Social Issues

Are We Really Progressing With Our Battle Against Everyday Sexism?

NO!

By Jayabhuvaneshwari B

In today’s world, there is not one day where a woman can live without facing blatant sexism. In their workplaces, their respective homes, schools and colleges, women end up being victims of sexism in some way or the other. While this is something so common that we have accepted and have chosen to ignore it, there is also another kind of sexism that we are all guilty of. This sexism is not blatant but subtle and is over normalised as the right thing to do. Unconsciously, this kind of sexism has become deep-rooted into our society and has been accepted as the right thing by people of all genders. 

  • When we buy gifts for children:

This kind of unrealised sexism comes from little things which may not seem like a big issue. For example, it is always a Barbie Doll for a girl child and a Car or a Superhero toy for a boy child. No matter how aware we are of the sexist standards in society, when we go and stand in a toy shop to choose a toy for a child, the gender of the child does come in to help you make the decision. 

  • Examples of various professions in Textbooks:

This kind of sexism exists in all aspects of our daily life. If you have a young child at home, open her textbooks to notice this. Generally to illustrate a teacher or a nurse and woman’s photo will be available. On the other hand, for examples of pilots and engineers, a man’s photo will be illustrated. This may seem like no big of a deal. But, in reality, at a very young age, these gender stereotypes are registered in a child’s mind. And even if they want to  break such stereotypes in the future, the question of society and judgement brings in their self-doubt. 

  • What children are taught at a young age:

This is also found commonly in households. Crying is never an expression of weakness, but when a boy/man cries, they’re always asked, “Why are you crying like a girl? Stop whining!” asserting that it is okay for women to cry considering that they’re weak. Similarly, the minute a girl sits a little comfortably, she hears a voice shouting, “Sit properly, like a girl.” This extends to other scenarios as well. Women are often termed ‘Tom-boys’ if they’re interested in sports or know how to ride a bike. We may say that as a society we have developed enough to normalise these things, but even today, if a girl is riding a bike, we do open our mouths wide with surprise. 

  • Driving and Workplace Sexism:

In terms of driving, or a job that needs technical qualification, women go through the same tests and interviews to pass or get through, as men. But, a lot of times, it is assumed that men know more technicalities while women are only employed for bringing colour and creativity into the organisation. When it comes to driving, of course we are tired of hearing the infamous, “Women are bad drivers!” Women also have to pass the same driving test as men. Generalising and branding women as bad drivers is not correct, and although we think people don’t do that anymore, it continues to be said. 

When it comes to women and the workplace, beauty vs. talent is a battle women have to fight on a daily basis. When a woman, who dresses and carries herself well, gets a promotion, it is always assumed that it is because of her physical attributes and not because she is actually talented and deserves to get promoted. 

Similarly, when a male boss is tough and hard upon his employees, he is considered to be a good boss who knows how to get his job done. On the contrary, when a female boss shows the same amount of toughness, she is considered to be arrogant and eccentric. This has also led to the problem where men find it very difficult to take orders from their female bosses and even work under them. 

  • Media’s portrayal of Men vs. Women:

Moving on, media portrayal of women is also not helping the fight against sexism in any way. In every kind of household related ads like cooking items, kitchenware, home-cleaning items, etc. women are the ones selling those products to us. This may seem very acceptable and valid, but it roots deeply that only women perform these duties and actions and not men. Similarly, men are shown in advertisements of bikes, cars, electrical appliances, finance related ads, etc. because it establishes that it is men who handle these things generally. As the media is taken as an example for everything, this registers and normalises sexism as the right thing to do. 

 

In addition to this, some ads are also very unrealistic in portraying women. In men’s perfume advertisements, it is often shown as though women are completely attracted to a man who wears a good perfume, and then the brand is promoted. Attracting women is not the only motive behind wearing perfumes. In fact, perfumes are adorned for an entirely different reason. But, almost every single perfume advertisement shows only this aspect of why the perfume should be used. 

  • Sexism in terms of strength and power:

Oftentimes, in places of education or work, if something heavy, like a chair or a table had to be moved from one place to another, only boys or men are called for it. Women never wonder or ask why we aren’t called for help, although we are perfectly capable of doing the same. Similarly, in a household, when an event or a function is organised, women are assigned with taking care of food, decorations and everything inside the house, while men go out for purchases and handle finance. This is another stereotype that is normalised and isn’t fought against much. 

  • Establishing women as the caretaker of the household:

When we have guests over at our homes, it is expected of the women to set the table and serve lunch or slog the kitchen, while men sit along and chat, probably with a glass of drinks. We never ask the men to do it while we sit and chatter with our friends. It is always the other way around. Furthermore, there is of course the fact that women are the ones responsible for the kitchen. Even if we have evolved otherwise in terms of sexism, this one perspective of it continues to exist widely. 

Apart from this, when women become mothers, they are forced to give up their professions and careers to take care of their child. Even if they come up with ways to balance work and motherhood, they’re shamed for not giving enough time for their children and nourishing them with care. These all happen to women, but not once are these pressures put on men. Sometimes, men themselves take the leap of faith and decide to be house-husbands, who want to work from home and take care of their children. But society doesn’t spare them as well, making their life equally difficult. They are taunted for their choices, and are often forced to go back to work. 

  • Objectifying Women:

One comment that women hear a lot but is not spoken about much is, “you should smile more.” This comment comes from the expectation that women should always be appealing and warm, no matter what the situation is. It is often infuriating for women when they are forced to smile even if they don’t want to. On the contrary, men are always expected to be strong, grim and proper. At all times, they’re expected to handle situations rationally and not emotionally. They’re not allowed to express their emotions in most situations. 

  • The problems of this kind of sexism:

The problem with this obvious under-rooted sexism is that it not only affects women, but also men. Men who want to cry in public, cannot, because of this kind of sexism, which is established at grassroot levels. Men face a lot of internal pressure and conflict because of these sexist standards and stereotypes that the society has set for them. We don’t see many men classical dancers, because it makes them graceful, and grace is stereotypically not associated with men. Such problems exist in every arena of daily life. 

Similarly, women are always the victims of this stereotyping. This is age-old, yet normalised and accepted in many ways. When stereotypes like these are fed to young minds, they grow up to become people who believe in such sexism and stereotyping. This not only affects society on the whole, but also every single individual who aspires to beat this stereotype and be something different. Over the years, we have evolved a lot as a society in many ways. Beating sexism and stereotyping is a huge step for humankind. How do we do it? Let us start with buying gender-neutral toys for children or with buying pink for boys and black for girls!

 

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