It’s one thing to dismiss a stranger’s sexist remark or attitude. You probably won’t see them again after that encounter. But what happens when it’s with someone you’re related to, a close friend, or even someone you have to work with on a daily basis? As much as we’d like to see it cease to exist, sexist attitudes are out there much to our chagrin.
At some point in our lives we will have an encounter with a sexist. But first, let’s define sexism and what makes a sexist. Sexism is what it sounds like: discrimination or prejudice based on sex (especially on women). It also means having behaviour, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex. Thanks to President Donald Trump, sexism (along with some misogyny) has come into the limelight on various occasions in the past several months.
The real question going forward is: where do we draw the line?
We can take the example of Ivanka Trump who has done a pretty good job of dealing with someone who has a history of spewing sexist remarks. Her father has notoriously said some dreadful things about women throughout the years and especially during his presidential campaign – some of which she had shut down and others she had let slide. But at what price is she paying to play a dutiful daughter when she could be truly representing thousands of women who don’t have the voice to fight back?
Ivanka may be able to coexist with sexism in her family, but does that mean that she should? Or that we should within our own families, our own lives? At what point do we say enough is enough? Not passively, but loud and clear. At what point to do we call out the undermining remarks and actions of others that promote or support sexism?
We hear about celebrities taking a stand on these issues, only to be shut down, mocked, or ridiculed by people who don’t see that point of view. Last month, Ewan McGregor cancelled an on-air interview with Piers Morgan of Good Morning Britain because of the host’s sexists and rather negative remarks on Twitter regarding the Women’s March and received backlash from Morgan himself. We’ve seen the millions of women united around the globe attending the Women’s March to voice what was wrong about these sexist attitudes (and various other issues). Marchers have been both praised and dismissed for their protest, for their fight back, by those who couldn’t see the big picture.
Again, the question is: at what point do we call out sexism? Or rather, why did it take this long to get a blow horn and point out what has been forced to remain hidden?
Reconciling with the sexist attitudes of others has become a sort of art. One that some have mastered for so long that it feels like second nature to them. When others start to call out sexism, we get an outcry from the other side who are either oblivious to the issues or who just validate it as a norm. Kellyanne Conway has a way of twisting conversations around the topic of sexism by validating any reasoning for it, dismissing the issue all together, or pointing out what she claims is sexist. Conway who has said she has experienced sexism all through her career, views it as something women just have to deal with. But she is not alone on this perspective. Some women have experienced this same feeling and have numbed themselves to this idea that this is what it takes to climb the ladder in the workforce.
However, reconciling with the sexist attitudes of others is an art that should have a different meaning now that we’ve had sexism brought into the spotlight courtesy of President Trump. No longer can we just coexist and take the heat when sexist actions or remarks come to us. No longer should we sit back idly and let it continue just because “it happens”. Sexism won’t stop if we stop bringing it up. Sexism won’t stop if we don’t keep addressing it. We have been given this task of reconciling for so long on this one way street that it’s time we speak up and point out what’s wrong. Chances are some of the people you interact with aren’t aware of what’s sexist and what isn’t and you have the opportunity to show them to a new light. The art of reconciling with the sexist attitudes of others is more than just living with it, it’s about changing it for the better.
By Shanice Perriatt