Today I saw a very interesting definition of sexism. Jacob Holdt answers the question "can blacks be racists, women sexists and so forth?"
"No, they have no social power to in any way harm the power structure of whites (or e.g. men). Example: if all blacks hated whites how would they affect whites? Only through fear. Whites solve this problem by moving out in the suburbs or visiting a psychologist. If, on the other hand, all whites have negative emotions towards black people, how will they harm them? In relation to work, health care, education, housing etc. All very tangible things that you need to consult whites to get access to. It is easy to see that blacks cannot be racists because they do not in any way have power to discriminate whites."
If we draw parallel to the issue of gender it means that women cannot be sexists because they are not in a social position to discriminate men.
Allow me to explain why I think Jacob Holdt is making a valid point.
Firstly, on a global level: according to statistics 99 percent of the world's property belongs to men. Further, 90 percent of incomes goes to men (These are widely recognized numbers but one source is Jackson & Sörensen 2003). From a global perspective there is not much to discuss. Women clearly have no power to discriminate men.
Property and incomes are of course even more unfairly distributed. Women in Africa, South America and Asia are for sure worse off than women in the Western world. So I will focus a bit more. In this context it is interesting to take a look at Denmark since it is a country known for a high degree of gender equality. Are the women in Denmark in a position to discriminate men? Let us examine the Danish elites:
- Danish business life is run by men: 96 percent of Danish chief executives are men
- Danish academia is run by men: 93 percent of university professors are men
- Danish media are run by men: 87 percent of chief editors are men
- Men constitute a majority in the Danish government: 62 percent of ministers are men
(Sources: lige.dk and A4)
Examining power structures it seems that Danish women are not really in a position from where they can effectively discriminate men. The number of women in control of money, law-making and information is very limited.
Conclusion I: women cannot be sexists.
Conclusions II: Ideas such as that of organized feminist conspiracies against men are completely unrealistic. Why such theories exist is probably better explained by what Susan Faludi calls 'the backlash against women' than by actual activities among women.
(If anyone are in doubt: As a feminist my hope is not that women one day will begin discriminate men. I want women to gain more power and to live in a society with gender equality)