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Sexism as a Social System

circularity is the key to understanding social oppressions

Forum: Reddit (/r/AskFeminists)
Date: 07/09/2012


How would you define the difference between "Sexism", and "Male Chauvinistism"? [...] I do see a difference between gender chauvinism, and sexism, and it seems to me that popular feminism is not making the common understanding of "sexism" clearer, when they are, in my opinion, making great headway in making clearer the common understanding of "Male Chauvinism".

Actually, "sexism" is broader than "male chauvinism" because chauvinism is just an individual attitude; sexism is a system of oppression, which includes individual attitudes and behaviors but is much bigger.


So for you, something is "sexist", when it is contributing to a system of oppression based on sex, and male chauvinism is more of an attitude affirming that system, is that fair to say?

I feel like I'm repeating myself, but here goes: male chauvinism is sexist, but sexism is larger than male chauvinism because it is a system of oppression. A system is a circular structure in which individual attitudes and actions reinforce the social norms and institutions that support the pre-existing relation of (male) power and domination, while these social norms and institutions reinforce these same individual attitudes and actions. Sexism is a system because there is a loop connecting individual attitudes and actions with the larger relation of power and domination and back. Its overall function is to sustain male power, even when it does not benefit individual men who are caught in it.