Sexism in Shakespeare’s Play Othello

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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“In the book, Othello written by Shakespeare, there is a main theme of sexism present throughout the book, Although the book was written in the 1600s, and there have been great decreases in sexism around the world, many of these ideas and scenarios are still present to this day.

Sexism is defined as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex. Sexism has been present for centuries, in many different forms, such as wage gaps, gender roles/expectations, and equal rights.

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Sexism today has many similarities to sexism present in the 1600’s, as well as many differences, such as sexism towards males. This type of sexism however, is more relevant in today’s societies rather than in the 1600s. Sexism is present almost everywhere in our world and is a very important topic to be knowledgeable about.

In the last 50 years, the wage gap between men and women has decreased dramatically. Although the gap remains, it has changed, according to Mark J. Brandt in Sexism and Gender Inequality Across 57 societies, “women earning 33 cents less than males in 1980, to 11 cents less in 2018.” This shows how gender inequality is still present today. This also supports the idea that although gender inequality is improving, it is still very present today. Many people wonder why this is still an issue if we see decreases in gender inequality in the past half-century. A study done by Pew Research Center shows that the “changes we made between men and women are starting to stabilize.” Meaning the changes for gender equality are occurring less. This may very well alter people’s opinions and lead them to think that sexism is no longer an ongoing issue in our society today, due to the awareness that has been brought to the subject. Although this is not the case, sexism is still a great problem all around the world, even after all the great decreases in sexism that we have made.

Sexism is often linked to occupational and educational segregation. Though another type of sexism that is not very talked about but still very common are the gender expectations and roles of both males and females. An example of these expectations is that women should generally be nurturing, sensitive, and work around the house while caring for the children while males are expected to be strong, masculine, and be providers for the family. Though according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “about 38% of wives earned more than their husbands in 2015.” This gender expectation switch is very undesirable by many families and people. Although this fact shows how we are making progress in decreasing these expectations. It also shows that the other 62% of women are not making as much money as their husbands. This supports the idea that women are not equal to men quite yet. There is progress, but no full equality in our society today yet. In Gender Role and Delinquency, written by Neal Shover, Stephen Norland, Jennifer James and William E. Thornton, they study the role of gender expectations and the role they play in children’s lives. In this study they found that “masculine role expectations proved to be less powerful as a predictor of juveniles’ opportunity and social controls than did traditional feminine role expectations.” This shows how the expectations placed on females versus males were greater. Girls’ expectations of their gender had more impact on the opportunities they were given, and social aspects of their lives. For centuries, gender expectations have been placed upon people, which has led to great discrimination.

Gender inequality has also been present in our government for a very long time. Women gained the right to vote in August, 1920. This was 50 years after men of color were granted the right to vote. Since 1920, there have been multiple attempts to develop greater roles for women in government. Some which have succeeded, and some which have failed. Women are still fighting for their rights and are standing up against gender inequality and discrimination today. According to Kaur Sukhpal in Women’s Rights, “There is still no society in which women enjoy full equality with men. They often face discrimination, even in countries which grant legal equality to both sexes, women are often economically disadvantaged and suffer discrimination.” Sukhpal clearly describes how women are faced with discrimination even after granted equal rights as men. This makes the issue of sexism great, because even if legal action is made, it still does not promise equality to all genders. According to Suzanne LaFont, in Gender Inequality Women In Politics, “Lithuanian men should be proud of their women getting involved in any social, economic, and political activity, and they should support their efforts to contribute to society rather than crush their struggle with irony, skepticism and empty words” In this part of the world, women are often discriminated. So this quote shows how, although there is work to be done, progress is being made. This is the case in many countries and gives hope for the future.

In the book Othello, the recurring theme was sexism, although this book was written in the 1600s, sexism is still very much present to this day. In order to change things I believe that awareness should be further spread, to make sure that real change continues to occur. Since sexism is an overall issue all over the world, and it has been present for far too long.”

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Sexism in Shakespeare's Play Othello. (2021, Feb 25). Retrieved from