Tag Archives: gender

10 Everyday Sexisms and What Do You Do About Them

 
Posted: 07/31/2014 4:44 pm EDT Updated: 4 minutes ago
CONFIDENT WOMAN

This post is updated from an earlier version that appeared on Role Reboot.

Research shows that most people don’t see sexism even when it’s right in front of their noses.

“Women endorse sexist beliefs, at least in part, because they do not attend to subtle, aggregate forms of sexism in their personal lives,” wrote Julia C. Becker and Janet K. Swim, the authors of this study about the invisibility of sexism. “Many men not only lack attention to such incidents but also are less likely to perceive sexist incidents as being discriminatory and potentially harmful for women.”

How do you think about and respond to these 10 examples?

1. Religious sexism and discrimination. Do you really believe women are incapable of religous authority? This ritualized silencing of women is practiced by practically all major religions which, with minor exceptions, bar girls and women from ministerial leadership. That means access to the divine is mediated exclusively by men and their speech. This is legally unchallenged discrimination and its effects go way beyond places and practices of worship. From the moment a girl realizes that she is not invited to participate in clerical rituals because she is a girl, she learns that her voice is powerless and not respected. So do the boys around her. But, hey, at least we pay to undermine the public good through tax credits and subsidies. What if you objected? And stopped supporting this discrimination?

2. Double standards — lots of them. We live with an infinite number of hierarchy-building double standards based solely on gender, which restrict women’s freedom and impair our ability to lead secure, rewarding, autonomous lives. 50 of these are explored in Jessica Valenti’s book, He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut. They range from expecting girls to exhibit more self-control and politeness to grossly different treatment of men and women when they age and when they use their bodies to express themselves, to distorted ideas about boys and girls “natural” capabilities.

3.  Chivalry, otherwise know as benevolent sexism, is part of our “manners.” A man who opens a door for you and doesn’t mind if you do the same for him is one thing. But, one who categorically refuses your offer speaks to a much bigger problem. Benevolent sexism, the kind that is passed off as “protective” and “gentlemanly,” is a core characteristic of how masculinity (and by binary contrast, femininity) are constructed in conservative cultures. Studies have shown that themore entitled people are, the more likely they are to hold sexist beliefs — which says an awful lot about #WomenAgainstFeminism. It’s defined as “the negative consequences of attitudes that idealize women as pure, moral, pedestal-worthy objects of men’s adoration, protection, and provision.” A lot of this starts in childhood and comes under the mantle of teaching girls and boys to be “ladies” and “gentleman” instead of just civil and kind human beings who care for one another equally. In other words, what many people think of as chivalry, gentlemanly and “real man” behavior. The negative effects on women are well documented, particularly in the workplace.

There is a well-documented correlation between benevolent sexism and women’s acceptance of biased gender roles. Take the ways in which denial of the wage gap is expressed. For example, Phyllis Schlafly recently announced that closing the pay gap (she admitted it was real) would result in women being unable to find husbands. Ideas like this are deeply related to systemic support for an ideal worker who is male and a single breadwinner. That idea is a recurring theme of conservative policies about work and gender.

Our not seeing sexism where it is evident enables people with power to speculate out loud that “money is more important for men” and not lose their jobs for incompetence. I want you to imagine a political today saying money is more important for Jewish people. Or Black people. Or tall people. The pay gap amounts to $431,000 over a lifetime. Men make less than women in only seven of 534 job types, so, of course, Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander recently demanded to know what gender gap legislation would do to help them. Benevolent sexists are definitively hostile to women’s workplace success. If we don’t challenge this very quiet form of sexism then we make sure it pays, but only a very small portion of the population. How much is chivalry worth to you? Because you can, after all, open doors on your own. Giving yourself a raise however, is impossible.

4. The high costs of “staying safe.” Every day women absorb, and are expected to pay, the costs of the safety gap. This gap costs us time and money and limits our movement. It can limit our employment opportunities, because some jobs can become very dangerous in an instant if you are a woman. Just ask reporterstruck driversmigrant workersactivists.

Ask yourselves, men, do you feel safe on your neighborhood streets? Do you choose where and when you shop or commute carefully? Do you have parking strategies, like not parking near vans? Do you use your keys as a weapon or take other similar measures? Do you avoid paying for a gym because you can exercise outside with no problems? We teach our children that these things are “normal” and to be expected. Talk about the costs to you with the people around you.

