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Despite the numbers and importance of women in American society, women have been treated as subordinate to men, similar to some other groups of individuals. For example, women's pay is less then men's, latinos and African-Americans are paid less than white men; there are few female CEOs, few non-caucasion CEOs; some jobs are typically viewed as women-dominated - such as nurses and teachers and some jobs are seen as stereotypical of certain ethnic classes.
I once took a graduate class dealing with "women and minorities." Interestingly enough, white men was the only group of individuals not seen as a group that had been oppressed.
There are still many men today who will not allow their wives to work, in part because they do not believe that women are incapable of performing at the same level as a man. Many occupations, such as those of the secretary and receptionist, are still believed to be "women's jobs," just as many unskilled jobs were believed to be the only ones in which an African American could be successful. They are simple cases of stereotyping, and in many cases, only the passage of time can eradicate such ideas.
I think that women are more "oppressed" in a way because of the fact that there are still women who think that they should not be equal to men. You don't have African Americans going around thinking that they really should be treated as unequal to whites. But you do have women who think that they should be subordinate to men. Until this ends, women will be more oppressed than minorities are.
One huge difference between the oppression Western and American women and ethnic minorities in America experience, to mind at least, is that while both have been denied (throughout time) suffrage, property, volition, independence, [unlimited] educational opportunities, and the power of unrestricted earnings, Western and American women have held certain areas of power and dignity [up until the 1700s to 1900s, at any rate] that were undenied. If we can accept insights from literature as well as life, we have but to look at Wealtheow of Beowulf, Elizabeth Boyle of Spenser's Amoretti, Queen Elizabeth I, Jane Austen's Lady de Bourgh, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jacqueline Kennedy to see that within the real oppression--escalated since the 1700s--Western women have and do experience, there is an underlying consciousness of value and power that is not experienced by oppressed ethnic minorities who lived and who are living in America. As Langston Hughes so eloquently expressed in his poetry, for ethnic minorities in America, and especially for those of Hughes's ethnicity, there is no such underlying consciousness. The struggles of ethnic peoples begins with insisting that they do have innate value and power and--at times in America's history--humanity and humanity's dignity. To my mind, the oppression of Western women and that of ethnic minorities in the West is a comparison that is unjust to the ethnic peoples.
You might like to consider the theory of the glass ceiling in relation to your question. This argues that women, even though conditions have improved, still face restrictions that hinder them from achieving equity in pay and position to their male counterparts. However, the difference is that now, because of the amount of laws trying to ensure equity, such barrers are now hidden or have become transparent, like a glass ceiling that prevents women from rising above a certain position. Such feminists would therefore argue that women are still subordinate, but society has become better at concealing this.
#5 has the best analysis I've read in a while; women were historically considered inferior (even scientifically; see the work of Paul Broca as refuted by Stephen Jay Gould) they were not enslaved, brutalized, or marginalized the way ethnic minorities have been. However, it is important also to remember that slavery, for example, is not a historically white crime; over the centuries, every powerful nation in every region has used slavery of one sort or another. Wikipedia has a good, in-depth article about various worldwide slavery.
Today, I feel that in America at least women have been legislated equality in every way, and the oppression is individualized (if one person is oppressive, it is not indicative of the population as a whole). However, other countries, particularly Middle Eastern countries, still view and treat women more as property than as humans, and often quite brutally. Here are two differing views of the matter: PBS.org and Answering-islam.org -- I tried to find more objective pages but it's almost impossible. Everyone has a specific opinion.
I have to agree that the oppression of women will continue as long as there are women who believe that they are under men. I know of a family where the wife is perfectly happy living where the family is. The husband, on the other hand, is not completely happy. They are going to move. The wife stated that her husband is the only one who makes the decisions and that her feelings do not matter. I bring this up to support what I stated earlier. Women will continue to be oppressed as long as their are some who accept the oppression (regardless of ethnicity).
Here is another perspective. Some minority women will probably have the most difficult time, because they are both women and minorities. As we all agree so far, there are injustices towards women and minorities at times. With this said, there are other complications, white women my have a high standing than minority men. Hence, there are two variables that need to be examined together - race and gender.
I agree with post #5 which is a powerful analysis of the issue. In my family, we have several minorities represented, and their issues are far harder in my opinion. However, as a teacher and a woman, I felt the need to open some students' eyes. I used to ask this question. When I say, "All men are created equal," how many of the girls feel included in that statement? After all, the word men is supposed to be the universal inclusive word, including both men and women. None of the girls raised their hands. When the statement was reversed to "All women are created equal" and the word women was to include everyone as a universal inclusive word, none of the boys raised their hands. Then, the discussion grew in depth and thoughtfulness as the students recognized the power of words especially with the words "men" and "women."
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