Men, Sexism and Denial

“Sexism is a big problem in this country…” started a woman.

“NOT ALL OF US ARE SEXIST!” Interrupted the men in a booming chorus.

“Yes, but we need to talk about…”

“But we’re not sexist. We think you’re equal. See? Not sexist. I agree you should get all that stuff you’re asking for.” And thus the men patted themselves on the back for not being sexists and avoided the conversation entirely. After all, it should have been had with all those crazy sexist men out there, not them. Certainly not them.

***

I have something to say. I’m sexist. Before you act all surprised, if you’re a man, so are you. In case the message was lost in that phrasing what I’m saying is that ALL MEN ARE SEXIST.

Before you skewer me in the comments, consider this, sexism isn’t always obvious. You don’t have to slap your wife around or throw insults at women. You don’t have to outright view women as lesser or even be against equality. All you have to do is live in a sexist society and pick up sexist attitudes without even considering what they are.

Consider two stories. One, the president has an affair. Two, the first lady has an affair. Which do you think will be the bigger scandal? You know which one it is. You know where the moral outcry will be loudest even if they’re both the same thing. You were brought up in that society and whether you like it or not you picked up some traits from it that determine how you treat women.

Most men have given some form of preferential treatment to a pretty girl as if looks were an indicator of how well someone should be treated.

Most men have said something to the tune of “you know how women are.” As if half the people in this county (or in the world) could fit into such a narrow behavioural pattern.

Most men have reduced a woman’s interests down to how they relate to men (“She likes football/top gear/ video games. She’s wife material.”) As if everything you find good or interesting about her is really just a criteria for whether or not she can be married.

All men have done and do things like this not out of malice or some intentional bigoted agenda but because the significance of these acts never even occurred to them. This is what I mean when I say you’re sexist. Perhaps you’re not A sexist. I acknowledge that difference. You don’t go out of your way to do it. Nevertheless the underlying tendencies are there and the fact that you hardly notice it is why this conversation is so important. Until you start listening you might never see how you’re mucking things up and you can never do better. Not hitting, insulting or openly looking down upon women is not an accomplishment. You don’t get a cookie and a free ride to skip this class.

Inevitably someone will point out that women are entirely capable of doing some of the things mentioned and of being sexist at large. That’s true. Here’s the difference. As a man you have certain privileges that women do not have. You do not have to feel any fear when walking down the street simply because you’re a man. When you’re assaulted you know what you’re wearing cannot be used to dismiss your claims. You’re not likely to be paid less because of your gender. Being a man means you’ve probably never had to worry that you’ll be forced to have sex to be able to do your job.

When it comes to sexism and men, in well over 90 percent of cases, you can simply walk away and be done with it. Women cannot walk away. They have to live with it. They lack that choice that you have. And when the problem is so systematic, of course it’s going to get priority. It affects half the country’s population directly. Any way you look at it that’s a national crisis. That’s why you (should) hear about it all the time.

Now, if my point still sits wrong with you here’s an analogy to help you along. You’re like a tourist on his first visit to an African country. Everything he knows about “Africa” is based on books and shows and hearsay that have a skewed slant to say the least. As a result he keeps offending people. For some reason the “you don’t live in trees!?” and the “I was expecting wild animals everywhere” don’t sit right with people.

The tourist isn’t a bad person. He’s not trying to offend. But what he knows is inaccurate and inadequate and it comes across. Many of us can find it within ourselves to have patience with him. It’s not entirely his fault. If he’s striving to actually learn something then we can even let his slips go by. But if he responds to every correction or confrontation with defensiveness, you’re less likely to be understanding. “It’s what I know!” Is not a particularly good defence if you’re not trying to know more. Nor is “I respect Africans as equals.”

So, in summary, just because you’re not a sexist doesn’t mean you’re not sexist. Those “you’re letting a girl beat you in school” speeches and their ilk among other things probably influenced your world view when you didn’t know any better. Your problem, and my problem, is largely ignorance. We can know more and we can do better. Don’t cling to your ignorance. Don’t defend it. Accept it, catch it, correct it and with hope, we can pass a lot less of it to the coming generations.

Rigathi

Writer, artist, blogger, developer.
Will This Be A Problem co-founder.

  • Randalf Ethereal

    See, this is exactly what Tyler Durden was talking about.

    My question to you, and all these people participating in gender shout-downs is; Why should we fight symptoms when we could be fighting the disease itself? Why do we even care to notice gender in the first place (outside of relationships..for those who that way tend)? What is sexism in the face of the I? Tribe, Sex, Height, et cetera ad infinitum are all symptoms of an inflated ego.

    Once, someone asked Jesus; “How are you able to walk on water?”
    Jesus replied, “With certainty.”
    Then someone said, “But we also have certainty!”
    Jesus then asked them, “Are stone, clay and gold equal in your eyes?”
    They replied, “Certainly not!”
    Jesus responded, “They are in mine.”

    If my words convey an ideal that seems too lofty for those that read this, then certainly the author’s words seem the same to them as well.

    • So what you’re saying is that telling everyone to ignore gender from now on is on the same plane of idealism as “listen, check yourself and fight your internalized biases”?

