Let me rant a little bit about the “S” word. Conservatives think it’s nonsense, and we liberals like to think we’ve risen (or are actively rising) above it. I mean SEXISM, of course.
Some sexism is so overt it’s beating us all over the head with a 2x4. Girls’ toys vs. boys’ toys. Dresses vs. pants. High heels. Makeup. Hair products. And on and on…
Consider the election. We’re so afraid of women, or we have so little regard and respect for them, that we’ll take a nutbag, egomanaicle, child-raping lunatic over a woman. We hem & haw and blame it on the Russians, Hillary’s failed campaign, the FBI, the disenfranchised & ignored working class, blahblahblahblah, but someone finally had the balls to call it what it is: SEXISM (https://medium.com/@kmassa/hillary-clinton-lost-because-of-sexism-say-it-3c7a89e548cd#.p8sus5jcz). Because people squirm at the thought of a “lady” running the show. Gawd, she’ll make us all pack Kleenex and button our coats. And then she'll have a period!
Or take equal pay, for example. COME ON! This is 2017! Seriously?!? Anyone, I mean absolutely ANYONE, who thinks that women earning 21.4% LESS than men doing the same job with the same qualifications & experience is justified, is a SEXIST PIG (Ouch. Hope that stings.).
But the most insidious kind of sexism is deep inside, like a slow-growing, non-fatal cancer. We look just fine on the outside, but inside, the cancer is self-replicating, eating away at us, and keeping us weak, but just so’s it’s barely noticeable. It’s so deep in our blood that maybe only a good leeching will finally leach (bwahaha) it out.
You’ve felt this undercurrent of sexism: Men are assertive, aggressive, determined, forthright. Women are pushy, bitchy, negative, bossy. Athletes (understood to be male) vs. female athletes. Musicians (understood to be male) vs. female musicians. Grrrr.
Or take, for example, domestic partnerships. I’m of a generation spawned in the 50’s and 60’s. We were all about that fight-against-The Man, anti-establishment, free love, braless, progressive thought mumbo-jumbo. Until we settled. Suddenly, here we are, living a life so close to the goll-dern Cleavers it’ll make your hippie head spin. We women may not be scrubbing in shirt-waist dresses and pearls, but we’re still doing most of the scrubbing.
Even in the most enlightened households, those replicating cancer cells drive men OUTSIDE (shoveling, garbage, car maintenance, tree-trimming, mowing, etc.), and keep women INSIDE (cleaning, cooking, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, baking, and most importantly, child-rearing). Men are workers and adventurers; women (even if they work full-fricking-time outside the home) are domestics. Even in “egalitarian” households where partners “share” duties, you can usually find OUTSIDE/INSIDE residuals. We chalk up the differences or imbalance to differing interests, talents, time, or whatever, but at its root—in the blood—it’s that same old SEXISM that we just keep passing along, from one generation to the next.
Or here’s another one. I teach college English. Not only is there still a gender pay gap in higher ed (http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/data/2014/04/11/there-is-a-gender-pay-gap-in-academe-but-it-may-not-be-the-gap-that-matters/), men also still hold most of the higher paying faculty and administrative positions, something called the “representation gap.” I don’t know that anyone’s come up with a satisfactory (or any) explanation for this, but I have one: my School Marm theory.
My theory goes like this: women who teach are school marms. They wear dresses or casual clothes, because they aren’t really doing any serious work beyond readin’ and writin’. They’re just keeping busy until that man comes along to marry them and take them INSIDE, where they belong. They’re nurturing babysitters, minding society’s brood. Men who teach, however, are professors. They’re intellectuals. They stimulate and challenge and mold the next generation of professors (if the future marms learn a little something along the way, well isn’t that just darling). Professors wear ties and suit jackets and pressed pants, but if they wear jeans and dirty 90’s band t-shirts, that’s okay too because they’re quirky, rogueish, temperamental, or flawed. And they’re just so darned brainy they can’t help it. And boys will be boys.
In higher ed, we like to think we’re well beyond School Marm. But she’s alive and well, not just in disparities in pay and representation, but also in student evaluations (https://tcf.org/content/commentary/student-evaluations-skewed-women-minority-professors/). Students take male teachers more seriously. School Marm, like Caveman dragging Cavewoman around by her hair, is so deep in our blood that it skews our perceptions and values. We don’t VALUE female teachers as much as male teachers. (In some states we just don’t value teaching. Period.) I’ve seen parents completely delighted to find that their kids have a male elementary teacher. We EXPECT elementary teachers to be women, and a male teacher will be “better for the kids” (I’ve actually heard this), tougher, more serious, etc.
Here’s another one. I have a dear friend who’s a retired pastor. Churches, of course, are bastions of sexism. I won’t even discuss the Catholic church’s spreading “cancer” of institutionalized patriarchy, and I LOVE the Catholic church…the ritual, the mystery, the sanctuary of it all.
Even in other churches, where women CAN be clergy, sexism still has a good hold. Male pastors are leaders of the church, God’s right hand, mediators between God and Man (not so much between God and women, because any male pastor will tell you, women should be busy singing in the choir, supervising the Nursery, or setting up coffee in Fellowship Hall). Male pastors HAVE authority. They SPEAK to God and know God’s intentions. God wants you to hold firm! Cling to the rock! Female pastors, on the other hand, are motherly, counselors, nurturers, patters-on-back-ers. They APPEAL to authority (God’s, The Book’s, the bishop’s, the synod’s, etc.). There, there, there. God loves you, and so do I.
Sadly, I don’t have a solution for any of this other than my leech idea, which isn’t likely to be popular. And I’m really weary. At 60, I’m tired of raising the same red flag over and over (nagging…another “woman” thing). I’m tired of all the excusing and cover-up and pretending. I’m tired of a man who does dishes once in a while thinking he’s enlightened and has “liberated” some poor woman. In some ways, I’d prefer the caveman days, where there’s no pretense of equality. Just drag home a stegosaurus, baby, and I’ll cook ‘er up for you. But you might want to remember, women who cook MAKE FIRE.