The Case for Gender as Oppression

Why is gender oppressive?

Gender, gender roles or gender stereotypes are inextricably linked to female oppression. Historically and near universally, cultural ideas around women and women’s bodies have been used to justify the subjugation and inferiority of women. Gender abolitionists thus argue that while biological sex is the root of women’s oppression, gender is part of the means.

Gender is a hierarchy created to place men on top and women on the bottom. What is considered masculine is always superior and what is considered feminine is always inferior. After all, the ultimate insults for boys and men relate back to women: girl, pussy, bitch, etc.

Gender creates arbitrary standards for men and women. It is an inescapable trap for women where inferiority is inherent and fundamental to the concept of femininity and non-conformity is violently punished. Although women’s conformity to gender roles is considered socially acceptable, this conformity is also ridiculed.

Think, why are girls and women encouraged to value their appearance and then deemed vain and shallow?

Both women and men who do not conform to gender roles are often viewed as abnormal and experience increased risk of violence. Women who avoid acceptable feminine presentation are called names, harassed, beaten, raped and murdered regularly. However, conformity to gender roles provides women no protection either. Stereotypically feminine women still suffer harassment, rape and murder.

Gender supports and perpetuates women’s oppression because gender is the constructed inferiority of women and superiority of men. In other words, inferiority is inherent in the concept of femininity and superiority is inherent in the concept of masculinity. See the picture and examples below.

Ex 1) men designate women as less than, assign them a feminine role that discourages personal growth and involvement in the public sphere, exclude them from opportunities based on their supposed inferiority and then point to their relative lack of involvement as proof of said inferiority – bonus points: when women surpass men, men reinvent the terms of success, e.g. re-branding of professions

Ex 2) men designate women as physically weak, encourage ideals of female beauty that do not involve cultivating muscle or strength and then point to the lack of strong or muscular women as evidence of women’s weakness – bonus points: men define physical strength in relation to men, e.g. upper body

In summary, gender is applied externally, culturally determined, strict in its separation of women and men, and religiously enforced.


For more information, see webpages on radical feminist theory such as Radfem Hub and Radfem Central or read the works of published feminists such as  Mary Daly, Audre Lorde, Andrea Dworkin, Susan Brownmiller, Catherine MacKinnon, Gail Dines and Germaine Greer.

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