Etymology and definitions
According to Fred R. Shapiro, the term "sexism" was most likely coined on November 18, 1965, by Pauline M. Leet during a "Student-Faculty Forum" at Franklin and Marshall College. Specifically, the word sexism appears in Leet's forum contribution "Women and the Undergraduate", and she defines it by comparing it to racism, stating in part (on page 3): "When you argue ... that since fewer women write good poetry this justifies their total exclusion, you are taking a position analogous to that of the racist—I might call you in this case a 'sexist' ... Both the racist and the sexist are acting as if all that has happened had never happened, and both of them are making decisions and coming to conclusions about someone's value by referring to factors which are in both cases irrelevant."
Also according to Shapiro, the first time the term "sexism" appeared in print was in Caroline Bird's speech "On Being Born Female", which was published on November 15, 1968, in Vital Speeches of the Day (p. 6). In this speech she said in part: "There is recognition abroad that we are in many ways a sexist country. Sexism is judging people by their sex when sex doesn't matter. Sexism is intended to rhyme with racism."
Sexism may be defined as an ideology based on the belief that one sex is superior to another. It is discrimination, prejudice, or stereotyping on the basis of gender, and is most often expressed toward girls and women. It has been characterized as the "hatred of women" and "entrenched prejudice against women".
Sociology has examined sexism as manifesting at both the individual and the institutional level. According to Schaefer, sexism is perpetuated by all major social institutions. Sociologists describe parallels among other ideological systems of oppression such as racism, which also operates at both the individual and institutional level. Early female sociologists Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ida B. Wells, and Harriet Martineau described systems of gender inequality, but did not use the term sexism, which was coined later. Sociologists who adopted the functionalist paradigm, e.g. Talcott Parsons, understood gender inequality as the natural outcome of a dimorphic model of gender.
Psychologists Mary Crawford and Rhoda Unger define sexism as a form of prejudice held by individuals that encompasses "negative attitudes and values about women as a group." Peter Glick and Susan Fiske coined the term ambivalent sexism to describe how stereotypes about women can be both positive and negative, and that individuals compartmentalize the stereotypes they hold into hostile sexism or benevolent sexism.
Feminist author bell hooks defines sexism as a system of oppression that results in disadvantages for women. Feminist philosopher Marilyn Frye defines sexism as an "attitudinal-conceptual-cognitive-orientational complex" of male supremacy, male chauvinism, and misogyny.