Problems in our society don’t just appear out of nowhere. Like anything else, these issues have root causes, or underlying reasons why they happen. There are a number of root causes of gender-based violence, including:
Objectification and degradation of women in our media
Harmful gender norms
Sexism — attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of how men and women should act — is also a root cause of gender-based violence. When a person holds onto sexist beliefs, they may be more likely to participate in or justify violence against women. Recent research from the University of Pittsburgh found that men who hold sexist attitudes are up to 5 times as likely to participate in verbal, online, and physical bullying and sexual harassment, and more likely to engage in violence generally.
This study — and others like it — illustrate how sexism can fuel gender-based violence. Sexism is also connected to racism; people who have sexist tendencies are less likely to have empathy or interest in other cultures.
The core of both racism and sexism — and other forms of prejudice — is a belief that people exist on a hierarchy. A person who subscribes to sexist beliefs thinks that men are better than women. A person who is racist believes that white people are better than people of color. Because these belief systems share a common ideology — the notion that some people are better than others based on certain unchangeable characteristics — it isn’t surprising that many people who are sexist are also racist, and vice versa.
Throughout history, sexist beliefs have led to racist harm. In particular, the sexist belief that women need to be protected from harm (because they are weak) has been used as a pretext for racist violence. Specifically, white men have committed acts of violence against Black men because of a belief that they need to protect white women. This belief system is responsible for countless murders, from Emmett Till in 1955 to the murder of 9 churchgoers in Charleston in 2015.
For Black women, the convergence of sexism and racism leads to an even more potent form of hatred, known as misogynoir. This affects almost every aspect of life for Black women and girls, from the health care that they receive to the way that they are perceived when they express their emotions to the way others respond when they are victims of violence.
At Blackburn Center, we believe in the right of all people to live free from domestic and sexual violence and other forms of violence. We also believe that every woman, child, and man is equal, and no person is above another. By acknowledging these realities, we can work to end all types of violence — including those linked to sexism and racism.
As always, if you need help, we are here for you. Our hotline is available 24/7 at 1-888-832-2272. Calls to our hotline are free of charge, and can be anonymous.