So over all the sexism

March 15, 2006

I’ve had a bit of a browse around some of the NZ blogs while I’ve been doing The Vent Box, and I quickly found Capitalism Bad.  Maia is unashamedly feminist and I like that.  But some of her posts are so depressing – not because of how she writes them, but because she has to write them, in this day and age.

I don’t know how old Maia is but I get the impression she is pretty young (or at least younger than me!)  I remember my mother telling me once that she had been sexually harassed in every job she had ever been in (and my mother is not the type to complain about these things, quite the reverse).  I was aghast, and then I thought about my experiences and realised that, despite the three decade gap, my own employment history is littered with examples of sexism, objectification and abuse.  It is probably at a lower level than most of what my mother experienced, but it’s still here, a normal part of the workplace.  And obviously little has changed even for Maia’s generation. 

Her article about the objectification of women even in “safe” political circles has really angered me.  Why are women’s images so often turned into an opportunity to comment on their appearance rather than the context of the picture?  How dare people treat other human beings with such contempt and disdain?  I would be prepared to bet a considerable sum of money that the male authors of the negative comments about Maia were not Calvin Klein models themselves, and would be highly (and rightly) hurt and offended if someone made similar comments about them in such a public forum. 

What led me even closer to a vein-busting fit of rage (which would have inevitably ended up with my blood boiling clear out of the ends of my fingers in streaming jets if it weren’t for my trusty Vent Box) was what happened when Maia raised her concerns about the comments within the activist community who run Indymedia.  All care, no responsibility, was all they had to say, it seemed to me.

Sexism, like other forms of discrimination, is not just the responsibility of the victim.  Stamping it out is an aegis we all carry, all the time, simply as human beings.  It’s the same with racism, homophobia and other forms of oppression based on intolerance.  We cannot and should not shirk this duty because of some crass belief that all speech is somehow sacred, or due to a naive hope that just because it’s an open source site used by community activists somehow everyone has checked their capacity to be sexist arseholes at the door on the way in.

What is wrong with these people?  What is wrong with the people who make these sorts of comments?  What is wrong with the people who don’t do anything about these comments when they are made on their website?  What is wrong with people who tell someone who has no control over the website that they have to fix the problem themselves?  What is wrong with people who call themselves community activists and state that they are opposed to sexism, but ignore it when it happens somewhere that they don’t want to see it? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE??

Excuse me, I was perhaps expressing my anger a little too forcefully just then.  I always know I’m too enraged when the caps light goes on.

What is wrong with these people is that we still live in a sexist society and some like to wallow in that fact and spread the mud around as far as possible.  Too many like to pretend that they are somehow feminist despite still actively exhibiting their hate for women with their everyday words and actions (even when they are an XX-er themselves).   And by our silence we give permission.

It’s clear to me that the internet is often a breeding ground for thoughtless, disrespectful, anti-social, sexist, objectifying and cowardly people who have never really grown up and dealt with the fact that they are human beings, actual human beings, interacting with other human beings.  Because we have this bizarre concept about the sanctity of speech, even when it is irrelevant, untrue, abusive, they can get away with their immature and foolish behaviour, and bring us all a bit lower as a species. 

Well not here they can’t.  And not anywhere else that I have some say over either.  I don’t put up with it in the classroom, or the playground, I need to be braver about not putting up with it in the staffroom, and I will start challenging it at the post office and at the sports field.

You have been warned.

Update:  Maia also seems to be posting on Alas, another blog I like, and getting comments from a different crowd of people, so it’s worth checking out this link to the same post on Alas, for the comments. 

As an aside – searching for a picture for this post was also an experience filled with disgust and despair.  Why does a search for “no sexism” on Google images bring up so many objectifying pictures of women


6 Responses to “So over all the sexism”

  1. Dasher Says:

    It makes me wonder if people have, or even know, about ideals any more.

    I can’t help thinking that these things are somehow linked to the constructed ‘reality’ TV/life that is common whereever you look.

    There is a kind of thoughtlessness – to such shocking degrees that is almost borders on ignorance. People who feel they have a voice on topics they cannot comprehend.

    It’s sad to read what I have just written. I feel I am, and have on many occasion without shame, an optimist. I have argued that ignorance doesn’t exist. Maybe now I have finally, and sadly, found a definition.

    Somehow I feel the foundations, of who I am, of optimism and belief in those in the world around me, start to crumble.

    *sad sigh*

  2. Dasher Says:

    Maybe I should explain my evening – and maybe my week.
    I have an interview tomorrow mornng for a job I don’t really want, in a country that I don’t want to live in.

    It all started with a comment from my partners mother.
    I am a researcher in Language – specifically Machine Translation. My partner and I are pretty happy about what I do and what I am working towards. While she doesn’t understand much of what I do, she does believe in it. Getting funding for what I do isn’t easy. The grant applications I make have been turned down because I ask for too little. If I ask for more than I need – I take money away from other projects but get the grant. Talk about a shitty system.

    Anyway – the comment from the Mother-In-Law (by proxy because we aren’t married) – was basically, I – being a man – should be out earning (ala killing the wild boar) and my partner (being a fair lady) should be home baking.
    Now the fact I am a better cook than my partner – piu meno – is by-the-by.

    Now when such a comment has come up before – we have kind of risen above it. Not easily. But we have.

    Before, when I have, reluctantly, given in and looked for a ‘proper job’ (there is nothing in Italy with the Italian I have) abroad – it resulted in complaints that I shouldn’t move away.

    This time however I looked in earnest and found a few things. CV’s were sent out and offers are coming in.
    So I have an interview tomorrow for a job in India and another this week for one in the US.

    This means I move out of Italy – the only place in my life I have ever felt at home or a sense of belonging (I’m originally from the UK) – and move on to somewhere new. Throw in the fact that my partner says if I get a job in the US – it’s over (she’s not a fan of the US).

    If I go back to the UK – I get a well paid but souless job and end up in the cess pit that is London.

    So I am screwed either way.

  3. Ventoletta Says:

    Poor Dasher, you have my sympathy. Sounds like the Mother in Law is a bit of a demanding cow. Must be difficult to deal with the different cultural expectations. Gosh I would love to live in Italy! Those are all my initial thoughts on reading your comments.

    It’s hard often to find work that makes you happy. I’m lucky that I feel teaching is my vocation, but it took me a while to find it. I assume that you are learning Italian – is there any work you could do in Italy teaching English? It wouldn’t be good money but it could be a start. I have a lot of friends who have taught English overseas in various places and enjoyed it.

    Your Mother In Law needs to get over herself. Traditional female-male roles are falling by the way-side all over the world, although I understand that Italy is somewhat old-fashioned about these matters. I’m sure your partner is making this point to, but ultimately your Mother In Law probably just likes to moan, and is secretly enjoying having something to complain about.

  4. Dasher Says:

    Italy is superb. It’s the first and only place I have ever felt at home. In the first week I was smitten and it still the same 3 years down the line.

    The MIL likes to complain – but I fear that I lack the brag factor to her social circle – which, for her, makes her disappointed with me.

  5. Ventoletta Says:

    Well if it’s one thing I’ve learnt in my years on this earth, it’s that people are hard to please and sometimes even pleasing them is displeasure for some. Good luck with your situation – I hope your work stuff is coming together ok.

  6. Dasher Says:

    I’m off for a face down (face to face) interview next week in the US.

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