Against Sexism

blog_against_sexism.jpgSexism is a woman making two-thirds the salary that a man earns for the same position. Sexism is a man getting time off to be with his family, but a single mother having to work continuous overtime to prove that she’s a team player, hoping to hell that the kids are all right. Or the troubling statistic that a woman is paid 30% less because she is too scared to ask for a pay raise.

Sexism is the fact that there aren’t nearly as many restrooms for women as there are for men. Sexism is any number of architectural sleights that don’t take into account a woman’s physiology.

Sexism is any government that would exert control over a woman’s uterus. Sexism is our society not providing for the realities of sexual intercourse, of letting a man walk away while a woman must scrape together hard-earned dollars to either raise or not have the kid. Sexism is a conservative family that will not support a pregnant teenager facing such a predicament.

Sexism is Frank Capra showing Donna Reed to be a freakish old maid in the Pottersville parallel universe. Or Sharon Stone getting $15 million for Basic Instinct 2 to take off her clothes and simulate sex and $2.5 million for Casino to deliver a performance. Or the fact that most film directors are male.

Sexism is a woman being unable to fuck whoever she wants and however she wants without being called a slut, while a man can be polymorphously perverse without reproach. Sexism is also the idea that an older woman can’t be sexy, while such dinosaurs as Jack Nicholson (and even Woody Allen) are given carte blanche. Sexism is the denied orgasm, or a woman going down on a man, but a man too lazy for cunnilingus. Sexism is a woman being considered unattractive for being at least ten pounds overweight, while a man’s prominent paunch goes unremarked upon. Sexism is a man being able to wear the same suit to two different social affairs, where a woman who wears the same dress or the same shoes is considered cheap or a tramp.

Sexism sometimes comes down to a gender chasm of maintenance. The billion-dollar makeup industry, the pressure to squeeze into a tight skirt, the unseen efforts to hide wrinkles or crow’s feet or sagging breasts.

We know all these things. Or we should know them. And yet all of the silent heartbreak that have resulted because of these mentalities could have been avoided with consideration or a few simple choices. If not through a piece of legislation like the Equal Rights Amendment, which has been in limbo now for over eighty years, then perhaps through a wholesale rejection of the consumerist and cultural forces that continue to tell women that they are second-class citizens. Those who would dismiss a women’s-centric film, even a skillfully made one, as a “chick flick” or a book “chick lit.” Those who would declare a particular talking point “too girly.” Those who would declare a reactionary like Caitlin Flanagan as the major female voice in one of our most distinguished weekly magazines or who would keep a major Sunday book review section almost the exclusive territory of white males.

It is now the 21st century. Women, in fact, outnumber male college graduates. And yet where is their presence? According to the American Association of University Professors, in 2003-2004, 38% of all faculity are women and women professors earn 80% of their male counterparts. There has never been a woman presiding over the White House, unless you count Geena Davis. Only 14 out of 100 U.S. Senators are women. Only 59 (a mere 11%) of 435 Representatives are women.

One doesn’t even have to be a feminist to pay attention to these things. And yet we allow these discrepancies to linger, hoping that some elusive force will figure this all out. But as long as we remain silent and as long as we look the other way hoping that the problem will rectify itself, we contribute to the horrible divide. We become sexists, men and women, in our own quiet and comfortable way. And isn’t that a pity. Because we can do so much better.


  1. this is absolutely wonderful. i wrote last night about the sexist nature of the new VW ad campaign and how it’s been bothering me, both as a woman and a consumer. it’s a real problem in our society, but there are too many people who just don’t seem to care. and that’s sad.

  2. May: That’s the problems with writing anything sincere that concerns ideologies or politics. Inevitably, someone comes along and think that it’s naive bullshit. I’m sorry I’m not smart enough to have any immediate solutions other than reminding the world about what the “cool people” already know. But certainly raising consciousness is better than doing nothing at all.

  3. You know I love you, Ed. That’s why I read your blog and comment on occasion.

    If I thought you were raising consciousness, I wouldn’t have tweaked you, but I have my doubts. My hunch about your readership and partially confirmed by the comments before me is that we’re well aware of the continuing existence of sexism. Like all women, I could tell some of my own tales.

    Invoking Capra is outdated and lazy, the Sharon Stone example is simply dumb (Stone is the person with the power in that particular case, which is why she can extort a salary far beyond her abilities for BI2) and the pay and status inequities are beyond old news.

    Yet, we “cool people” can read your post (like we go see Crash) and think about how superior we are for recognizing these ills and how far beyond it we are (even if society isn’t) and then we’ve done our good deed for the day and la de dah. If you’re going to raise consiciousness, you’ve got to post something that actually wakes people up, not something so tired.

    This post was beneath your usual acumen, sweetie, that’s all.

  4. Harvey Mansfield has written a book called Manliness. Just published by Yale University Press.

    “Annoying at times (often!), but never uninteresting, this book has much of importance to say.”-Arlene Saxonhouse, University of Michigan

    Might be worth reading!

  5. Thanks for the pick, Lynne. It’s always good to have contrarians here. Although I should note that manliness is not necessarily sexist.

  6. ed –

    how do you deal with mary’s condescension? do you find it as rude and obnoxious as i do? there’s nothing worse than a woman using “sweetie” at the end of a diatribe as a way to gain ‘power’. it never works.

  7. Honey Bunny: Can’t win ’em all. May’s entitled to her opinion. And besides I’m a pretty perverse fellow when it comes to obsolete terms of endearment. 🙂

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