5.  Sexism in media is entertaining. “Family-friendly” media marginalizes and objectifies girls and women, creates damaging ideals of masculinity for boys, and sustains mythologies that support a violent, male-dominated status quo. Not only do we live with this media, but most people, genuinely otherwise concerned with their children’s well-being and future livelihoods, don’t actively challenge entertainment companies or related media to do better. When you see a movie and there are 20 men for every one woman (usually just one or two) on screen, do you say something? Do you think about the fact that that’s 20 times the number of onscreen jobs for men than for women? Or what that imbalance means on and off screen?

6. Women pay more for “our” products just because we are women and considered not “standard.”  A Jezebel article put it like this a few years ago: “Being born a woman is a major financial mistake.” Marie Claire published a similar list. Until recently gender pricing for insurance, which resulted in women paying up to 31% more for apples-to-apples coverage, was perfectly legal. Think I’m kidding? Here’s a 10 pac of Bic Cristal ball point pens for $5.89. Here’s the $10.14, six-pack version “for her.” Stop buying this sh*t.

7. Our language is profoundly biased, related to our social structure and affects the way we think. We pervasively use male generics and that has negative effects. I do it all the time — I can’t seem to break the “guys” habit. We still use male words, usually to denote positive categories, like “mankind,” but female terms for negative ones, “hos,” and “sluts.” We don’t, for example, sit kids down and talk to them about the social harms of “b*tch,”even when used affectionately. Women are routinely referred to as “girls” (childlike and dependent) and men “men.” This is part of a larger problem with the infantilization of adult women. We’re more likely to be referred to as animals, and with a purpose. It goes on and on. But, words are important — if only because they show the dynamic interplay between ideas. This may sound trivial until you consider that Japan has gendered terms for all three pronouns, whereas the Nordic countries are trying to introduce gender-neutral ones. Why does this matter? Well, Japan is the least gender equitable place when it comes to men and women’s labor and the Nordic countries the most. I’m not suggesting causality, just significant cultural correlations that we are not immune to.

8. We engage in prejudice against men that inhibits equality. I’ve seen women take babies away from their fathers in parks in order to change their diapers because “men aren’t good” at that sort of thing. Or maybe you’ve listened to men call themselves their children’s “babysitters,” or sat through television ads that portray men as incompetent idiots, slobs, sexist dolts or children when it comes to taking care of domestic life. More dangerous, however, is the repetition of rape and abuse myths that endanger boys and men by perpetuating discriminatory ideas about who gets raped — drunk girls who ask for it or make the mistake of stumbling into dark alleys.

9. We pretend street harassment, the public regulation women and LGTB people either doesn’t happen or doesn’t matter. I’d warrant that very few people talk to their daughters or non-gender conforming sons about street harassment before it happens. The effects of this harassment and really can’t be underestimated.

10. We let our schools teach sexist lessons and perpetuate gender hierarchical systems of organization. First, our education system erases the contributions of women in history and fails to provide an accurate portrayal of the past or sufficient role models. Girls go into our schools with assuredness and ambition, but they don’t leave that way.

Second, schools are filled with social norms that, if left unexplored, undermine diversity and equality, for example, dress codes enforcement.

Third, many remain structurally based on complementary models for men and women, from boards, which tend to be run by more men (because, you know, that’s where the hard job of money is done) to everyday volunteering and PTA involvement(mainly, still, women). School administration and coaching continue to be male dominated in an industry, education, that is made up mostly of women. So, children are immersed in educational environments that continue to sideline women’s historical labor, that sexualize girls with outdated rules about appearance and morality, that provide gender hierarchal examples of social structures and, for good measure, where classroom dynamics have been shown to fail at fairness in ways that hurt both boys and girls.

By the time boys and girls leave high school and enter college, boys are twice as likely to say they are prepared to run for office. I know hardworking individual teachers trying their hardest to offset these effects, but as institutions and cultures, many of our schools remain profoundly patriarchal. What if you challenged your school to make paying attention to core gender issues a priority instead of dancing around symptoms like homophobic and mean girl bullying, math problems, boy crises and more?

