Women should not be denied representation, sold into slavery or prevented from voting simply because of their gender. These are examples of issues involving basic human rights that most of us would not dream of challenging. There is a Universal Declaration of Human Rights to settle most of these fundamental questions.
This, of course, does not stop some countries from disavowing women of their rights. So there is an ongoing struggle undertaken by many honourable and effective advocates around the world, to bring these rights to the majority of the global population. They are unquestionably brave, they are undoubtedly correct and they will eventually be victorious.
All of the above can not be considered lightly or taken for granted. It is vital and ongoing work that needs to be done.
But where most women find themselves every day is in a totally different place altogether. We face a world of uncertainty, nebulous obstacles and hidden pitfalls when it comes to gender equality. Our daily struggles don’t necessarily have clear answers. They are more about questions than anything else.
Is this sexist?
Is it sexist when we are bombarded with advertising portraying us either cleaning the bathroom joyfully, preparing meals skilfully for our hungry husbands and children, or posing provocatively in unlikely situations while wearing virtually no clothes?
Should we object to an endless stream of “blonde” jokes, listen to popular musicians who want to “give you something big enough to tear your ass in two,” or turn a blind eye to the “bro code” that defiantly states, “bro’s before ho’s”?
Should we let it slide?
How do we handle the frequent references to our appearance (let me introduce you to the “lovely”…), the indirect questions about our marital status (what does your husband do?) and the assumptions about our abilities or intellect (we didn’t invite you to the meeting because it was too “technical”)?
It’s a never ending question. Should we speak up? Or let it slide?
The conundrum is that either way, we lose.
If we let it slide, this type of nonsense continues to permeate our lives. We will see our daughters feeling like their job is to do all of the housework, even though the majority of them are also holding down full-time jobs.
They will feel like a failure if they can’t whip up a succulent rack of lamb with stuffed courgettes and a chocolate souffle. They’ll question their femininity if they don’t want to strut around in impossibly high heels or wear a push-up bra. As this video points out, women are told they need to “sort themselves out.”
If we speak up about those “politically incorrect” jokes regarding women drivers, we have no “sense of humour.”
Our shock and dismay over popular musicians objectifying women and carelessly weaving violence into sex acts means we’re prudish and decidedly unsexy. And our lack of playful tolerance for the bro code is just further evidence that we are not “hip” and take things too seriously.
Are we asking for it?
You can see that for women, the choices are pretty limited. Is it any wonder that we’re a bit prickly about the subject?
It’s time to stop obsessing over our appearance. If we want your opinion on what we’re wearing today, we’ll ask for it. When we’re at work, please look at our faces and listen to what we’re saying instead of lingering on our hemline.
What more can we say?
For those of us who are single, stop assuming we want to date you. We actually are just being friendly and not flirting. Those married women are not all about having babies. A woman’s fertility is not casual conversation, it’s none of your business, by the way.
We know you’re busy building useless tit-staring apps and such, but do you really think the digital world is not headed for absolute gender neutrality if we can just get a foothold?
Is it for our own good?
Are automobiles really that difficult? Or is it simply that you are more comfortable with women draped over the hood of the car in a bikini and actively discourage women from entering the trades? You can take your pink Lego sets, dump them in those pink Port-A-Potties on your construction sites and get a real job – like working at a day care (for shitty pay and little appreciation).
Women’s exclusion from male sports is one of those classic cases where men tell themselves “it’s for their own good – they might get hurt.” You make us laugh. You just don’t want the competition because give us time and we’ll kick your asses.
If we want to play with the boys, we should be able to. Talk about paternalistic.
What to do about the cool guys?
The sad fact is that everyday sexism is rampant. It’s not just perpetrated by a band of Neanderthal good ol’ boys in pleated pants.
It’s insinuated in those hipster bars by guys in beards riding bicycles. Look at Emma Stone, the actress who recently did a double take when her boyfriend, Andrew (Spiderman) Garfield called sewing a “feminine” thing. This kind of bullshit happens all the time. And it’s often the cool guys who say these things. If you’re the gal who points it out–well, expect it won’t go over all that well.
Why are men not expected to bring potluck dishes?
Sexism is also alluded to in progressive circles by do-gooders sipping craft beer. This is why women have formed organizations like Equal Voice instead of creating advocacy along party lines. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking this is a problem with “the other side.” Women in politics know all too well that this is an issue that transcends party affiliations. It’s psychology, not philosophy.
There is no escaping it at work either, where the office is still a place where women are usually asked to take the meeting minutes by default, men are not expected to bring a dish for the potlucks and more serious misunderstandings about gender are impeding our corporations’ chances of success.
Why do we have to speak up?
No matter how uncomfortable this makes us feel though, we must persist. We can not afford to let it slide even though we cringe at that Facebook photo or tire of the subject on Tumblr blogs.
Think of our daughters and their dreams of not being branded with pink, considered weak or stupid, or written off according to their appearance. Speak up and ask the difficult questions. If we don’t ask the questions, we’ll never get to the answers. With Alberta’s two major centres ranking low on the list of best cities for women in Canada, it’s time to elevate the issue.
Be open to the discussion. Don’t try to shut it down. If you do, you are shutting women out.