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International Not White Male Day

March 14, 2012

I meant to post this on International Women’s Day. I fear my tardiness may detract from its impact, but no matter. I will press on, fearless woman that I am.

 

Yeah, so, International Women’s Day. To be clear, and I really hope this goes without saying, I have no issue with a day devoted to women. I think International Women’s Day is a great idea, and hopefully one that promotes the advancement of women.  My issue is not that this day exists, but that it has to exist, to you know, differentiate itself from all the other days, which I think can fairly be called International White Male Day. When you are the norm by which the rest of us are measured, every day is your day. And, again, to be clear, I do not think that all white men take delight in this fact, or for that matter are even aware of it. Optimist that I am, I believe that the majority of people, men and women, are good and want to live in a world that is truly equal. The problem, though, lies in this lack of awareness. It’s all well and good for a man to say that he thinks women should be treated the same, but until he becomes aware of the ways in which they are treated differently, he cannot do anything to change it.

 

I just finished reading this great op-ed piece in the New York Times. Frank Bruni correctly points out that the language that people get away with when attacking women, as compared to the language used when attacking men, belies a deep-seated sexism in our culture that just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. A man may say, “Well, I never use those words to refer to a woman, and I never would”, and that is all well and good, but does that same man, upon hearing those words recognize the injustice of what is occurring? Does he realize that the person using them is not only mean-spirited, but sexist as well?

 

I feel like, in our culture, people think that it is enough to simply refrain from joining in. I’m all for live and let live, but would that ethos apply if we heard someone go on an anti-gay rant, or a person using racial slurs? Would it be simply enough to say, “Well, I would never use that language, but they are free to express themselves”? Of course not! And yet, as Frank Bruni says in his piece, it is only when a person’s victim pool includes men that they land in hot water.

 

To be sure, Rush Limbaugh’s recent rant against a woman regarding the issue of birth control, was met with disdain by many, but not by all. There were many people who dismissed it, saying it is his job to be inflammatory and controversial. But even those who were horrified, the sponsors who pulled ads, what will they do in the long term? This is not the first time Limbaugh has said something blatantly sexist and harmful towards women. And yet his show continues to be one of the most popular talk radio shows, seemingly having no trouble getting sponsors.

 

At what point will we finally say enough is enough? What do we have to do to address this imbalance? As long as women are held in lower esteem than men, there will be no true equality. It does not matter if women earn as much as men if they are still being called “sluts” and “whores” for taking control of their fertility.

 

I, of course, don’t know the answer, but I have some ideas of where to start. For one, we mothers have to start raising feminists. Not the stereotype of feminists – angry, bra-burning women – but true feminists of both genders, who see sexism as something that is inherently harmful to both men and women. Men may reap some benefits from being on top, but the reality is that sexism harms them just as much as it harms women. Like all things that need to be eradicated, it needs to be brought to light. We need to talk about it with our children, point it out when we see it, and discuss a better way. If we can’t even acknowledge all the ways that sexism and anti-woman sentiment creeps into our language, our movies, our culture, we can never address it. This means that we too, as women, need to be aware of it. Women are not innocent when it comes to sexism. We have done plenty to reinforce and promote it. It’s time to stop all of that. It’s not cute, it’s not funny, and it is inexcusable.  Enough is enough.

 

Happy belated International Women’s Day!

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