International Women’s Day was a wonderful day aimed at celebrating women in our culture and around the world. I greatly appreciated all of the men who acknowledged, encouraged, and participated in the event. It’s wonderful to be supported by members of other groups, and solidarity among oppressed groups is especially important because it is a necessary component to ensuring a more equitable society for all of us.
However, and you knew this critique was coming, I was annoyed this morning while listening to a radio commentator express his feelings about the International Women’s Day event and the issue of sexism. I was annoyed primarily because I felt that there were some elements of sexism that he did not seem to understand well. While I know that his aim was to be supportive, and I appreciated his intent, there were several things that were stated during the discussion that left room for critique.
One thing that annoyed me was that he attempted to put the issue of sexism squarely on Donald Trump’s shoulders. Now, I don’t like Trump as a leader, and I do not appreciate his apparent lack of respect for women, but his election merely tilted the discussion toward a long standing issue that has been diminished over time as a necessary conversation. Donald Trump is nowhere near solely, or even principally, responsible for sexism.
There is some belief that because women are doing better than women of previous generations, sexism is really relatively benign. And while it is true that women have enjoyed a good amount of progress where gender equality is concerned, there is still much to discuss. Unfortunately, this idea about what constitutes adequate progress gives way to the idea that women really should not have anything to “whine” about. Quit Bitching!
The commentator this morning additionally stated that women fight for women, and men should fight for women too. This is true. However, women don’t always fight for women. In fact, men and women alike have been conditioned in our culture, and many cultures around the world, to believe that women are substandard when compared to men. As a result, women are known to impose a male standard, even at their own peril, onto women.
There are many things that women say to their children, young boys and girls alike, that illustrate the belief that women are not on par with men in terms of social conduct or capabilities; and women say these things because they believe them to be true. I can’t count the amount of times that I have heard the following sorts of comments made to small children:
“Don’t throw like a girl. That’s embarrassing. Let me show you how to throw like a boy.”
“Don’t cry like a little girl.”
“Stop acting like a sissy.”
“Girls should not play rough.” AND ON AND ON AND ON………………………………
My favorites, however, are the “B” word and the “P” word. These words should be no more acceptable than any other epithet aimed at an oppressed group. Yet, these words roll right off the tongue with relative ease for many people, and there is little to no social backlash for people who spews these hate filled words. Why must my gender be the insult that is flung at another in moments of anger or disapproval? Is my gender the worst thing you could think of as an insult? Really? That’s great! I feel inherently worthy!
You should feel no more comfortable using the “B” word or “P” word than you feel using the “N” word or the “F” word or the “S” word and so on. You should feel embarrassed to disparage women. The fact that people spew these hate filled words with ease is reflective of how much our society believes that protection and respect for women as a group is unimportant.
Women’s culture is also undervalued, especially when embraced by a boss. When a boss is accommodating and collaborative (aspects of women’s culture) and a woman, she is typically viewed as weak and incompetent by employees. In order to be an effective boss a woman almost needs to cut her arm off, so to speak, and behave in ways that are “foreign” to her in order to gain the respect of employees. And those of us who are thoroughly aware of women’s culture (i.e., women) also don’t appreciate the “foreign” behavior from one of our own, so we will readily fling our male prescribed insult (the “B” word) just as freely as anyone else.
Finally, the previously mentioned commentator spoke about how men are involved in sexism, whether active participants or as bystanders. Sorry, Mister, there are no bystanders in this game. In a hierarchical system were men are the beneficiaries of sexism every bit as much as Whites are the beneficiaries of a system of hierarchy that involves racism, you cannot opt out. This is a system; a system functions with or without your approval. A man’s lack of individual overt sexism does not result in the loss of any of the benefits of maleness, and that particular aspect of systemic oppression should not be forgotten.
I feel a little better now :0)