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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds So what is sexism. Sexism means to treat people differently or discriminate against them on the basis of their sex or their gender. So some people have believed that for instance men are better leaders and women are better at raising children at home for instance and have made decisions on the basis of those beliefs. These beliefs what we usually call stereotypes so stereotypes is sort of a collective belief over generalization of beliefs in fact about the behaviour or attitudes or traits of an individual on a basis of the group that they belong to.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds So this is something that happens very naturally in our minds that we associate one item or a person or thing with some sort of category that they belong to. So when we see a person we immediately our minds jump immediately to associating them with a certain category they might belong to. For instance when we see a person we say she’s a woman or he’s a man or this person is black or white or young or old. In principle that is not a bad thing for for our brains to do.

Skip to 1 minute and 13 seconds The problem is when we then overgeneralize of what we expect people to do and we penalize them if they don’t behave in a way that we expect them to behave on the basis of the group that they belong to. So that can really lead to situations where people who don’t fit that stereotype get penalized even though they are trying their very best and they’re very well qualified to do something else that’s outside that stereotype. Take for instance for instance traditionally disputed women are very good at raising children at home. And that comes obviously from a traditionly a long history of women being kept at home.

Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds So the only thing that they were doing was to look after children so the only thing they were seemed competent to do is raising children. This is something that’s a stereotype that basically reinforced itself over time because women weren’t allowed in the workplace they never got the chance to prove to people otherwise. But stereotypes are more subtle than that and they even have implications in the workplace today, because of these associations with raising children. Women are often seen as warmer softer and more communal than men are.

Skip to 2 minutes and 18 seconds And that unfortunately does not fit as another stereotype that we have which is the stereotype of a leader a leader tends to be someone who is confident, has an ability to lead, makes tough decisions and that’s clearly in conflict with this other idea of being warm communal and soft. And so in today’s workplace you might still find sexism being expressed through these stereotypes because people make decisions on on the basis of what is a good leader and women don’t fit that stereotype. So women are being held back even to this day by these stereotypes expressed through sexism.


In this video Dr Oliver Hauser, University of Exeter, discusses sexism.

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This video is from the free online course:

Understanding Gender Inequality

University of Exeter