Since most of my exams are over, and I have nothing much to do except for math and uh…to watch youtube videos and read the new yorker incessantly (and then annoy my parents by debating about politics with them), I suppose I should just get this off my chest because I’ve been meaning to write this for a long time and I haven’t had a chance to. (And also because I’ve watched just about every other Doctor Who video on the BBC youtube channel, the BBC America youtube channel, and the Doctor Who youtube channel…and I’ve even sat through one of Chloe Dykstra’s google hangouts/tinychats, which is about two hours long.)
Let’s talk about male entitlement and subconscious sexism.
If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’d know that I’m a pretty staunch feminist (not one of those bra-burning ones and for the record, no early feminist demonstrations burnt bras – If you’d know how much bras cost, you’d probably think twice before burning them) and one of the main problems I have is that sometimes I’d be scrolling through my facebook feed and amongst all these weird geeky news from the nerdist and the mary sue, I’d see one or two of my
male (scrap that, it sometimes comes from females as well) facebook friends sharing articles like… “50 things that guys wished girls knew” (this is a legit article which I’ve just scanned through, and it incensed me so much that I decided to write this post), and other rather misogynistic sounding articles.
The thing is, I’m one of =those= people who has a few hundred friends on facebook because I accept requests from mere acquaintances (which is pretty bad but since I don’t really put up personal stuff on facebook, that limits what strangers can extract from my profile), and these posts come from people that I don’t really talk to very much – some of them are my primary school year mates – because if…y’know, you were openly misogynistic, we wouldn’t be friends in the first place; if you were subconsciously misogynistic, I’d talk you out of it or…we can’t be friends too. What this means is that I can easily unfriend these people on facebook (it’s as easy as a click of a button – the blessing and curse of modern technology) but I don’t want to cut out all that in my life and surround myself in a bubble built by like-minded people who support my own opinions because that cultivates ignorance, which I utterly abhor. I’ve been extremely lucky, having been in a girls’ school where my friends and I were exposed to a spectrum of opinions and experiences, taught to be socially and politically aware and to form our own critical opinions – and to value and stand for these opinions; being in a rather liberal school that teaches us to question and challenge social norms, to see the faults in the status quo. I am aware that this might come out sounding a tad elitist, but for the lack of better vocabulary to sugar coat it, there are other peers of mine who aren’t taught the same, which leads to one of two things on extreme ends of the spectrum – ignorance of the problems faced by society today, or engagement (which is good) but on an uninformed basis. Of course, the latter isn’t exactly the fault of the people if the information is censored by authority that leads to people forming conclusions on inaccurate assumptions, which then spawns false accusations and controversy. The former, though, leads to the perpetuation of problems that are internalized within our society such that people no longer see them as problems.
So, back to the idea of subconscious sexism and entitlement (and even racism but I shall not conflate everything in a single post because it might be a little too much for me to handle.) People often make sexist remarks or online posts, or share something sexist like the aforementioned article, thinking that it’s alright to hold an opinion that subordinates women to men – which is basically putting a little more than half of your own species below yourself and that is utterly screwed up – because they do not see sexism for what it actually is. People see sexism as openly, perhaps even violently, discriminating against the other sex. When people think sexism, they think frumpy women in khaki pants hating men, not men catcalling women on the streets, not girls being subject to the mentality that they cannot refuse their boyfriends for being seen as prude or controlling, and definitely not my mom walking into my room one day, seeing that my wardrobe door is left open, going, “Can you please be more like a girl?!” (EXCUSE ME mom I’m born with XX chromosomes, I am a girl! What, am I supposed to lock myself up in a medieval castle with a dragon in it?!) The fact that women and men are supposed to behave a certain way is so entrenched in our culture today that people don’t see that it’s a problem, and this is the scariest thing. I mean, we are afraid of things like pandemics, or terrorists, but the fact that people recognise that these are problems and are trying to solve it makes it less scary than things like racism and sexism, that is subconsciously creating a divide between a single species, causing so much abuse without anyone trying to do anything to change it since they don’t see it as important issues.
The recent apple iCloud breach, which led to the leaking of celebrity nudes elucidated this problem really well. There were people who’d go to gay pride events, openly support LGBT rights, sharing articles like The Guardian’s “If You’re Sharing Jennifer Lawrence’s Nudes, You’re Perpetuating Her Abuse” with captions like, “it’s Jennifer Lawrence, you can’t stop people from looking” – people who seem so harmless everyday, but who’d make remarks like that without knowing the propensity of the statements they made. The thing is, sexism is so entrenched in our society that it lives just under the same roof as me. I’ve got a younger brother who makes statements like, “ew that’s a girl’s show” or “wonder woman’s lame” (as if, lil bro. AS IF.) Sexual discrimination is perpetuated from childhood, such that people grow up being conditioned to think that women are weak and less important.
