Ah, sexism. We see so much of it in our lives that we kind of get inured to it. That’s just the way things are. But it doesn’t have to be. Sexism and rape culture are insidious, damaging and unnecessary – and not just to women.
My mother, bless her heart, would say: it’s so much better than it used to be, why get our knickers in twist?
Why indeed, now that we can vote, can work in jobs that used to be exclusively for men, can be the breadwinner in a family, can be a single parent, own property or get a credit card on our own and other things. But we are still the target of subtle media messages that reduce us to objects, that allow members of our own society to treat us as less than human.
This makes us second class citizens. This means our voices are not heard when we are trying to defend our rights to our own bodies or those of our children and we are still not taken seriously in venues that are still dominated by men. Our bodies are airbrushed and cut into pieces, sexualized in segments so that our personhood has nothing to do with the pleasure our bodies can afford men.
And yet we participate in this ourselves. We covet the fashions and starve ourselves in an attempt to meet an impossible media standard. We buy beauty products and subject ourselves to plastic surgery. Our little girls start to starve themselves as early as six years old. We are nervous in parking lots after dark and worry about our friends who leave the party early; tell them to call us when they are home so that we know they are safe. We develop defences against rape because we know it’s going to happen to us, or someone we know.
We cannot escape this pervasive fear that our bodies are in danger. Even when we are alone with people we think we know we still feel we are in danger. If we say no, we’re not sure if the man we are with will believe we really mean no.
In many countries, governments are still claiming the right to make choices for our bodies, telling us that abortions are illegal and subject us to more psychological torture than we put ourselves through by coming to the decision in the first place by telling us how much pain the fetus will feel when it’s removed from our wombs. Meanwhile they still don’t seem to care much about all the kids who are born and live in abject poverty and/or neglect. Or about the psychological damage caused by knowing they were not wanted. On the flip side of that the assumption is made that a child’s welfare is always better in the hands of its mother when sometimes that actually isn’t the case. In others, governments go so far as to advocate female circumcision or other mutilation to avoid rape, or ensure that a bride is a virgin on her wedding night, reducing her value to what her body can afford her husband.
These are the reasons we should not settle for ‘good enough’. While women are still subjected to dehumanizing treatments in the media, including popular songs (I’m looking at you, Robin Thicke), TV shows, movies and even ‘reality TV’. The jokes people make and they way men talk over you as though your opinion doesn’t matter are parts of this terrible imbalance. If you don’t stand against it, you are quietly giving the situation power. Speak up.
Feminism isn’t about militant bra-burning, though there was some of that in our history. Our fore-mothers had to get the ball rolling somehow. It’s up to us to transform feminism into the movement for equality that it is, rather then the supposed army of man-haters it’s commonly seen as. We don’t hate men. In fact we love them – and see the feminist movement as a way to gain equal footing in all arenas. We want our girls to be able to walk into any workplace and know that they will be taken seriously for the intelligent and capable people they are. We want our girls to know that they will have the same opportunities as our boys, that they won’t get paid less just because they have boobs. We want our bodies to be our bodies, not the playthings of men or the property of the state. This does not seem like too much to ask, does it?
And before I get a bunch of people jumping on here and whining about how men get raped too, and how the patriarchy doesn’t benefit all men, etc – I think it’s important to point out that I was not blaming men for our current state of affairs, nor was I perpetuating the idea that all men are sex crazed lunatics. What I want out of this is for all of us to realize that the current state of affairs really does no one any favours. I speak from a female perspective, because I am female. But men are also subjected to unrealistic beauty standards and a ridiculous ideology of what being a ‘real man’ is. (Men shouldn’t talk about their feelings, or they should all love fast cars and malt whisky, or they should eschew the colour pink etc etc.) Those of the queer and trans communities get marginalized because they don’t fit into a standard gender dichotomy and are subjected to some pretty hateful stereotypes and situations. Feminism isn’t just for women, it’s for everyone, because its about equality.
So how do we do it?
Start with yourself. What kind of language do you use when you refer to members of the opposite sex? What kind of assumptions do you make about a person based in their gender or orientation? Where did those assumptions come from? Are they based on your own experiences? If not, why perpetuate them? Language is powerful. If we start speaking about others with respect and pointing out disrespectful language or views in others perhaps, in the very least, we can get others to question the status quo.
listening to: Fly By Night – The Glitch Mob
Reading: I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
Word Count: 995