      • Randalf Ethereal

        Indeed, and exactly. Internal being the operative idea here. The intended scope is undoubtedly grander than gender bias and the method isn’t suppression of social thinking rather breaking the ‘I’ as a rider breaks a mare, and annihilating the self completely.
        There is no spoon.
        And here I exit, because Pearls and Swine…

    • Gender is not a disease. Men and women are different. The argument of “I don’t see gender” is ignoring the entire problem and is not helpful at all. Do you not see the difference between men and women, because unless you are blind, the differences are pretty obvious. By refusing to see gender you ignore the women who are actually still suffering from sexism. To deny seeing gender is an attempt to excuse oneself of the responsibility to examine any complicity in these systemic discriminations. But society trains us all to be complicit in these discriminatory systems, hence why they are called systemic discriminations. There is no “they” in society who wield power and cast its ills upon the disenfranchised; “they” is us. We make society what it is, through our collective actions.

    • AND through the argument of not seeing gender hinders progress, as it asserts that no progress need be made any more.

  • This is a great article! It’s hard to point out sexism in society without being labelled as a radical feminist, when in fact we women are mostly guilty of perpetuating such propaganda. Statements like “Pink is for girls, blue is for boys” inculcate gender stereotypes from an early age. I agree wholeheartedly with your viewpoint that most sexist profiling is not by raging alcoholic wife-beaters, but by society at large. Only when we educate society as a whole and stop with the subconscious stereotyping will we be able to bring down the patriarchy and establish true gender equality

  • Bonnie Mwema

    Both genders are never the same. The make up in terms of attitudes, expectations ability to stand some challenges are like the sky and the ground. In as much as the society has created the view that one gender is lesser than the other, there are natural laws that are constantly playing; how many ladies will genuinely and comfortably ask their hubbies to perform house chores, feed the baby as they themselves go fending for the family?
    Let the engine be the engine and the wheels the wheels and the car will always be in motion.

  • I have liked this! Thanks. Yes sexism happens so often that it is seen as being normal. The messages we get growing up have made it seem like the norm and on questioning one is seen to be making a mountain out of a mole hill. We just got to question and it is in subtle and big ways.

  • Aw, this was an incredibly good post. Spending some time and actual
    effort to generate a really good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and never
    manage to get nearly anything done.

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  • John McDonald

    This article reeks of sexism, bias and tribalism. The “examples” illustrated are rife with bias and bare no resemblance to reality. For example, the author invites the reader to consider the following hypothetical: “One, the president has an affair. Two, the first lady has an affair. Which do you think will be the bigger scandal?” – in fact, we don’t have to imagine. President Bill Clinton was raked over the coals and impeached because of his affair. He was pilloried in the press, vilified and mocked in popular media, and repeatedly publicly humiliated. He was even sued. Hillary Clinton (who apparently also had an affair) was sanctified and her reputation remains unmarred. Indeed, talking about Hillary Clinton’s extra marital affairs is a taboo topic which is hardly ever discussed in the media. There is significant gender bias in our society – and at least 50% of that bias is negatively directed against men.

  • John McDonald

    “consider this, sexism isn’t always obvious.” Indeed, the author has clearly failed to observe the author’s own sexist attitudes about men. Example:

    “Most men have reduced a woman’s interests down…..”
    “Most men have said something to the tune of ….”
    “Most men have given some form of preferential treatment to a…”

    So many gross and bigoted assumptions about “most men” without siting so much as a single scrap of evidence for any of it. Are these facts, or are they sexist opinions, and how do these “facts” differ from similar “facts” relating to black, Chinese or Hispanic people? Indeed, how are they different from similar “facts” about women (most women don’t dedicated themselves to their jobs…most women get men to do all the hard work…most women lie about wanting sex…most women aren’t as hard working as men…). These are not “facts” – they are bigoted opinions.

    And my personal favorite: “When it comes to sexism and men, in well over 90 percent of cases, you can simply walk away and be done with it.” Please tell that to all the men rotting in prison that they can just “walk away” from the sexism that gave them a longer jail sentence for being men. Tell that to the millions of men who are forced in military service that they can just simply walk away from it. Tell that to the millions of men who are forced to endure injury and death for doing “men’s work”. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of homeless men that they can just “walk away” from poverty. Again, where is the verifiable evidence that “in 90% of cases men can just walk away”, because this “fact” flies in the face of the lived experience of many men, myself included. Again, this is not a fact – it is just a sexist and bigoted assumption about men.

    Perhaps if the author would stop objectifying men as violent “oppressors” and instead viewed them as HUMAN BEINGS, the author’s own jaundiced bigotry would be self apparent.

  • Roosh

    Great article and I agree. The denial of sexism against women is an effective tool also for men to ignore it. They say it doesn’t exist because they have been conditioned to see the world from the male gaze. The truth is that many people are coming out of that fog where the entire world revolves around men. Even feminism has to affect men too in order to be legitimate even though men are the center of the world ( it is a man’s world.) Some men base women’s power on mens need for sex from them, but the only thing having a vagina does for most women is make them an object to be collected, ogled or traded in.