Sexism is a f**king problem. Think of this situation as having a giant pink elephant standing in the middle of the room. Everyone notices its presence, and how ridiculous it looks just rooted there, furiously trumpeting its long pink trunk and stomping its salmon feet.
Yet the world merely tiptoes around the pink elephant without bother, putting up with this absurdity because they either fear the ridicule in being the sole lunatic who pointed the elephant out, or the crippling dread of being alone (think herd mentality).
It’s one of those situations where your mother doesn’t – and simply can’t – prepare you for in life. I mean, how would you prepare your 10-year old daughter for the overwhelming tsunami of unwelcome sexual references, and uncalled for remarks on her dressing/makeup/gait/hairstyle/speech/lunch preferences etc.?
“Yes, honey. one thing you have to remember is this: Men – some old enough to be your father – will eventually at some point of time in your life make lewd references to your body, compare you to a breeding hamster, tell you that all you need to do to impress your superiors is to prance around in a decievingly short skirt.”
Feasible? I think not.
Oh, and all this actually happened, by the way.
I’ve talked to men who always had something sexist to say to me, despite having daughters/sons whose ages were closer to mine.
Here are some of the most sexist, and frankly, revolting things that I’ve been treated to:
- “WOW you look different today! Somebody obviously took the time to do up their hair and makeup today. Are you meeting someone special tonight? Which guy is it this time?”
- “What size is your waist? Well, I’m sure that won’t last because you seem like the type of woman who would just expand and balloon up after giving birth. I can assure you, you’ll be so fat after having children.”
- “How old are you? When are you getting married? You probably aren’t married because your boyfriend is ugly, and you intend on leaving him, am I right? I just knew a pretty girl like you had higher standards.”
- “Did you buy new clothes over the weekend? You finally look office-appropriate, compared to all the weird outfits you’re always wearing to the office.”
- “Why do you squat so much? Girls who lift to many weights are not attractive, you know. Guys don’t like muscular girls, they prefer petite girls who are more 小型 (small-sized). Your ass is getting too big for your frame, you should reconsider gymming so much.”
- “Are you having a tough day? Aww, don’t worry your little head about closing those targets by the end of the year. You should be comforted that you don’t need to work as hard as the rest of the men in the office! All you have to do is put on a short skirt around your boss, and you’d get away with it. Just relax, take your day slow!”
- Addressing me as “dear”, “honey”, or “babe”. Reserve the sweet talk for your wife, you schmuck.
- Undressing me with your eyes (this is one many women have faced).
- “Honestly? You strike me as a pretty doll. You are only good at looking good, and useless at pretty much everything else.”
Never mind that I’ve got a Degree, and soon to be Masters, in Communication and Linguistics, and can probably out-write, out-argue and soon out-earn most of these men, but please, I welcome all inane comments and discussions about my outward appearance, trivialities about my wedding date, and brainless banter about the shade of lipstick I’ve on.
And it isn’t even just sexism in the form of the male gaze, or the surreptitious and non-stop flirting/inappropriate comments. I’ve even had men who refused to maintain visual contact despite speaking to me, fixing their eyes on my neck or right above my breasts. Some even showed up an hour late for scheduled appointments, citing their reasons for lateness as ‘Men matters that needed to be taken care of, nothing I should worry myself about’, without so much as an apology. Oh and a frequent recurrence: Referring to me as ‘her’ or ‘she’ in conversations which I’m still partaking in.
My name is TISH. ONE SYLLABLE. SIMPLE.
Calling them out may come across as a potential means to an end, but what’s the use? I know, I know, your mouths are made for speaking up for yourselves. But by doing so, you not only sink to their level by wittingly engaging them in their nonsense, but also open up the possibility of insinuating a tense, awkward, and possibly repercussive feud. Pick your battles, and as sexism is so characteristically ‘hidden’ and ‘secretive’, it’ll always be a ‘he-said-she-said’ war, one that every women has to ponder over carefully before waging. Lest shit like this happens.
It’s a sad fact: Sexism is repugnantly commonplace, all you have to do is a quick Google – I’m telling the truth.
A huge hallelujah to the fact that not all men have followed in the path of brainless sexism, though. There are some whom I’ve met who are respectful, hilarious, and downright witty. Their idea of conversation involves comical tales of their weight loss debaucles, heated debates on the Who’s Who of Apple Fanboy behaviour, and why Chewbacca should have his own spinoff movie. Of course, a special shoutout to Aaron, who’s idea of conversation involves nodding wisely and inserting a couple of wisecrack comments whilst listening to me rant about life and its dumbassery.
I guess it’s like Forrest Gump said, no? Life’s a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Ah well, Forrest, there’s no running from this; not this time. Sexism isn’t a phenomenon, simply because there should never be any ’cause or explanation’ for such behaviour.
Unsurprisingly, the real victims of these acts of sexism isn’t myself, nor the partaking sexists. Rather, my sympathy extends to their immediate next-of-kin; their sons, who are taught from an early age that it’s alright to speak and treat to women the way their fathers have so despicably demonstrated; their daughters, soon to be fully-grown and ready to enter into a world filled with men like their fathers; and their wives – be it knowingly or unknowingly – who are compelled to put up with their husbands’ straying eyes and disgusting behaviour towards other women, some of whom are decades their junior.
It’s no mystery that something needs to be done about this. Sure, you probably won’t get in serious trouble for demonstrating any form of sexism, but the bottom line is this: Sexism is a real problem, inherently real, and yet most of the people around you can’t even be bothered to lift a finger to help. Instead, they blame the women for not dressing decently, transacting being “overly friendly” into “asking for it”, and/or claiming that it was “all a joke”.
Sexism isn’t a ‘joke’, neither is it an ‘innocent’ stereotype. Therefore, kindly refrain from using it as your default response to deflect a woman’s incredulity or displeasure at your shitty comments. Women are not overreacting, we are insulted. Referring to any body part of ours is not an observation, it’s not a compliment, it’s harassment. Being able to procreate is not your birthright, and it certainly doesn’t give you the right to comment on a woman’s breeding schedule.
How a woman dresses is never done for your benefit, how a woman behaves is not to command your attention, how a woman does her makeup and hair in the morning is none of your damn business. Women exist for themselves – not as your conversational starter, not your creepy flirtation target practice, not your walking-talking-breathing objects of desire.
P.S. If truly in doubt about conversational topics after ditching the sexist ones, I have taken the liberty of coming up with a list of possible starting points here.