Saturday, September 15, 2012

Women, Go Home, Have A Glass Of Chardonnay, Watch Real Housewives And Shut Up.

Is anyone else experiencing sexism fatigue? If you are, read on. If not, this post is probably not for you, because I'm feeling sort of pissed today. A few years ago, I really thought we had made a lot of progress in equalizing the playing field for women. I knew that we weren't there yet, and that the face of power typically did not wear mascara, but I really thought we were on our way. These days, I am beginning to feel as though I can't get through a day without feeling as though I have been treated crappily on account of my gender (or maybe it’s just overuse of the word crappily?), or that certain doors bear the unwritten message: 'Go Away'. 

I have encountered a growing comfort among men to openly discriminate against women, and they are seemingly annoyed or perplexed when they are called on it. Or they react as though your horror is somehow confirmation of the negative traits they’ve ascribed to you. This may be why women struggle to self-identify as feminists, stripping them of their unity and strength. For example, I was recently told to my face that a high paying tech-centric sales position was only open to men or young “hot” women, you know, because women have no way to speak “tech,” thus it is only worth it to hire them if they are visually hot for nerds to look at. Could you imagine substituting gendered terms for racial ones here? I mean, outside a bar in Mississippi

Problem is, the legal field may be even more vulnerable to antiquated thinking about gender norms than the average high skill profession, with statistics consistently showing that women are locked out of the top positions in every facet of the field. The legal community still not only permits, but embraces, decision-making based on factors that are, for lack of a better word, unfair – i.e. nepotism, school ranking, physical presentation, adeptness at putting an old white guy at ease, perceived lawyerlyness, and ability to lapse into bro-speak at a moment’s notice. These factors, which harm both sexes, pose a peculiar risk to women. 

The fatigue is compounded and intensified by what has been labeled the 'war on women,' which is raging in the political landscape around us. A new bomb goes off nearly every day at this point, until I feel like crawling in bed with my tail between my legs. Women aren’t invited to the Congressional panel on what lady folks can do with their bodies. Boom. Men should be permitted to prevent their female employees from access to the pill, or even fire them for taking it. Boom. Women should only be protected from "legitimate rape," you know, the real kind, where they weren't just making it up or asking for it. Boom. Women should be criminally prosecuted for abortion. Boom. Sandra Fluke is a prostitute because she doesn’t want her contraceptive coverage to be arbitrarily withheld. Boom. Women who seek an abortion should undergo medically unnecessary and invasive vaginal ultrasounds. Boom. The gender pay gap is a fiction born of the weaker minds of the weaker sex. Boom. Pre-teen girls shouldn't be given the HPV vaccine to reduce the likelihood of cervical cancer... ummm...for serious y'all? Boom. 

But, it’s not all bad, we are already dominating the field. The next step is to start clawing our way to the top and reaching down to pull our sisters up. So, on better days, I remember that one day we will form the more perfect union we were promised. Fair warning world, we have come a very long way and you will not shove us back without a fight.


Heather said...

I am an optimist. So anytime I get the feeling to crawl in bed, I remind myself that things are getting better. Change is just slow, and I have to be patient. I like to take pleasure in things like a recent op-ed in NYTimes in response to Hanna Rosin's new book “The End of Men” (mentioned in class by Pruitt and Patricija) that I found uplifting in parts:

It was written by a male about the plight of men in the US. Not a usual scenario. Although his cry about the demise of men mostly left me thinking "oh, please" I thought some of his statistics were interesting:"[w]omen in their 20s outearn men in their 20s." And "Twelve out of the 15 fastest-growing professions are dominated by women." Now you may look at that and think it's small potatoes. It probably is. The article is also full of gender roles and essentialist thinking that I disagree with, like how adaptable all women are. So it wasn't all sunshine.

The conclusion is what made me smile the most: "If [Rosin is] right, then men will have to be less like Achilles, imposing their will on the world, and more like Odysseus, the crafty, many-sided sojourner. They’ll have to acknowledge that they are strangers in a strange land."

If the thought of that doesn't make you cheer up, I don't know what will.

Pali said...

"The next step is to start clawing our way to the top and reaching down to pull our sisters up." I wish.

Unfortunately, I have heard many horror stories, and sometimes even experienced them, where my worst enemy or obstacle, was none other than a female. There is something the girls need to learn from the boys' club.

Charlene said...

I think things are getting better. I draw hope from the severe backlash from comments like "legitimate rape." But I do agree, it gets me down how often I think women are locked out of top positions in the legal field. Over the summer, I remember hearing a story being told at the luncheon put on my the Women's Initiative at the corporate law firm I was working at. An Orthodox Jewish man observed the Shabbat, and so did not return emails or do any work from sundown on Friday to Saturday night. He was praised for his faith, commended for taking the time with his children, and this dedication was seen as a positive indication to his work ethic.

Were a woman to do the same thing, I don't think people would react nearly as kindly.

Jihan A. Kahssay said...

I thought your contrast between gender and race was interesting: it made me think of my own mix of identities and how "fatigued" I feel about discrimination experienced on either front. I've decided that I feel worse about racial jokes than I do about sexist jokes, but I'm not entirely that should be the case-- since both seem equally terrible.

Maybe this is because, as Charlene says, things are getting better for women. But, over the long haul, things have gotten better for African Americans, too. Still, the sting is worse for racial joke than sexist ones.

Maybe, instead, the reason I hate racial jokes more than sexist jokes is because I'm expected to do so. I wonder if it is because racial discrimination is so publicly shamed that I feel strongly violated when I'm racially discriminated against.

For instance, I know that if I call someone out for making a racial joke, there is little chance that they will try to justify their actions or make accuse me of being uptight. But, that is not the same with sexist jokes -- I know that if I challenge a sexist joke, I'll be fighting an uphill battle trying to convince the joker that what he or she just said was sexist and inappropriate.

Great blog!

VK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VK said...

In order to find some inspiration about what to write for my first blog post ever, I watched some videos. One of them was the speech of Sheryl Sandberg, in which she summarized the main points of her book, Lean In, which I read a few years ago. As a non-user of Facebook, I put aside my negative thoughts about it, and focused only on her feminist reflection. Even if it’s one of the books that emphasizes women’s side to be the problem, as it was said in on one of the posts. I learned some things from this book that I found useful and inspiring. But I read the comments below, posted a few days ago. They were so livid, angry, mean, stupid… I suddenly felt empty and desperate, as you described it in the post.
As I continued to read more posts on this blog, it gave me some optimistic feelings again. I realized that I am not alone in my thinking; even if the positions can be different, there are some links. When we write, ideas become more tangible, reminding us that the feminist fight is not vain.