That little freakin’ devil I’m talking about is everyday sexism, obviously. However, today I would like to talk about acceptance of everyday sexism. We as a society are slowly starting to be sensitive to open and hostile examples of sexism – domestic violence, hateful comments, etc. but we are still either ignorant or passive towards these small displays of sexism that seems like nothing. But they are something. Something actually quite big. And very serious.
Because even the smallest example of sexism, such as jokes or remarks indicates that there is prevalent tendency for treating women with contempt and at the same time undermining their circumstances, successes, achievements, themselves.
The worst thing is that we’ve learned to ignore the exhibits of sexism so not to be perceived as uptight or, even worse, feminist! Especially women are quietly putting up with all the jokes, pinches and insults delivered by men in a “non-serious” fashion, because we are conditioned that women and their issues are perfect subjects to joke about.
So we are told to lighten-up when we hear a joke about rape (because obviously it’s the best subject to joke about) or domestic violence (“taming your woman”) or vaginas (because something that gives a men so much pleasure and holds so much power needs to be laughted at) or lack of professionalism (“If you were a man it would be done better”) and being overly emotional in a conversation (“Control your hormones”). Jokes are a part of everyday interaction, so we should just accept them and come to terms with this sad reality.
Sometime ago I went with my boyfriend to hang out with his friends. At one time it became apparent that there was a feminist in a room (Oh my God, it’s me!) and sexist. I bore some of the remarks (even though those wasn’t really sophisticated), but I cracked up in one point. The abovementioned sexist ask my boyfriend a question:
“What would you prefer: to be with very sexy woman who cheats on you or with a normal good girl who is faithful to you?”
My boyfriend at first had no idea what’s the deal, so he said that basically he is with the sexiest and bestest woman ever who is faithful to him, so it’s no brainer (Awwwwww, he’s a sweetheart!). But the sexist pressured him to give an answer, so my bf replied that of course he would prefer to be with a girl who is faithful to him.
Than the friend asked again: “Well, but would you prefer to eat cake with friends or eat shit alone?”
I was shocked. For me it was like a slap in the face. With a chair. How could ANYBODY feel entitled to compare another human being to shit? How full of yourself (or shit) you have to be to even allow yourself to make this kind of comparison of another people? And feeling that you are in a position to make distinctions between “pretty” and “shitty” woman and subsequently have a real power over validation which women belong to which category.
I’m embarrassed to say as a result of shock I said few stupid misandrist jokes (I hate those, but I really wanted to make him shut up in a most belittling way possible). I achieved my goal (he shut up), but I still feel bad for saying insults towards men (it’s really not my style).
But that’s not all. The situation got even more shocking when, after all of this, I got to talk with other women in the room. They told me to not care about him and his jokes, because it’s just the way he is. Their solution is to just ignore his jokes and then everybody will be happy (because we don’t want to create a tense situation, because somebody might get offended).
|If you don't want to listen|
to me, then listen to
Why people are so reluctant to object when another person displays sexist and misogynistic attitudes? Why is hardly anybody ever standing up to this kind of jokes and let others know that it’s not funny? Why we keep accepting sexist jokes, even though these are hurtful, offensive, prejudiced and most of the time absolutely unfunny?
I’ve been in various social situations when some controversial jokes where said and somebody stood up to a joker. Those included racist jokes (Man, it’s racist, it’s not funny), jokes about dead foetuses (that’s disgusting, I don’t find this funny), jokes about handicapped people or with some illness (Sick people are no laughing matter, not cool, dude). etc. But I’ve never been a witness to man standing up to sexist jokes. As if those existed in some kind of realm of immunity – a person can be openly sexist in jokes and nobody says anything in fear of…
Yeah, of what? Being called uptight? A bore? Oh wait… a feminist? What’s so terrible about that?
I had this rule about the jokes that if they are about a group of people (men, women, blacks, Chinese, Mexicans, etc.), I find them funny only if you can substitute a certain group with any other (usually the main privileged one) and the jokes will still be funny.
Of course, there are some jokes where the main character cannot be exchange into anything else (jokes about talking parrot), but those are usually not insulting to the main subject of the joke. But that’s beside the point.
Let’s take the abovementioned joke and apply my rule (and let’s make it even more stereotypically womanish).
Vespertilio: Inanna, what would you prefer: to be with this sexy and super rich guy who cheats on you or with a normal, quite poor, but good man who is faithful to you?
Inanna: Well, Vespertilio, I would most certainly prefer to be with a faithful guy.
Vespertilio: Seriously? Well, but do you think is better to share caviar with friends in a posh restaurant or to eat shit alone in a shack?
(To be honest, I feel ashamed to even write this to prove a point).
|Ashamed lion to show you how ashamed I feel.|
What are your feelings towards this joke now? Is it offensive? Too aggressive? Too man-hating? Does it treat men as objects?
Now the big question: How many men do you know that would feel offended by this joke?
And if you were a part of audience, would you say something to a woman who said this joke?
I know I would, but I did remark the first joke as well. How about you?
Let’s get back for a second to the deliverer of a joke. The sexist. I just don’t get it. Where does this masculine sense of entitlement come from? How can any man feel to hold the right to debase ANY woman?
In this case we have to spectrums: me, who never comments on somebody appearance, because I’m not a beauty and besides I feel that everybody is beautiful in way; and him, a man who feels that he has a right to judge.
|If you want to have a woman that looks like|
Victoria Secret model, you should look like
one of Calvin Klein models.
But after that joke, I looked at him and I saw him with critical eye and the situation just got hilarious and ridiculous at the same time. There he was, this almost middle-aged man, fat, bold, with questionable hygiene and not really pleasant appearance, who has been alone for a long time, unable to pick up a girl (I know it from his various stories), afraid of rejection, who has nothing special to offer to a woman (he was neither sexy, handsome, smart, witty nor well-spoken), and yet he felt that he has a choice of women and he can choose a porn star over a normal, but in his eyes “shitty” woman.
Well that’s just bullshit.
I remember once my friend said that equality between women and men will be achieved when this fat, sweaty, bolding, unattractive woman will be walking down the street and she will be convinced that every men on the street wants to have sex with her. Well, there is nothing wrong with high self-esteem, but when this self-esteem translates into certainty of privilege to somebody’s attention, body and integrity, then we are a witnesses of everyday sexism.
Everyday sexism is a phenomenon which disproportionally befall the women. Staring, catcalling, grabbing, harassing, stalking in public places and belittling, degrading and humiliating in workplace, schools, social gatherings. Just from the top of my head I can describe many situations where I’ve been grabbed, harassed, slapped in the ass. I’ve been a victim of frotters, voyeurs, stalkers and flashing. Countless of times I’ve heard that I’m less intelligent, vain, emotional and irrational – all judgements based on the fact that I’m a woman. And since I’m declared feminist, nobody values my opinion, because it’s perceived as distorted, irrational and overly aggressive (even though I didn’t have a possibility to speak my mind, not to mention raise my voice).
And above all of that I was put into the category “women like shit” by some insolent and half-wit sexist, who believed that he’s male privilege allows him to comment on women in any way he pleases, because it’s his "birth right".
Everyday sexist is serious not because of the level of harassment it implies, but mainly because it’s scope and prevalence. Every woman has plenty stories to tell. But the worst thing about everyday sexism is that it widely unrecognised, ignored and depreciated issue that all of the women of all ages are facing.
Written by Vespertilio