Sexism is something you do

Oh right, I have a blog. I suppose I should post on it before midnight today. Whoops.

While I’m quite happy that Hillary Clinton is a candidate for the democratic nomination,1 I’m also upset that people are bagging her with sexist insults at mach 2. The constant calling out of such examples of sexism currently has Melissa (from over at Shakesville) at the 94th installment of her Hillary Clinton Sexism Watch series, and that may go up by the time this post gets out of my draft queue. (update: it reached 100 as of Friday 2008-5-23.)

One thing that this barrage of feminist-antifeminist dialogue has brought up is a huge public misconception: That sexist is something you are. If that were true, this blog would probably never exist, I’d probably be a Young Nat, and Barack Obama would be significantly less awesome. Moreso than other forms of discrimination, misogyny and sexism are deceptive and invisible, especially to men. This leads to many men offending women by doing stupid things like equating one woman who performs badly with all women, (apparently if your girlfriend sucked at maths, so does every other woman in the history of the human race) or by considering them invisible, (“Hey guys!”) or by demeaning female sexuality, or by implying that men who are feminine are inferior, or by perpetuating one of the other hegemonistic norms that pervade our society.

The reality is that this ever-present message of male superiority in our society leads men to fuck up more than they should- especially men who don’t know what discrimination is like from experience. But one fuck up does not condemn you to being forever a sexist- just like with elections where you can pick a new party every once in a while, you can decide to change your behaviour. You can re-examine your attitudes, apologise to those you offended, and try to get on with treating women like equals. You only get to be a “sexist” by showing you are unwilling or incapable of re-examining your sexist attitudes and behaviour, and even then, it’s not a death sentence.

So when someone says you’re being sexist, guys, the correct response is not to simply deny it and assert how cool you think women are. It’s actually possible to rather like women but still want to be the dominant gender. The correct response is to listen to why they’re saying you’re sexist, and to see if you can understand why they think that, and do your best to realise what you did wrong.

1There were some initial comments along the lines of: “of all the possible women, why her?” until I considered the issue further and overcame a couple of sexist knee-jerks, thought a bit more about similar demonisation of Helen Clark, (who I quite like, as far as main party politicians go) but now I am in enthusiastic support, if slightly less than for her opponent.

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