Women’s rights is a topic that hits close to home for me, and should for all of us. While the Donald Trumps and Harvey Weinstein of the world love to tout how far we have come and deny gender inequality, sexism still exists in our world. In fact, it may be worse now than ever as it has become acceptable for noteworthy public figures and substantial voting blocs to turn a blind eye to equality issues of every kind.
I had a very unique upbringing for a male, as I essentially raised myself while doing my best to also raise my younger sister. Seeing her grow and taking a parental role in her life made me more conscious than ever of the inequalities faced by women in our world. It seems ridiculous, but it is not uncommon for girls to receive messages about how they need not worry about succeeding in education; implying that their looks should be plenty for them to attract a man that will provide them with all they need. The numbers do not lie, and clearly show the massive gap between men and women in supervisory and executive roles. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2016/09/27/lean-in-study-women-in-the-workplace/91157026/)
Having also worked in a women’s health unit of a hospital with a staff that was all females aside from myself, I gained another unique perspective on the difficulties faced by women in the workplace. Even the female unit directors and supervisors were looked at differently by their male counterparts and superiors. Good luck bringing a complaint against a male doctor, even with plenty of evidence to backup your story. It is no surprise to me that nobody spoke out against Harvey Weinstein, because anyone that speaks up against such predators is immediately ostracized and labeled as a false accuser driven by some sort of irrational emotion; and everyone else goes along with it for fear of losing their livelihood. Even professional women are often treated as a petulant child while their male counterparts or even inferiors are taken seriously.
Sexism: Alive and Well
If our president is not the biggest example of just how prevalent sexism is in our society, I do not know what is. It still leaves me unsettled that a man so openly abusive and degrading to women was even allowed to be in the primaries, let alone a national election. The deniers will come out in droves to say that Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump are just exceptions in a world that supports women, but a brief look at the number of people writing “me too” on social media would dictate otherwise. Furthermore every corporate office, hospital system, government institution, etc. has their share of sexists abusing their privileged position to force females into situations that a male would never encounter.
Naturally, these men and their sympathizers would never admit to this. In fact, they will blame the victim, and folks like Mayim Bialik (see her op-ed here) that blame the victim instead of addressing the true problem. I am happy to see some men like Terry Crews speaking out and addressing the issues head on. (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/10/11/women-speak-up-harvey-weinstein_a_23239859/) The reality is that society perpetrates so many double standards for women that it is hard to remember them all. I’ll wait while all the misogynists talk about how a woman showing cleavage or wearing anything other than puritanical ankle length skirts are “asking for it” and a slut if they get sexually assaulted or even deal with men verbally harassing them every day.
This same group of people high-five each other and laud the accomplishments of a serial womanizer’s that have slept with more women than their pea sized brains can count. What is even worse is that so many people will never understand why that mindset is poisonous. Even less will be outraged that it not only continues, but is encouraged by how our society treats men and women. Whether it is movies, television show, music, or any other pop culture; the message is all too often sent that women are objects.
How do we fight?
So, where do we go from here? How do we snuff out this darkness from our world? We have to go beyond talking points like wage equality and workforce participation. Sexism is ingrained in our mindset, which no metric can adequately measure. To make real change we need to change the messages sent to men and women throughout their life.
The most important thing we can do is change the messages we send to young girls and boys not only in the United Stated, but around the world. We need to encourage men and women to strive for their dreams in the same way. Sexual harassment needs to be taken seriously, and the perpetrators seriously punished. Our work and home environments should not tolerate even the slightest sexist joke. You can find plenty of real life examples here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/business/women-react-to-sexism-in-the-workplace.html
Children are astoundingly perspective, and seeing husbands disrespect their wives is where these problems start. No woman should be disrespected period, and especially not at home. I work with people every day, and nothing is more insulting than when a man tries to make the woman he is with feel ridiculous by looking at me and saying things like “You know how women are.” Depending on my mood and the statement I may ignore such comments or merely say “I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean by that.” This often leaves them befuddled as they expect that every man wants to band together with them to feed their insecurities. It is because we let these little things go or play along with them that chauvinism has been allowed to thrive for so long.
I challenge everyone reading this to share their stories and speak out against these unacceptable attitudes that are so prevalent in our society. This issue goes beyond men and women. It is about people, and we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.