Alright so I alluded to this in another post, but the other day I came across a weblog that was clearly intended to be somewhat inflammatory, and I’m still angry a few days after reading it.
Amongst my friends, it’s kind of a joke that I have “raving feminist bitch” moments, because my peers and I grew up in a post-feministic society, and therefore most people think sexism is a thing of the past. I think that it is true that the majority of women probably do not deal with sexism on a regular basis, for a multitude of reasons, but sexism is still very much an issue in our society.
On an objective level, if someone doubts this claim, I implore them to consider two things–one: that women STILL don’t generally make as much money as men (an issue unto itself) and two: the treatment of the female candidates this political season vs. the male candidates. Now, I do think that anyone running against Obama was up against tough odds in the media because of his meteoric and previously-unheard-of rise to popularity, but even so, I feel that Hillary’s actions and comments were much more scrutinized than those of the male candidates. Being a feminist and all, I was happy to see Sarah Palin nominated for VP–unfortunately, she was not qualified for this position and therefore made an ass of herself on multiple occasions. However, Joe Biden is notorious for making an ass of himself due to his loquacious manner, and throughout the campaign he made several statements that not only made me question his understanding of his platform, but also his intelligence. Joe Biden’s comments did not get even a FRACTION of the media attention that Sarah Palin’s comments got. I’m not necessarily saying this is an instance of institutionalized sexism, but I was genuinely struck by the contrast in the media’s treatment of the Vice Presidential candidates’ respective gaffes…when it was Biden, there was a tone of “Oh, old Joe, he’s so hilarious with his little mistakes” (if it was even covered) and when it was Sarah Palin there was a distinctive tone of ridicule. I’m just saying.
On a subjective level, even many of my female friends question the presence of sexism in our society. It is my theory that they have not experienced it personally, because many of them have not yet had professional careers–nor have I, but I have been a part of a very high level academic environment, and I definitely encountered sexism there.
One of my classmates in college believed that I was exaggerating the issue of sexism, but upon thinking about it, I realised that her personality and characteristics probably made her less prone to discrimination–that is, she is no way a “girly girl”–doesn’t wear makeup, doesn’t dress as most females do, and has many masculine characteristics in terms of personality (that is, she is rather aggressive, unemotional, etc.) I, however, am a very “girly” person…I am, after all, a female. My issue in terms of gender equality is actually somewhat well-characterized by the contrast between Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. Hillary, in my opinion, toned down the femininity in her persona (and appearance), whereas Palin dressed in a more feminine manner and was generally more open about the aspects of life that are particular to women. Now, I cannot speculate that Hillary did this consciously to help herself politically, but I don’t think anyone can argue that Hillary comes across as someone far more like the average male than the average female. It deeply bothers me that in many cases women need to act like men in order to be taken seriously…this shows just how much sexism is really still an issue because we are forcing women to suppress their natural femininity in favour of what makes us, as a society, feel more comfortable (that is, a correlation between masculine tendencies and power/success/strength/etc.)
My point is that in our society, women are scrutinized much more closely than men–particularly women in positions of authority and power. I doubt any man has ever had to consciously alter his natural personality to succeed in a professional environment and I feel that I honestly have to work far harder to be taken seriously than any of my male colleagues. When a man tells a joke, there are no undertones and if anything it improves one’s opinion of him; however, if a female acts in the same casual manner, it can be seen in several negative lights, from the idea that she is being flirtatious to the notion that she’s underqualified. I even recall reading a study that compared a photograph of a woman with and without makeup, and she was consistently judged as more competent without makeup. Last time I checked, it was my right as a female to wear makeup if I want to–yet, again, the knowledge that this could be detrimental to peoples’ perceptions of me makes me question this choice.
Sexism is clearly still an issue in our society and the fact that people are apathetic toward it–or worse, make a “joke” out of it, really angers me.
I’m not sure this post made any sense because this issue is something I am crazy passionate about and that tends to cause me to become rather inarticulate…but the point is, sexism is not a JOKE and espousing misogynistic ideas and then claiming “it’s all in fun” is NOT OKAY, it is a very serious issue that is still far too present in the United States.