Thursday, March 12, 2009

A question of sexism
An e-mail thread recently came through on a list that I'm subscribed to with the subject "20 Things I Didn't Know About Women." The author, whom I know slightly, is a thoroughly immature idiot who insists on treating women as basically only about sex. In spite of the fact that he claims "to love women" and seemed to think many of his 20 things were actually complimentary, I found the whole thing to be insulting.

What I found interesting was the fall-out from this note. Many women objected. Few men did and the ones that did were accused by other men of basically kissing up to the women to try and score points. The subscribers to this list tend to be young and very liberal. Had the list been entitled "20 things I didn't know about African Americans" or "....homosexuals" I believe the flak would have been more dramatic and indignant. But sexism still seems to be the one acceptable prejudice amongst liberals.

Now I know I'm making huge assumptions here, but I find it interesting that a group who would slap someone down for making a racist joke would defend someone making sexist comments as "free speech." And yes, you do have the right to make idiotic comments. What bothers me is how few people objected to them or, in fact, saw anything objectionable in them. I guess that's what bothers me most -- that so many people (and all of them men, apparently) supported the writer as "just having fun" or "not meaning anything by it." Not meaning anything isn't the point, the point is that a large group of the recipients of this e-mail found it hateful and yet a larger group dismissed their offense as being unimportant.

It's hardly surprising that sexism still runs rampant. Society continues to support and foster a culture of sexual inequality by making women all about appearance. (You don't get on the cover of a magazine for being a good person or graduating with honors.) But if you consider yourself truly liberal, a humanist, a person who respects the rights of others, then you must speak up when you see disrespect in any form; gender-based, racial, religious, sexual, or other. You can't say one type of insulting humor is OK but another is offensive simply because you don't find it personally offensive. If others object, then the complaint has validity. You don't have to agree, but don't dismiss other's concerns.

Free speech means you have the right to be obnoxious. But if you want to respect yourself then you must respect others.

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