Even in observing how the different sexes carry themselves, you’re able the inherent stereotypes of different sexes that society perpetuates. There’s a tumblr on how men take up more space than necessary on subways, and a separate tumblr post explaining this phenomenon that’s been going around on tumblr lately. This made me pretty curious on whether this phenomenon is actually true, so while I was having breakfast at delifrance today (all alone since I usually wake up after all my family’s has had breakfast, without my phone), I got a little bored and I started people watching since I had a seat right by the windows so I could look out of the cafe, and what I realised is that men tend to walk while swinging their arms carelessly about whereas women tend to walk with a more careful gait. Another thing is that while many men look forwards while walking, more women tend to look downwards…or at least they’d tilt their head down a little. Yeah, I know, I did just describe modern women like Victorian writers would depict female characters that are supposed to fit into the feminine stereotype, but that was exactly what I observed…so much for social progress.
The mentality and behaviour that many men and even women hold today is so intrinsically cultivated into them by parents and their grandparents who’ve been taught the same for so long, such that people don’t notice that it’s an issue that men feel more entitled…to things, to space, to women, while women shrink and see themselves as the issue. Speaking of which, there’s a spoken word poem by Lily Myers that highlights this issue really well, albeit in a rather grim manner. But then again, this is a grim issue. The poem goes:
Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn’t deprive herself,
but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.
Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s proportional.
As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about fruit.”
It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, round stomach,
and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking,
making space for the entrance of men into their lives,
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.
I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” he asks, laughing,as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to say: we come from difference, Jonas,
you have been taught to grow out,
I have been taught to grow in.
You learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much.
I learned to absorb.
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself.
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters,
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits-
that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit,
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again.
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many.
How much space she deserves to occupy.
Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
And I don’t want to do either anymore,
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country.
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry.”
I don’t know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza,
a circular obsession I never wanted, but
inheritance is accidental,
still staring at me with wine-soaked lips from across the kitchen table.
It dramatises this phenomenon, compares it to the common obsession with weight amongst women, actualises the internal insecurities of women so well that I tear up whenever I listen to the poem. The poem might seem exaggerated but most women will probably find themselves identifying with it, and most men might have women in their lives that see themselves being reflected in the poem. I myself am guilty of overusing the word “sorry”. Whenever I’m asking service staff for help – “sorry”, whenever I’ve got to request something from my teachers – “sorry”, whenever someone bumps into me on the street by accident – “sorry”. It’s an entrenched mindset that women aren’t entitled to anything, and conversely, men are entitled to everything. This, itself, is problematic since it makes guys think that it’s alright to feel that:
“1. If you wear a Wonderbra and a low-cut blouse, you lose the right to complain about having your boobs stared at.” (Subtext: stop complaining about being objectified if you’re going to dress up like =that=) Or….
“4. You can’t complain that there are no good guys around while some of us are still single.” (Subtext: I really either am a douchebag or I just haven’t seen any of those articles going around about how this isn’t exactly a legitimate reason for you to feel entitled to women) Or…
“16. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really.” (Subtext: you don’t have to dress up for me.) Or even…
“48. Christopher Columbus didn’t need directions, and neither do we.” (Subtext: I’ve got my head stuck up so far my own arse don’t mind me.)
If you think that these statements are ridiculous…and ridiculously obnoxious, YES THEY ARE. I found them on the “50 things that guys wished girls knew” article.
To (1.), I’d say, I hope guys wouldn’t mind if people just stared at your crotch and butt all day, wherever you go, since you’d probably feel TOTALLY comfortable with it.
To (4.), JUST STOP WITH THE NICE GUY THING. Women spent centuries being classified into “nice” and “bad”, and being treated – or mistreated – accordingly. You’d think we want to continue with this stereotyping thing?
To (16.) Again with the attire thing. Contrary to popular belief, women do not dress up for men. Women also do not dress up to out-dress other women as well. Sometimes I just feel like wearing my PJs around all day and other days I just feel like dressing up as if I were the queen of the world okay, it has nothing. to. do. with. anyone.
To (46.) Christopher Columbus also thought that America was the east indies and ended up calling the aborigines “red indians” even though they aren’t Indians. Oh, and he was a slave master. And a harbinger of genocide to the native americans. Yeah of course he didn’t need directions.
If you think I made the Christopher Columbus part up, I’m just going to redirect you to this. I could, of course, go on to talk about how history’s inaccurately written in the perspectives of white, privileged males (in favour of white, privileged males) but I’ll leave that to another day, even though there IS an interesting article about the history of New York that isn’t very popularly known, which I’ll leave here if you want to read up on more stuff…
My point is, this sexism, this widely apparent male entitlement (not to say that women do not perpetuate sexism as well because there are problems such as domestic violence and legal rights over children that discriminates against men, rather than women) is an issue, and to change this, there is a need for mindsets that have been ingrained into our culture to change, for people to recognise the actual impacts of their words and their actions, for people to know that what they’re doing is a continuation of the gendered oppression that’s more than centuries old. People think that gender discrimination’s been eradicated with the women’s suffrage movements, with women being allowed to work, to have an education, but while these concrete changes have been made, the intangible inequity still remains. I don’t know what exactly I can do to change this but I know that I can spread greater awareness against social injustice from the little rants that I write while procrastinating math, so…yes. /end rant./