12.10.18 - "The Long, Fascinating, And Nasty Swathe"
Dear Sweet Babe,
Today I want to talk about sexism.
“Whoa Guncle Erik! I’m not even old enough to really know what gender is, much less tackle the inequality that others will heap on me in judgment of my perceived gender!”
Well, sweet babe, that’s the thing about these talks I’ve been having with you: there really isn’t a single topic that you shouldn’t be thinking about…especially a topic that will so drastically effect your life.
First, a quick definition of sexism: sexism is a statement, action, or system that is based within the discrimination or devaluation of another based on their gender. Whether it be a belief that you are weaker, less intelligent, less capable, less rational, worth less, or better suited to undesirable work, sexism hinges upon the belief that we, as people, are inherently different based on our gender, are spilt into two genders, and that one gender is superior to the other.
“That sounds stupid and terrible.”
Well, yes, sweet babe, yes it is…but it is a surprisingly easy mindset to fall into.
Now, I’m not going to go into the whole history of gender politics in our Western world with this talk. That would take much too long, and, frankly, I am still learning, myself, all about gender, sexism, and the long, fascinating, and nasty swathe they’ve carved through our culture.
But, I would like to talk about how to avoid being sexist.
It is important to first understand your own stance on any issue before attempting to tackle it. One should always understand where they stand in regards to themselves and their personal relationships before making grand statements about the rest of society.
So, I would like you to take a moment to ask you a couple of questions: What gender are you? What traits lead you to identify as that gender?
When thinking about your gender it is important to remember that no one can define your gender for you, and that our feelings are only allowed to take priority in regards to our own decisions.
If you feel like wearing a dress, wear a dress. If you feel like being a care-giver, by all means, please do. If you feel like playing sports, or drinking fruity beverages, or shaving with pink razors, or wearing Old Spice, or doing any number of things that our culture has decided to engender, then please do so…but keep in mind, everyone else has that right as well. Everyone has the right, as long as they are not physically harming or intentionally disenfranchising another, to express their gender as they see fit.
Gender is a part of one’s identity. Just like the color of their eyes, their favorite food, or where they were born (do you remember our talk on identity?), and they deserve the respect that is given to all others with regards to that identity, whether they’re identity is within a social majority or not. Someone’s identity might look strange to you, and that strangeness may leave you a bit afraid (“what if this unknown type of person is going to hurt me?!?!”), but it is important that we remember:
1. Getting hurt is an inevitable part of life.
2. What is new is not necessarily bad.
3. It is best to know why you are enemies with another, before declaring them as such.
Look, I understand just how dark, terrible, and complex the issue of sexism can be, and I don’t expect you to all of a sudden know all of the ways that sexism can crop up in our world or to know every way to dismantle it. No one article can solve a social issue, especially an issue so deeply contentious and complex as sexism. But I hope you can begin to think about how sexism effects you, and how you can combat such a negative issue through a little understanding and compassion.