It’s easy to say, ‘I’m not sexist, racist, disablist, fattist, ageist’ etc.
But what happens when someone challenges that?
None of us like being challenged so the automatic response is ‘Oh, no, I’m not’.
Except, how do we know? Ruth (and MMJ and Neuronotes) make the valid points that without an understanding of sexism and misogyny it’s somewhat difficult to say whether you have experienced it, or have dished it out.
I’ve read a lot recently about men who aren’t sexist, and there are currently some great posts around on understanding sexism, and specifically, victim blaming and shaming. Links at the end. Well worth a read.
I always swore I’d never do a feminism 101 for people. But here it is, in oldspeak before 101 appeared: ‘An Idiot’s Guide to Feminism’ (I know, ‘idiot’ is so uncool, but really sometimes appropriate). Or, at least a few tips and pointers to think about. Mostly based on personal experience.
The following behaviours are sexist:
1) Wolf whistling on a building site
Mostly this has stopped. Some workers have been suspended on site. The general current view is that it is no longer acceptable.
Yes, I’ve been whistled at.
What’s wrong with it?
Well, who cares what you think about some woman’s appearance? It’s called objectification. It’s not flattering. It’s called signifying approval that you meet the sexual standard for the men.
And of course, if you don’t get whistled at, then you are below par.
Either way, not good.
2) The reverse. Abusing women in public
How about approaching them and saying ‘Dooooog’ and then running off laughing.
Yes. I’ve had that too. It gave me such a warm fuzzy feeling. Thanks boys.
Because making jokes about a woman’s appearance is just Oh. So. Funny. And it is the privilege of the men to do so.
But, that doesn’t mean men who do so are sexist, oh no. It’s just a joke yes? And if you don’t find it funny you lack a sense of humour.
3) Women commenting on your appearance. Usually lack of breasts
‘Is that a boy or a girl,’ they said as I walked past, aged 13. ‘Can never tell these days.’
Gee thanks mum for getting my hair cut, and my fault for being tall and slim.
But, why is it your nosy business, strangers, whether I was a teenage boy or girl? Bad enough to think it, but to say within my hearing?
And the barwoman in the pub, ‘Oh, you’re flat-chested like me.’
Thanks. Just thanks for boosting my fragile teenage ego.
4) Men assuming your sexual status in the street, and commenting on it
‘Oh, German virgins,’ said to me and my French exchange pal in Paris, we were aged around 14/15.
And just what did our nationality or sexual status have to do with total strangers?
5) Let’s move up a little. Touching people
This is a rather sensitive issue. If you know someone, and have a friendly relationship, you may touch them on the arm. In Europe, we do kisses on the cheek. One in Gib, two in Spain.
What we don’t do, is creep up behind complete strangers and slide our hand up a woman’s arse. In a rather secluded place. With no one else around.
Yes, that’s happened to me too. I was in shock for hours. What happened was bad enough. What might have happened was worse.
But no men, you don’t have a right to stroke my arse.
6) Drinking pals. You know, a little alcohol, and oh yes, the woman is drunk and your luck is in
No. If the woman is drunk, and/or you are drunk, sex is a no-no. Is. That. Clear?
It is not a good idea to try and intoxicate a woman, with or without the aid of rohypnol, ketamine and/or GHB to deliberately have sex with her when she is not in control.
Nor is it a woman’s fault if you rape her in those circumstances. It is yours. And if you are extremely drunk or drugged, I would suggest you sober up before you fuck. Or, think about fucking.
Personal experience? Yes, I was drunk once and a ‘friend’ took me to his house. To sleep.
I probably wasn’t too drunk because I refused to play with his ‘toy’ (as he tried to convince me that his cock was just a plaything) on the grounds that I was drunk (at least I knew that) and I didn’t want to regret it in the morning.
It is never, ever, funny to try and make women lose control so that you can have sex with them. That is non-consensual sex. It’s called rape. If a woman doesn’t want to have sex when she’s sober, then don’t try to get her drunk to ‘change her mind’. And if she is already drunk, don’t act the knight errant and then rape her.
