There’s a line in one of my favorite Lily Allen songs, Hard Out Here, that pretty accurately sums up the state of gender equality and sexism in 2014.
We've never had it so good, uh-huh, we're out of the woods
And if you can't detect the sarcasm, you've misunderstood.
Essentially, my girl Lily is saying, sure, we’ve come a long way from the days when women weren't allowed to vote, but when you consider the rampant objectification of women that continues to exist in the music industry alone, it’s obvious that sexism is still alive and kicking.
Not convinced? Here are three of the most memorable examples of very obvious sexism I’ve encountered – from men and women.
That time with my teacher
One time, when I was around 11 or 12, my female teacher scolded me for being loud and unladylike. The class was at an outing and it was very exciting, and I must have gotten overly boisterous because I remember very distinctly my teacher saying to me;
“People don’t like big, brash girls.”
Uh, what? I think I immediately shut up, embarrassed, and did my best to play it small for the rest of the day. Literally and figuratively. And those words, spoken off-the-cuff, stuck with me for the next couple of decades.
The thing is, I really admired and respected this teacher. She was fantastic, aside from this comment that kept me scratching my head for years to come. I know she wouldn’t have hesitated to tell boys in the class to quiet down… but I doubt she would have told them in a way that reinforced stereotypical gender roles.
That time with my ex
I'm not sure why this is such an issue of contention, but there seems to be a lot of opinion about the C-word... particularly relating to whether it's a swear ladies should let pass their perfectly pouty pink lips.
“Um… girls shouldn’t say cunt.”
This was the reply I got from a high-school-ex-turned-Facebook-friend recently when we were catching up online, and I dropped the C-bomb. This from a man who is a confirmed regular user of the word himself. “Seriously?” I’d replied. “Sexist much?” I was indigent. After all, I actually have a cunt – so shouldn’t that mean I have far more right to use that word than he does?
Some people have a problem with C-U-Next-Tuesday being used in conversation, and that’s fine. I can understand why some find it offensive, given the derogatory way it has been used historically. But I can also see the point of view of some women who see using it as taking it back and taking ownership of it, so it can no longer be used against them.
That time with my boss
There was a time early in my career that the shit really hit the fan at work, and a very strange them against us environment seemed to pit a group of employees against management. It was awful. There was mediation. The guy who started all the fuss got kicked out on his ass, but the strange tension still remained.
The small team of us targeted included four women and one man. And despite how traumatic the experience was looking back on it, the one thing that still really sticks out in my mind was a comment made by one male senior staff member to the male employee in our team, who promptly relayed it to the rest of us.
“They’re just a bunch of gossiping, trouble-making girls.”
I very much doubt the word gossiping would have been used had we all been male. I’m not even sure the term ‘trouble-maker’ would have been used. If we had been a group of men, we would likely have been labeled 'disgruntled'. And our issues with management, which were experienced by all of the staff who replaced us as we eventually left, may, arguably, have been taken more seriously.
Instead, we were seen as petty. We were viewed as ‘girls’ rather than grown-ass women integral to the team, and the questions we raised were brushed aside.
Here's What I Think
Sure, we've come a long way. There's no doubt about it when we consider the progress we've made over the past few decades. But I do believe ingrained gender stereotypes - about women and men - are still prevalent, and often dominant the ways we think about and treat other people. Sexism today may be more insidious than obvious, but that doesn't mean society is giving all of us an even playing field. For now, anyway.
What are your thoughts? Does sexism still exist in 2014?