Sexism is sometimes so subtle you may not even notice it is there. But it is there, ever so subtly. Subtle, the way a group of friends gesture towards a teenage girl walking by, whispering amongst each other, ridiculing the way her “dress is too tight and skanky- looking.” Subtle, the way your eyes sweep over a woman you walk by on the street as you pass judgment on her “stripper heels” and the way her cleavage is overflowing; you dismiss her. It is in the way women who lunch together enjoy a dessert and then afterwards, speak of regret, guilt and talk of going on a diet pronto. It is in the way a middle school aged child says, knowingly, “Girls just aren’t good at math.” It is in the way you read school dress code policy which should be titled ‘Dress Code Policy for Girls’ because the rules only apply to them. There is no male equivalent.
So why is this sexism internalized? When we are constantly bombarded with messages in the media and in our culture about sexist stereotypes, whether we would like to admit it or not, they subconsciously have an effect on us. We take the messages we hear and we start to believe them. And then we pass them down to future generations. We live in a patriarchy; in a society that blatantly values a man’s opinion and perspective over a woman’s so what is a woman to do? In many cases, we resort to sexism (that is, against women) to feel empowered and validated in this “man’s world”.
People have a tendency to laugh these things off. ‘It’s not a big deal!’ or worse, ‘Get over it.’ But working to combat sexism in any form should be recognized as intrinsically important. Women are made to feel as though they are less of a person. We are told our sense of self-worth comes from how we look (just look at women’s magazines and advertisements aimed at women!) and little else. I think the first step to take towards improvement is to stop the consumption of harmful media. Anything that makes you feel bad about yourself or makes you feel like you need to improve something about yourself, physically speaking, isn’t worth the damage it will cause. When you feel yourself casting judgment on a woman or “slut-shaming” (the term used to describe making a woman feel guilty for her sexual behavior or her clothing choices), put a pause on those feelings. Where are they coming from? Be conscious of those feelings and try to replace them with something positive. Instead of rolling your eyes at her ridiculously short skirt, maybe you could think she was incredibly brave for wearing it. Maybe you could admit to yourself that she looks great in it. We only have ourselves to stick up for each other. We are sisters and let us all come together and recognize this.