Dismantling gender oppression against women and girls will target the various issues they face in today’s society. As defined by Webster, gender oppression is “unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power.” Gender discrimination, a form of gender oppression is “Attitudes, conditions or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.” Despite the historical gains that women’s rights activists fought for, equality has yet to be achieved. Women are still being raped, abused, objectified, oppressed and discriminated against. Often being disguised as a women’s issue, there is a need for a major shift in perception as a societal issue that includes women and human rights. This societal issue involves various forms of victimization amongst women and girls.
According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped at some time in her life (2011). In the military, 1 in 3 women are victims of sexual assault. Studies show that they are more likely to have become victims of sexual assault than to die in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan (Huffington Post, 2012). In addition, 1 in 4 women has been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime (CDC, 2011). Furthermore, a startling number of 1.5 million high school students reported having been intentionally harmed by a dating partner (DoSomething.Org).
Gender oppression of women and girls does not stop with violence. For instance, women hold 17% of the seats in U.S. Congress and only make up 4% of Fortune 500 companies top leadership positions. Yet, they make about 76 cents to a man’s dollar, this being less amongst women of color (Valentini, 2010). Portrayals of women and girls in the media also have an impact on gender oppression. Women are often objectified and sexualized in the media (magazines, ads, internet, etc.), often being described as “rape culture.” Rape culture is an environment in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. An example is music videos that often contain misogynistic language. Where women’s bodies are objectified and sexual violence is glamorized. These messages create a society that disregards women’s rights and safety (Marshall University, n.d.). Addressing these root causes can be an asset in transforming our society.
A society that creates equality amongst women and girls would not allow for gender oppression to happen. Women would have opportunity for high leadership positions as men without a wage gap. Violence against women and girls would be dramatically reduced. The media would not portray “rape culture” messaging. Instead women would be valued and respected. In which, young girls would not internalize the misogynistic language and images they hear and see today. Dismantling such a large-scale social issue such as gender oppression of women and girls is not just a structural issue, but also a cultural one. Creating policies and systems is needed, but it will not eliminate gender oppression. There is then a need for a collective impact, where social change would be achieved by transforming our society through a broad cross-sector collaboration.
1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence widespread in U.S.
2. Department of Economic and Social Affairs United Nations (2006). Online discussion on elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.
3. Huffinton Post (2012). Military sexual assault epidemic continues to claim victims as defense department fails females.
4. Valentini, J. (2010). For women in America, equality is still an illusion. Washington Post
5. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Oppression & descrimination.
6. DoSomething.org. (n.d.). Teen dating violence
7. Marshall University. (n.d.) Womens Center; rape culture