A woman who doesn’t know what she is agreeing to, is not consenting.
7) Fun phone calls
You know the ones. Anonymous ones. ‘I know the colour of your knickers.’ Or just the heavy breathing.
Have you any idea how much that freaks the recipient?
Yup. I’ve had those too.
Because everything about women is light-hearted and whatever we men say is just fun. A laugh. With the boys.
No. Rape jokes are not funny. Appearance jokes are not funny. In fact, anything that basically puts women down, mocks them and scorns them is not remotely funny. It’s not feminists who need to get a sense of humour. It’s sexist people who need to re-evaluate.
9) Opening the door
These is a silly antiquated behaviour, not a symbol of deference or respect.
There’s nothing wrong with opening the door for anyone, regardless of gender, if they have their hands full. Or holding the door open for someone following behind you rather than letting it slam in their face.
But if you’ve ever been in the position of going to a meeting with someone in a strange building, having every door held open for you as you make your way to the room ends up like a farce. The two scenarios that follow go like this:
Man holds door open for woman. Woman goes through and stands there like a spare part not knowing where to go. Man follows through, embarrassingly squeezes past and resumes the lead until the next door appears. Repeat ad infinitum until reaching destination.
Man holds door open for woman, but instead of squeezing past to take the lead, man then issues instructions somewhat like a driving test, telling woman to go right, left, take the third door on the left, walk straight across the junction, and then stop at the staircase. Assuming she’s made it that far. I have never seen men issue these orders to other men.
It is much easier for the person who knows where they are going to take the lead instead of displaying an unnecessary and impractical form of ‘respect’. Because, when necessary, women are capable of opening doors all on their little own.
And if you don’t behave like that with men, why are you doing it with women?
11) Claiming that there is no need for feminism because it’s all equal now. Yes. Sure it is. Do I need to quote statistics?
Even worse, moaning that men are discriminated against, and women are sexist towards them.
Because men are now the discriminated underclass. Really?
12) Feminists are just men-hating lesbians
I’m not. A lot of men read my blogs. Most of my friends are men. Feminism isn’t about hating men. It’s about trying to achieve equality for women. There is a significant difference. Feminists are not opposed to men. Feminists are opposed to a patriarchal society (invariably reinforced by the three patriarchal religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) wherein the power rests with men.
It’s the system that is at fault. But to change that we need to challenge it and our behaviours.
13) My women friends don’t agree with you, so therefore you are wrong
This one cracks me up every time. This is invariably trotted out by some ignorant (as in not having a clue about the issues) man, who parrots off what I have said to his equally ignorant women friends, and then comes back and tells me they are women, so they must know.
Well possibly if they are radical feminists they might have some idea. But given that radfems are thin on the ground, I find it odd that a man who uses sexist language would have a bunch of radfem friends.
14) And on the language issue …
Using terms that apply to a woman in a derogatory or abusive style is sexist. Here are a few examples:
Bitch (and bitch slap)
And, infantilising women by referring to them as baby, girl, chick etc when they are 20 or 30 just perpetuates the ‘women MUST keep their looks and appear younger than they are’ stereotype.
In a similar vein, referring to a woman as a lady is not good. Not only is this sexist, it’s inaccurate and classist. More about language on my previous post, mixing ladies and whores.
Language is so powerful. What we say influences others. So, please think about your choice of words. Before you claim you aren’t sexist.
15) And back to the beginning
If you trot out a bland statement that you believe in equal rights for women and you are not sexist, and behave in any of the above ways (or have done and think it was fine) then you are sexist.
If you argue with a woman who says you are, then you most probably are. Instead of arguing, try and work out why.
Up here for thinking, down here for … So use the brain for thinking. Not the other organ.
Rebecca’s great post about victim shaming
Her link to someone with a long name who wrote a brilliant post about consent. She uses a great analogy for describing non-consensual sex
And finally, a fem 101 site that has some good posts answering basic questions with some well thought through answers