A change is gonna come; hopefully. That’s one side of the coin. The other is that things are bad now, and maybe are even getting worse when it comes to being a woman. There is a wage gap, there are misleading and offensive representations of women in media, and still fewer opportunities it seems in position of note and power. That’s all without mentioning the chilling statistics concerning the verbal and physical abuse of women that go on daily in cities around the world.
Change must come in a variety of ways: it must come from federal government making laws and fostering positive steps; it must come from activists tirelessly doing work; and it must come from men, assuming the role of ally in the campaign for equal rights and the end to discrimination and harassment. The concern is many men don’t realize that certain things they are doing and saying is reductive, hurtful and sexist. It’s not necessarily conscious, but it sure is negligent. In part, of course, so many are raised to not think twice about certain words, phrases and actions. After all, tradition is a hard thing to shake (and that is absolutely no excuse).
Awareness is important; if one person changes his behavior, those around can change too, and thus a movement can begin to grow exponentially. It’s about reconsidering the way we think and talk, and reevaluate attitudes that are outdated and harmful. So let us consider those things that are casually sexist. The following are all important to varying degrees, and they should all be remembered and corrected. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and isn’t meant to condescend but to provoke and engage. Here are the sexist things men do they might not realize; and it’s time to change.
We’re going to start with a tangible, all-too prevalent issue that can be easily solved. Manspreading is a widespread ailment afflicting arrogant men that causes them to spread their legs wide and take up numerous seats in public, most notably witnessed on the subway or public buses. Firstly, it’s rude to be occupying so many seats. Secondly, it’s suggestive and sexual, as a with legs spread, a man is more or less acting as some animal flaunting in some silly mating ritual that no woman wants to be a part of.
11. Language – ‘Girl’ vs. ‘Woman’
This isn’t about obviously offensive words, like b**ch or s**t, this is about more particular and casual words that men use and should be more considerate about. It’s a case of using ‘girl’s versus using ‘women’. The former is often used by men to describe women they like or want to like, though not in a healthy way. If you ‘behave’, that is, follow rules set forth by a man, then you’ll hear the phrase ‘good girl’. A ‘woman’ though, is someone distant, someone who is not sexually viable and likely breaking the ‘male rules’ (which is basically all the stuff on this list). While we’re on language, it’s not mankind anymore; it’s humankind.
10. Questions About Raising A Family
So often – rather, too often – women, especially if they are of certain note or celebrity, get asked about why they may choose to not have a family. If they do have one, then the question goes to how they balance family and work. This of course, is never (or very rarely) asked of a man. It is simply assumed, with latent sexism, that women should be having kids and raising a family, and if they are not, then there is a problem. The prevailing belief in our society is that men can drop their seed and run off, while women should cater, start a family, and take care of it.
9. Presuming and Judging Sexual Orientation
Certain themes will emerge from this list, as there are certain issues that manifest themselves in a lot of different ways. There is a tendency for a man to either dismiss a women’s sexual orientation if it doesn’t involve being him (a potential interest), or to presume certain actions if he thinks it might fulfill some fantasy. That is, a single heterosexual male may brush off a lesbian because the man feels entitled and shocked that someone doesn’t want him. A man will also diminish a woman who is bisexual, because in the vapid male head, that means she is promiscuous and sexually active.
8. Complaining About a Double Standard
Men and women are not equal. It is not the same thing to walk down the street alone as a man, and walk down the street alone as a woman. Rights and opportunities absolutely should be equal between men and women (and are currently far from it), while laws and protections don’t (shouldn’t) have to be, because the dangers are definitely not the same. For men to complain about double standards is detracting from real issues, not to mention selfish and absurd.
7. Making Decisions About A Woman’s Body
It’s surprising how quickly and easily men will offer ideas and make decisions about a woman’s body. It happens in government, where congressman will try and pass laws regulating what women can and cannot do with their bodies and what is in it. On a societal level, men like to dictate how women should appear too. For men, women need to shave their entire bodies, and then they should show them off. That is, except if the woman in question is the man’s girlfriend; then men get possessive, and don’t want women showing off too much. The #FreeTheNipple movement, a campaign of female empowerment, has already seen some men inappropriately championing the nudity, but just not if it’s ‘their’ women doing it.
6. Blaming A Women’s Decision Making
‘You just pick the wrong guys’ is a phrase likely meant to console, but one that is in fact incredibly insensitive. It tends to only be in reference to men that women date; you never really hear about people being told they consistently make wrong choices when it comes to jobs or cooking or anything else. It’s such a casual comment, and it dismisses a woman’s decision making ability. Of course women don’t seek out men who are selfish or abusive, and certainly when going out on first dates, men don’t offer up all their faults or latent, negative behavior.
5. Invoking The ‘Friendzone’
To use the phrase ‘friendzone’, is to immaturely and spitefully blame a woman for not being interested in you. The awful term, one championed by guys who only desire having sex with a woman, serves to lift up the male ego while denigrating the female’s agency and decision making. There is nothing friendly about the ‘friendzone’, and no true friend would ever carry on such selfish, vitriolic behavior. It’s about the man feeling entitled, feeling that he is owed something physical; it’s something both sexist and dangerous.
4. Forcing The Boyfriend Excuse
This one happens a lot. The situation basically goes as follows: guy pursues girl at a bar, girl says no, guy keeps pursuing, girl says she has a boyfriend, guy stops. That’s right: the claim of a boyfriend more frequently deters a curious male than a woman simply saying she isn’t interested. What this means is that a man doesn’t respect a woman, but rather another man. It’s as if she is property, and being free means she can be taken by someone else without her consent. But if she has a boyfriend, then the man backs down, and may even go so far as to apologize to the boyfriend if he shows up – he won’t apologize to her, that’s certain. Responding to another man instead of the women is entitled, disrespectful, and harmful.
3. Unsolicited Compliments/Verbal Harassment
When in public, women are not on display. They are not strutting on a catwalk, and they did not dress up to impress strangers on the street. If you haven’t seen what it’s like to be a women walking the streets alone, watch the now famous PSA set forth by Hollaback, where a woman strolls the streets of NYC and get harassed 108 times. Offering compliments is about power and entitlement, objectifying the woman. Males somehow think it’s okay to offer their thoughts about strangers, and don’t seem to grasp that what they think are positive comments, are in fact invasive and derogatory.
2. Blaming Women For The Actions Of Men
There are a whole series of questions that should never be asked of a woman when someone else decides to do something against her. That is, when she has been physically or verbally abused. There are reasons that abuse goes so often unreported and brushed off, and that’s because the victim is put on trial, and it’s her judgment instead of the man’s actions that are being questioned. There is a prevailing mentality, a culture that seems to program men to doubt women, undermining their cause. So, asking of women what they were wearing or what they said with regards to an incident is offensive and sexist.
Under no circumstances do you touch a woman who does not give you permission to do so. It’s pretty straightforward. As a man, you ask verbally. There must be clear consent. And even if a woman does give verbal consent to touch her – say, give her a hug or put your arm around her shoulder – it doesn’t mean this permission lasts forever. Consent is a very simple and yet egregious ignored practice today, and even by so-thought ‘casually’ touching, be it guiding a woman’s elbow with your hand, or brushing up against them in an intimate space, it’s harassment. Men like to show dominance over woman, feeling entitled to touch in the guise of being friendly. It’s sexist, and it’s a serious problem, and it, like everything else here, needs to stop.
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