Society assigns certain roles and characteristics to men and women, based on its expectations of each gender.

Inequality based solely on gender identity is called gender discrimination.

Sexism is a form of discrimination based on treating one gender as superior or inferior to the other.

Given that most sexism is to the detriment of women, it has become common to use this word to refer to differences in treatment and inequalities suffered by women.

Various levels of sexism may be defined:

  • Thinking one sex is superior to the other;
  • Thinking that because men and women are different in their reproductive nature, their roles in society should also be completely different;
  • The belief that that religion assigns different roles to men and women.

Gender-based discrimination stems from traditions, cultures, religions, ideologies and behaviours that establish a different status and dignity for men and women. Thus, gender becomes the basis of a hierarchical relationship between men and women in the social, moral, political, religious, philosophical and economic spheres.

Sexism may also lead to machismo (or male chauvinism) and misogyny, which means contempt, domination and hatred of women.

The gender discrimination suffered by men (for example, fathers’ rights in divorce or child custody cases) is marginal compared to that suffered by women.