Isms Part Two: Sexism

I’m glad I don’t have to play the dating game any more. I was never any good at it anyway, but it strikes me that nowadays it is fraught with difficulties which were never present when I was single.

In fact, the dating game is just one area where modern life seems to have a new set of challenges; the challenges relating to sexism.

As I have said in a previous post, Isms Part One, correct use of language is always important, even if we don’t pay attention to political correctness. I believe that sexism is wrong; that all genders should be treated equally. Putting this into practice can be difficult. Again, my experiences in the past promoted a very different set of values to what I now believe. Sexism wasn’t so much casual as engrained. Women were paid less, patronised and subject to what we would now call harassment.

Wolf whistling and lewd comments were everyday for women and girls. Advertising was often extraordinarily exploitative. Soft core pornography was on open display in newsagents. Women teachers were told to wear skirts. (Yes, really.) Brides promised to obey their husbands in the marriage ceremony.

Apart from this, I was taught, by word and example, implicitly and explicitly, a sort of gentlemanly chivalry. You opened the door for women; you gave up your seat for them on the train; you walked on the outside; you paid for them (although that one quickly went when we were students.) If you got a girl pregnant, you married her (which had a huge effect on my relationships.)

As usual, as I write this I am using it to sort my own thoughts out. I am also possibly confusing thought, word and deed. Just because language is changing and we now pay more attention to being anti-sexist in our speech doesn’t necessarily mean that sexism is over. Just look, for example, at how many big serious roles there are for women in the film industry, or how many top chefs are female. I simply don’t know how young men and women now operate or think. Are you allowed to look at somebody and think they are attractive? Is it sexist?

I cannot stop myself opening doors for women, but then I usually do it for men as well. I do try very hard not to make sexist comments, including in all-male company. Interestingly, I have worked for almost all my life in primary education, which is predominantly staffed by females. I have heard comments, for example about an apparently attractive visiting male dance teacher, which I would not dream of having made about a female. On two separate occasions I  was bending over in a cupboard when female colleagues walked in and made comments along the lines of “what a nice view!” I was actually hugely flattered (thank you if you recognise yourself!), but would not have made a similar comment myself for fear of being thought sexist or worse.

UntitledSo I end up very muddled. I hesitate to make any conclusion for fear of offending someone or some group. I believe in equal opportunities and equal rights. I believe that all genders should be treated equally. (This includes transgenders, but I find that even more confusing….. but one of the all-time great songs, ‘Lola’ is based on gender confusion.) I haven’t asked my adult children what their opinions are. Perhaps, as with racism, their children will find the whole discussion amusingly dated in a more equal future world.


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