myth of reverse sexism, our third and final confusion of this series.

Clearing Up Confusions about Sexism

During our August 2022 Healing Together Gathering: Ending Sexism, we asked participants to put a checkmark next to the scenarios they believed were examples of sexism. Although each scenario was heavily marked, only the scenarios highlighted in purple are sexism as we define it.

“A female gets passed over for a raise because she’s a mother.”

The impacts of sexism on females in the workplace is often excused or explained away as “individual shortcomings” that play into the lie of sexism that males are smarter, work harder, and better than females and deny the systematic effect sexism has on our lives.

In addition to this blog series, check out these opportunities to learn more about our Ending Sexism work: