A History of Discrimination: Women In America
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A The United States has long had a history of excluding certain races and religions based on how their views differ from that of society in the United States as a whole. While many people acknowledge the lack of inclusion and respect when it comes to those from different cultures, some people overlook the issues surrounding the stereotyping and discrimination of women as a whole throughout the nation. Like other disenfranchised groups, women often did not have access to the same jobs, schools, or rights as men in society.
As time has went on there have been laws created on different levels of government to help protect the rights of women and end the discriminatory practices against them. Despite this however, there is overwhelming evidence of how women have been historically discriminated against and stereotyped in American history. Specifically women have been discriminated and stereotyped when it comes to their societal “role” as a woman, the workplace, and their physical appearances leading one to fathom what could be done to prevent these issues or at the very least lessen the frequency of them.
Women have historically been pigeonholed into a role of being a nurturer in the home with many men believing that a woman should not work or is not equipped to do so. This rhetoric can be found in an article from the St. Louis University Public Law Review and states that …in other words that women should have the vote not because they were equal to men, but because they were different and in some respects better” (Wheeler, 2017, p.61). This statement shows that women in the eyes of most men did not belong in politics within their role and although some men wanted these differing votes this was solely to gain a different perspective that in most cases men would ignore feeling superior to the women.
More about the role of women in the eyes of society is revealed as the text reads “Essentially, the Court held that UPS might have accommodated too many other workers to be able to meet its burden of proving a valid reason for excluding pregnant workers” (Wheeler, 2017, p.84). In this case the courts did not feel as though the company needed to do more to accommodate women and Wheeler argues that this was a practice to keep women in the role that society mapped out for them. As the article goes on the author touches on the inevitability of women getting pregnant and how jobs should already have systems in place to assist these women as they know it is coming and simply choose not to care.
More on the roles of women can be seen through an analyzing of the psychological aspects that men in society use to decide what they feel should be required of women. Evidence of this can be seen through the Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, which reads, “According to Sidanius (1993), human societies are inherently group-based and are usually structured along racial, sex, and class lines. In most Western communities, for example, males are typically viewed as dominant over females” (Bates, 2001, p.44). Bates is showing that women will essentially always be stuck in their societal roles as the men, specifically white men, see them as superior and dominant in the society. This pairs with the SDO or Social Dominance Orientation as this measure is usually higher for white men as they have less compassion for women and will continue to work for the betterment of themselves with no care for how another social group is affected.
Ironically, women have a history of still fighting for equality and treating people the same despite the fact that the research is showing that they are not favored by those that they are treating fairly and that the system is not working towards getting women equal rights. Bates shows how historically men feel and have pushed women towards cooking around the homes, cleaning around the homes, raising the children, and being seen but not heard in most instances. What the article shows in the end is that in order for there to be changes for women in society, essentially those in power have to die as the attitudes are changing slightly for the next generation.
The workplace is yet another area of life in which it has become clear through the years that women are being discriminated against. The Pew Research Center provides evidence of the discrimination specifically as an article from the site states, “When women are asked whether sexual harassment is a problem in their workplace, larger gaps emerge. About half of women who work in male-dominated workplaces (49%) say this is at least a small problem where they work, including 15% who say it’s a big problem” Parker (2018).
These statistics show that women are facing issues within the workplace that could be hurting their ability to work effectively and that the issue is not one that is exclusive to any one industry. Parker goes on to point out that due to the overwhelming number of men in a job that may not have an issue with the treatment of the women that many of them suffer in silence as they do not want to risk losing their job. For women in the workspace, especially one dominated by men, the idea is that they should be paid less as they are not capable of the same work as the males and this attitude is largely the reason for the wage gap between men and women with there being an even larger one for minority women.
Some supervisors and companies have tried to justify their discrimination seeing it instead as a logical way to ensure that the company continues to run smoothly. Women getting pregnant as well as having their monthly menstrual cycle are things that many males in the workplace have no consideration for and have not attempted to accommodate the women. Specifics on the topic can be seen through the workings of a writer from Portugal for PLOS and states that “Mandel and Semyonov , using data from 20 countries, found evidence that family policies aimed at supporting women’s economic independence, and including provision of childcare facilities and paid parental leaves, increase rather than decrease gender earning gaps. This unexpected effect is due to the fact that family policies are disproportionally used by mothers rather than fathers, with the consequence that mothers are concentrated in part-time employment, female-typed occupations, yet underrepresented in top positions” (Verniers, 2018, p.18).
Essentially what is being stated is that those in power feel that they are doing the right things for women, as they do not see an issue with the role of women currently. On the contrary, women are being pigeonholed into a role where they cannot have the independence that these men feel that they are giving them. As mentioned women who use these policies to their advantage are doomed to part time employment and again that role of being a mother and taking care of children in the home. The article is highlighting that perception and goals are most important as the women feel that they are being put at a disadvantage and the research shows this while the men feel that they are keeping order together and helping the women.
Appearance is something that in some ways matters for all people, however for women this fact is that much more emphasized. Psychology based publications like Psychology of Women Quarterly have posted article that have shed light onto the issues surrounding what is deemed to be acceptable in appearance for a woman. According to one article “Women feel anxious when they interview feeling that their breasts are too small, they don’t have good teeth, or simply not feeling pretty compared to other women” (McKee, 2013, p. 357). This quote taken from the article shows that women’s appearance matters more and that this theory is not just one that makes sense in the heads of women. McKee argues that the “more attractive” women are the ones that are on news stations or billboards throughout major city.
The article shows how these ideas of what is deemed acceptable in appearance have essentially hurt the confidence of women and put them in a predicament where they are being judged more so for their physical appearance than their credentials. Men are not voicing similar concerns and as a result of this the problem is not being fixed. In many companies women stated that they feel inferior due to them being outnumbered, sexualized, and not taken seriously. Many women that participated in the study conducted by McKee and others admitted to feeling less pretty than most women and knew that they were only employed in some cases because they were attractive or had big breasts. This stereotyping of the “perfect woman” is yet another example of the pitfalls of being a woman in the United States.
More about the appearance factor can be examine through the writings of Lora Park. This woman posted an article that shows why women are experiencing more feelings of appearance rejection. For starters, appearance rejection is basically the measuring of how likely a person is to get anxiety about the chance of being rejected simply due to the way they look. More specifically the article reveals “ Men had the same feelings of appearance rejection after being flooded with the propaganda that has plagued women since the 1970’s” (Park, 2009, p.111). As the study is performed for this article, 220 combined men and women were analyzed in order to gauge their appearance-based rejection sensitivity and the men’s numbers rose similarly to the women’s numbers after they were exposed to media that told them how to look in order to be deemed attractive. Nonetheless, in general it is the woman that is feeling more of a feeling of appearance rejection as the media had made them believe that they do not meet the standards of beauty and they have an idea of another woman whom they feel better fits the mold of a beautiful woman.
Women’s appearances extend past just the look of a woman as what they say as well as what they do is scrutinized and the intentions of some women are merely assumed. The narrative for many African American women is that they are loud and much louder than women of other races. This can be seen through an article that touches on the narrative specifically as it reads “Black women have become the victims of negative stereotyping in mainstream American culture. Such stereotypes include the myth of the angry Black woman that characterizes these women as aggressive, ill tempered, illogical, overbearing, hostile, and ignorant without provocation” (Ashley, 2014, p.27). This idea is something that African American women have had to fight off in some ways by not responding to criticism at all in public or not giving their opinions on anything considered to be a sensitive topic. As mentioned previously, the media and televisions plays a large role in the perception of the black woman as it continues to push the idea of them being overly confrontational. By building this model of what the black woman is, many black woman have stated that they felt attacked when they gave their opinions at a job like other women did or when they became visibly upset it was seen as them being illogical and aggressive.
Appearance of women extends to the point where society is comfortable enough to accept them in the workplace and the subsequent jobs that they are not supposed to have. One such article rom the AAUW website speaks to the stereotype that woman do not belong in either the science or the engineering field as it reads “A female student taking a math test experiences an extra cognitive and emotional burden of worry related to the stereotype that women are not good at math. A reference to this stereotype, even one as subtle as taking the test in a room of mostly men, can adversely affect her test performance. When the burden is removed, however, her performance will improve” Hill (2015).
The article is showing that there is a disparity of women in the science and engineering fields due to them getting more severe punishment for under performing. The article alludes to the idea that a woman can fail a test with the same 60 as a male and be crucified in the employment world while a man can get an exercise such as “he was young” or “it happened a long time ago”. Essentially the issue is that women are not being judged on the same scale as men as a method of discouraging them from entering into the science or the engineering field. When a person knows how harsh of a punishment they can face for something there is a certain level of anxiety that is often present that greatly affects their performance. Overall the trend is to make the women feel uncomfortable in all aspects of the field in order to discourage them from pursuing a career in the field for possibly unknown reasons.
It is clear that there is an issue with stereotypes as well as discrimination against women in the United States, however there are some suggestions to handling the issue. One solution to the problem could be hefty fines to jobs that discriminate against women because a lack hair, makeup, breasts, or any other physical features that they deem to be attractive. Businesses tend to only care about consequences when they result in a loss of money. Another solution perhaps to the known issue would be to put out propaganda that exhibits women as strong and capable of the same work as men in the workplace instead of as an inferior worker that could never duplicate the work of the man. Through the understanding of the issue and the development of possible solutions to the problem at hand it becomes truly possible to eradicate the issue or at the very least lessen the frequency of it.
- Ashley, W. (2014). The Angry Black Woman: The Impact of Pejorative Stereotypes on Psychotherapy with Black Women. Social Work in Public Health, 29(1), 2014th ser., 27-34.
- Bates, C., & Heaven, P. C. L. (2001). Attitudes to women in society: the role of social dominance orientation and social values. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 11(1), 43–49.
- Hill, C. (2015). Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Retrieved from https://www.aauw.org/research/why-so-few/
- McKee, S., Smith, H. J., Koch, A., Balzarini, R., Georges, M., & Callahan, M. P. (2013). Looking up and Seeing Green: Women’s Everyday Experiences With Physical Appearance Comparisons. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37(3), 351–365.
- Park, L. E., DiRaddo, A. M., & Calogero, R. M. (2009). Sociocultural Influence and Appearance-Based Rejection Sensitivity among College Students. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 33(1), 108–119
- Parker, K. (2018, March 07). Gender discrimination more common for women in mostly male workplaces. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/07/women-in-majority-male-workplaces-report-higher-rates-of-gender-discrimination/
- Verniers, C., & Vala, J. (2018). Justifying gender discrimination in the workplace: The mediating role of motherhood myths. PLoS ONE, 13(1), 1–23.
- Wheeler, C. L. (2017). Women’s Work Is Never Done. St. Louis University Public Law Review, 36(1), 59–85.