It has been said that "Protection is the oldest form of sexism." Do you agree, and why?  It has been said that "Protection is the oldest form of sexism." Do you agree, and why?  

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That's interesting. I think you need to qualify this with "Who is protecting whom?". Parents must protect their children. This is not sexism. Colleges and universities must protect their students (regardless of how often they fail to do so). This is not sexism. Governments must protect their citizens. This is not sexism. By process of elimination, we are taken to men protecting women. Here again, you need to qualify this with "From what and why?". Is the protection from a real danger to life and liberty? From a mugger? This is not sexism. Is it from trying to do a task that is beyond that particular woman's strength (women run a great range in variances in strength)? This is not sexism. Is it from values that are imposed upon a woman against her will and enforced through protectiveness in violation of her wishes? This, my friend, is sexism. So while we have arrived at a "yes," it is in a very narrow definition of "protection," a definition that stems from despotism, brutality and usurpation of human dignity, humanity, volition, and rights.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't see how we can possibly know what the oldest form of sexism is, but I do agree that protection is a form of sexism.  It may not seem like one because it's benign, but it is still a form of condescension towards women.

So, for example, when Laertes is cautioning Ophelia to be careful around Hamlet, you can argue that he is being sexist.  He is implying that she can't take care of herself, that she can't tell that Hamlet is just trying to use her.

You can argue, then, that men who try to protect women are doing so because they think women are inferior and unable to take care of themselves.  This is clearly a sexist attitude.  Now, is it the oldest form of sexism?  Who knows, though I would imagine that seeing women as sex objects is probably older.  But whether it's the oldest or not, you can clearly argue that it's a form of sexism.

megan-bright eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Protection is the oldest form of sexism." I would have to disagree with this statement. The motivation to protect someone usually stems from the fact that you value them, hold them in high regards, and believe they are worthy or special enough of your protection.

The root of sexism, well it's many things, but a common theme is that women are inferior and less than men in every way. What may seem like 'protection' is really control and mechanisms to keep women subordinate. Thus, women in oppressed societies with a huge amount of sexism are not protected at all, but often suffer from spousal and family abuse, high incidence of rape, lack of education, lack of adequate health care, and lack of equal human rights from the government. That sounds like the complete opposite of protection.


brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, without having a context to work within, and assuming the statement refers to gender roles in history, then the assumption that 1) females needed protecting, and 2) males must be the ones to protect them has very deep roots, partly because of biology and the ancient structures of family, and partly because of the very persistent political hegemony (dominance) of males in societies.  So in that sense, I can agree with the statement, but I provided my own context, so I cheated.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do agree.  Protection presumes that the person being protected is lesser in some sense.  The strong protect the weak, so protecting a woman assumes that the woman is weak.  In the beginning of human civilization, the women were gatherers and child-raisers in many tribes.  They were not strong from hunting and they didn't have weapons, so they needed protection.  Since they needed protection, they weren't equal.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In complete concurrence with the cogent point of the previous post that chauvanism is a form of sexism, I hope that "no little lady will worry her pretty little head about such matters."

Under the guise of chivalric behavior,sexism often emerges, for the suggestions of remarks such as the one just quoted are that the person is incapable of deductive reasoning or anaysis of situations.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The nature of protection has changed over time. There was a point in history where women had virtually no power, no assets, and no rights. During that time women were in need of a male protector. With the advancement of women's rights, however, this need has dissipated. So now the question, kind of comes down to motivation.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that way back in time it was not thought of as sexism. I would say that it was only considered to be a form of sexism years later, once women started enjoying some new found freedom and rights.