***

This is a short list. Setting aside the real physical harms that people can and do encounter, living with everyday sexism is like fighting a low-grade infection for your whole life. When women take note of sexism during their daily lives — for example, talking openly about street harassment or workplace bias — and name it for what it is, they stop accepting it as “normal.” For female politicians dealing with biased commentary and political opponents all too comfortable in the boys’ club of the public sphere, openly confronting sexism works. When men start to notice, when they think about the differences, they can empathize. Its the first step to understanding, as Jamie Utt put it, that “as it currently exists, masculinity is fundamentally an expression of patriarchal oppression.” But, before this can happen, women have to tell their stories and register their legitimate objections and people have to listen and understand why its important. Prevailing cultural attitudes continue to minimize gendered harms.

However, women are clearly in a double bind because calling out sexism can result in real penalties. A recent study very depressingly showed what we all know: Women who advocate for equality, in the workplace, for example are actively penalized for doing so.

The sad fact is that while it is polite to express sexist ideas, confronting them is considered the height of rudeness and humorlessness and this social politeness prohibition is a significant impediment to positive, everyday change. When a man at a neighborhood party comments openly and rudely on my breasts or when another in a meeting interrupts me incessantly, it is me, not them, who is considered hostile, “strident,” and unpleasant for saying, “My face is up here,” or “Would you please stop interrupting me?”

The fact is, we are engaged in a tidal process of awareness-raising that requires everyone to look at the role that sexism plays in their lives. Are you acknowledging it when it happens, and what do you do about it if you do?”

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22 Terribly Sexist Comments Women Have Heard At Work

22 Terribly Sexist Comments Women Have Heard At Work

So true, it hurts.

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Lena Dunham Asks Why People Use Birth Control, World Learns Critical Lesson

Lena Dunham Asks Why People Use Birth Control, World Learns Critical Lesson

Posted: 07/22/2014 10:33 pm EDT Updated: 07/23/2014 10:59 am EDT

“As the White House took steps to accommodate religious nonprofits wanting to opt out of contraception coverage, HBO’s “Girls” creator Lena Dunham took to Twitter Tuesday evening with a simple question:

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling last month dealt a major blow to birth control coverage. At the time, Dunham tweeted her stance that “Women’s access to birth control should not be denied because of their employer’s religious beliefs.” Last week, Eden Foods’ CEO revived a case to deny coverage of all birth control from employees’ healthcare plans.

Within minutes of Dunham’s tweet, both women and men were sharing the many reasons, from health concerns to family planning, that birth control is important to them:

Dunham concluded by thanking the “brave women and sensitive men” and encouraging readers to follow the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to learn more. And then, in typical quirky Dunham fashion, she added:

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What Happened When I Stood Up To My Sexist Boss

“My freshman year of college was filled with great awakenings.

I immersed myself in women’s studies courses and read feminist theorists like bell hooks and Gloria Anzaldúa for the first time, I voted in my first presidential election, and I started to chase my passion by writing about the intersection of current events and social justice. I did what a lot of college students do: I learned new things and became who I am.

These moments of realization didn’t stop after I left my first year on campus either. The following summer I accepted an internship at a right-leaning daily newspaper in New York City. At the time, it was the internship I thought I needed, but by the end of the first week, I knew I had absolutely no future there.

On our first Friday in the office, all 10 of the summer interns were scheduled to eat lunch with the newspaper’s publisher. We sat in a large conference room around a big, mahogany table in black leather chairs and made small talk while we poked at our elaborate meals served by waiters. My white napkin sat on my lap, and I couldn’t help but think about how much money was going into all of this — I would’ve been happier with a slice of cheese pizza.

I was slightly preoccupied, thinking about everything else I had to finish by the end of the day, and even though I sat all the way at the end of the table my ears perked up when the publisher started to give out “helpful advice,” as he called it.

“You should be networking all summer. Every day, you should talk to the person sitting next to you. Guys, you have it easier than girls do.”

I looked at the intern next to me, clearly shocked that someone would make such a blatantly sexist accusation in a room full of impressionable young people, but she didn’t meet my gaze.

“Boys, you can just turn to the reporter next to you and strike up a conversation about sports,” he continued. “You can say, ‘Hey, did you watch the game last night?’ Girls have to be more worldly and cultured to be taken seriously and build relationships. Girls, you can’t just talk about sports with the guy sitting next to you, so you have to try harder and make up for it in other ways.”

I couldn’t tell if it was my general feeling of discomfort or the building’s excessive use of central air, but chills ran down my spine. The conversation went on without skipping a beat, but in that moment, my brain completely froze; my body was physically present but my mind went somewhere entirely.

