People have been doing a lot of talking about sexism in light of elections coming up where people have said this or that candidate is sexist or that a comment someone made was sexist. So, when I ask people what they mean by sexist, for the most part they define it as “the patriarchy stereotyping women and holding them back.” Fine – patriarchy, at some points, holds people back. I get it.
But something new is happening. I feel, as hard as the genders have fought to gain equality, sometimes we’re our own worst enemy. We fight so hard against discrimination by The Man – and yet, we put each other down.
Girls say things about other girls that would be unacceptable for a guy to say about a girl. Girls criticize each other on things that a lot of guys don’t even notice – hair, weight, clothes, sexual practices and groups they belong to. How can one rant about men objectifying women when one may have done that very same thing within the past week?
At a Women’s Caucus meeting a few weeks ago, everyone randomly picked a stereotype out of a hat. For the extent of the exercise, each person was supposed to act like her stereotype. Some stereotypes that were included were “you are a slut,” “you are a militant feminist,” “you are a sorority girl” and “you are a player” (that was the stereotype I picked).
While everyone got a good laugh out of this, we realized later that maybe it was not so funny. The truth of the matter is that the stereotypes do come from somewhere – we do not just make them up ourselves. And we can blame the media all we want, but I feel we all help reinforce these stereotypes. How can we correct people who say that girls are catty if we just helped them think so by saying the girl sitting with that cute boy is ugly?
Who knows? Maybe it’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy. For instance, I am a girl and I’m not expected to lift the heaviest things, so I don’t try to. Am I then reinforcing the stereotype that girls are not strong? Maybe I could carry the box and maybe I could not.
So, maybe that girl you labeled as mean is actually quite nice, but since you decided she was mean, she then treated you as such. This could work for all the stereotypes. (Although if someone asks if it hurt when you fell from heaven as “Jamie the Player” did in the exercise, he might be a player. Although, I implore you not to judge him as such from that line – instead, perhaps just giggle at him.)
It would be very easy for me to say that no one should judge anyone and to instead draw an opinion about them due to their character. It would also be even easier to write everyone off as being more than my first impression of them. Maybe both are equally improbable. But, I really feel that for anyone to make any progress in ending sexism, perhaps we could just be kinder to each other.
I’m beginning to feel that sexism is no longer a fear of the “other,” so much as a fear of ourselves. Why are some girls so threatened by other girls that they have to resort to name calling and degradation? What is it about her that scares you so much? Despite age, looks, social crowd, hometown and political views, I doubt she’s that different from you. So maybe you could try to like her first.
Compared to some women in other nations, American women have it pretty good. We have the right to vote, have a lot of luxuries and do not live in constant danger of being the victim of a crime. Yet we accuse these countries and their leaders, our leaders and other men of being sexist, all the while reinforcing their stereotypes.
Let us, before degrading men into chauvinists, take a look at our own chauvinistic behavior. Let us just stop hating each other and end the sexism coming from and going toward one’s own sex.
Frank is a member of the Class of 2009.