I turned into a victim of my own thoughts: Did anyone else hear him? Maybe they didn’t realize what he said was sexist? Why would he assume all girls don’t like or watch sports? Why would he assume all guys do? Why would you call a group of young adults GIRLS? Is this normal behavior for the world of journalism?

That’s the thing about sexism in newsrooms and workplaces in general; it’s so inherent and ingrained in our institutions and cultures that often, your boss doesn’t even realize they’re doing it. But when we talk about things like equal pay and opportunity, it starts with these kinds of attitudes, stereotypes, and assumptions that can hurt both men and women.

The publisher said those things because he genuinely believed them, and the more he said them, the more true they would become. To this guy, it was a casual comment that he probably never thought twice about, but it’s something that had the potential to stick with us forever.

By the time I came back down to Earth and rejoined the rest of the group, the publisher was wrapping up his ego-inflated diatribe. He asked all of us if we had any specific questions for him, seemingly anxious to give away some more pearls of wisdom, but I didn’t have any interest in seeking advice from someone who subscribed to such antiquated ideologies.

Dessert was served as other interns took turns asking more serious questions about the new media transition from print to online and weighing the importance of local versus national news coverage. I thought about the case studies and hypothetical instances of inequality I dissected all year in classrooms, textbooks, and readings. As the questions slowed down, I took advantage of my chance to put theory into practice.

“Did you watch the NBA finals game last night?” I could feel every set of eyes staring in my direction. It was the beginning of June, so I had a few different sports to choose from, but I rationalized that talking about basketball would allow me the most room to shine. “Who are you rooting for?”

After a few moments of hesitation he responded, “The Lakers.”

“Me too.” Under my calm surface was a raging fire of anger.

“That’s nice,” the publisher politely replied. “Any more questions?” He seemed to have just about as much interest in talking about the NBA with me as I had tolerance for his ignorance, but I kept going.

“I enjoy watching the Lakers play as a team. Pau Gasol is my favorite on the court, especially when Kobe’s on a good run.”

It was like diarrhea of the mouth; I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out any and every thought that came to mind, because I knew I had to maintain my momentum.

“The referees have been calling an ugly series and last night’s game was the worst of all, especially when Howard was called for a questionable foul on a drive by Bryant. It just goes to show that stupid calls make the difference in every game.”

That’s when the real magic happened. My remarks and persistence sparked the rest of the table to chime in. Within moments, the whole room was in the midst of a thriving and informed conversation about the NBA Finals, all of the interns arguing and agreeing with each other about specific details within this series. The publisher remained suspiciously quiet for the most part, only chatting with one of the male interns sitting directly next to him.

After everyone settled down and the room fell naturally quiet again, I mustered up enough bravery to bring the dialogue full circle.

“I just wanted to show you that girls can talk about the game last night too.”

He gave me a nod, then concluded our session like it never happened. A part of me hated myself for even feeling compelled to entertain his comments and overcompensate with a discussion that otherwise wouldn’t have happened; but the other part of me, the bigger part, was too pissed to care.

Initially after our lunch was over, I was on a high; addressing one sexist publisher as a summer intern felt empowering beyond words. I also knew, however, that the solution to underlying sexism in the workplace and discriminatory mindsets wouldn’t be solved by just one conversation between two people. I may not have changed any major structures or shifted the entire landscape for female journalists. I may not have even changed his mind. But it sure felt great to prove him wrong.

Later that afternoon as I was walked around the newsroom, I caught a rare glimpse of the publisher standing inside the editor-in-chief’s office — the two most powerful people at the paper besides its notorious CEO. They were all white men above the age of 50. I didn’t think he’d recognize me — after all, I was just one intern out of the hundreds of employees who worked under him.

But he looked through the glass window and we made eye contact. He saw me, which was all I really wanted. To be seen.”

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How Men on Tinder Reacted to Three Different Levels of Makeup

How Men on Tinder Reacted to Three Different Levels of Makeup

Verrrrrrry interesting…

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Psychologists Have Figured Out Why Some Americans Get So Mad at “Promiscuous” Women

Psychologists Have Figured Out Why Some Americans Get So Mad at “Promiscuous” Women

“Ever wonder why people keep calling women who use contraception “sluts“? Apparently, shaming women who need birth control (which is 99% of sexually active women by the way) wasn’t invented as a way for conservatives to belittle women. It’s actually a trend rooted in socio-biologically theory. Well, sort of.

In a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, scientists from Brunel University in London found that people who tend to oppose female promiscuity on moral grounds also tend to believe that women are financially dependant on men, even when researchers controlled for political and religious ideology.

The researchers, whose aim was to provide a glimpse at the “evolutionary logic of anti-promiscuity morality,” found that “such opposition will more likely emerge in environments in which women are more dependent economically on a male mate.” They came to this conclusion by noticing how women with lower incomes and men with higher salaries tended to be more strongly opposed to people with the sexual habits of independent women.

These findings — which are frustrating in isolation — become downright infuriating when one thinks about what that means about societal progress in America. If the research findings are true, and the vitrol so often spewed at so-called “promiscuous” women is really motivated by women’s dependency, why has there been so little change in the past few decades? Despite lingering systemic problems like the wage gap, women are more financially independent today that they were 40 years ago. So why hasn’t that increase correlated with a reduction in preconceptions about women’s sexuality? 

It’s 2014. There is a record number of women more educated than their husbands, and in some cities are making significantly more money than them. So shouldn’t we all be cool with women having independent lady sexy time? Shouldn’t we see Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly getting off their high horse? Shouldn’t we see “Beyoncé Voters” (defined as unmarried women by Fox News) humming “Independent Woman” on their way to the free birth control shop? Conversely, what explains the fact that the birth control “debate” has gotten worse in the past few years, while women have been leaning in and making great strides economically, politically and in the workplace?

Part of the problem has to be traced back to messaging. One network in particular has insisted on its mission to remind women (and men) of the dangers of female emancipation.

Image Credit: Fox News

Fox is consistent in its unflinching commitment to reinforce the very scripts that — according to this latest research — make for misogynistic segments as a recent meditation on the potential “problem” of female breadwinners. In the same vein, the conservative behemoth loves chatting with people who shame unmarried women to the point that they are calling them “Beyoncé Voters,” or instructing those who are married to stop being so darn self-serving and start pleasing their husbands

Image Credit: YouTube

But it’s not simply cable news that’s the problem. Cultural stereotyping runs much deeper than that. Not convinced? Try Googling birth control to see what the most popular auto-completes are for the search engine. 

Image Credit: Google

Honestly, there are more important issues we need to be debating. Now that 1 in 3 children are growing up fatherless in this country, a better use of our debating energies would be to focus on the growing trend of absent fathers deserting their families. Where’s the Rush Limbaugh segment talking about how men’s promiscuity is tearing apart American values? By the same token, seeing as Bill O’Reilly has been going on and on about Beyoncé’s alleged effect on teen pregnancy, it seems like an investigative report might be warranted on the way the term “Gold Digger” has contributed to young boys growing up to believe you don’t have to take responsibility for their offspring. Where’s the Supreme Court case debating the fact that companies pay for men’s recreational sexual health medicine like Viagra or penis pumps

Image Credit: Fox News

Perhaps the most depressing part of the research paper is the finding that women are more opposed to promiscuity than men. It’s no surprise that women have internalized this destructive double-standard because they are reminded of it every time they are called a bitch, a slut or a whore for cutting in line at a bodega or not returning a cat-call with a smile. I challenge anyone rolling their eyes right now to think about one common insult for women that does not reference her level of promiscuity. It’s no coincidence that women believe that engaging in lots of sex makes them mediocre, they are reminded of it every single day.

The silver lining is that the “perceived dependency of women” in the study had a bigger effect than a female subject’s actual dependency on a man based on her income. In other words, the social norm reinforcing female dependency was a larger predictor of attitudes towards promiscuity than a woman’s financial situation. This conclusion suggests that if Fox News stopped promoting the idea that women are dependants or incapable second-class citizens, we could match up social norms with reality.

Until then, we’ll be enjoying the catastrophic aftermath of the conservative’s “Beyoncé Voters” trend and the lovely re-appropriation of the term by online feminists with this Tumblr. At least some good came out of Fox News’ latest lady hysteria, and who knows, they may have just came up with a term to define the voting block that may just swing our next presidential election.

Image Credit: beyoncevoters / Tumblr

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Mind the Gap: How One Employer Tackled Pay Equity

Mind the Gap: How One Employer Tackled Pay Equity

“…To recalibrate its paychecks, McGill spent years sorting employees into 150 job classifications, then ranking each job’s importance according to the education and skills required…”

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