A friend of mine recently told me that the attractiveness of a female candidate is a definite judgement criterion for an interview. He also rationalises by adding, “It may not be the only criterion, but it is one.” But when he hears objection to this bizarre world view, he quickly interjects by telling me I need to “take it lightly.”
I’m sure a lot of us are familiar with this phrase. “Take it lightly. It’s just a joke.” These things, apparently, are to be taken lightly. Because if you aren’t laughing about casual sexist remarks, you’re not cool. You need to take things less seriously: rape jokes, jokes objectifying women, homophobic jokes, phrases like “be a man” or “don’t act like a girl” — ones that have infected our everyday conversations.
Just joking? No you’re not. You’re encouraging decades of chauvinism through your offensive remarks, and undermining years of work done by passionate feminists by lessening the seriousness of your comments.
It’s a classic form of derailment, and one not to be taken so lightly. Sexism comes out in so many ways, and so subtly, that sometimes it’s hard for some people to recognise it for what it is. And sometimes I don’t blame them, because I’m sure even I may be blind to some things. And unless an outsider points it out to me, I probably won’t see it my entire life. When someone is blindsided by their own narrow misogynist world view, it’s hard to explain to them that their jokes aren’t funny after all, and that they are offensive to women. Yes, maybe it doesn’t fall under the more prominent and widespread categories of discrimination, violence against women, female abuse or patriarchy, but that does not mean we don’t take it as seriously as we do them. We need to understand that an urban woman may not be subjected to the same blatant forms of discrimination as a woman from a more rural background, but that does not imply that her abuse can be brushed aside as “not serious enough”.
Perhaps our predecessors should have taken their voting rights a little less seriously. I mean, so what if we don’t get to vote? We can just powder our noses and sit still looking pretty while our husbands do it. Learn to relax, girl. Come on. So what if women don’t get equal pay for equal work? I mean, what are we going to do with all that extra money anyway — buy make up? A man will probably put it to way better use and buy things for us out of the kindness of his heart. Got raped or molested? Take a chill pill, ladies. I’m sure Salman Khan felt worse than you while he was filming his sub-standard movies. Let’s all laugh it off and relax a little. No need to act like a goddamn feminazi.
Is it abuse when a male colleague objectifies his female colleague in the workplace under the pretence of casual banter? Is it sexism when a friend assumes you’ll be bad at a physical activity just because you’re a woman? Is it prejudice when displaying weakness or emotion is considered feminine? Is it gender bias when a woman in the workplace is judged on her physical attractiveness rather than her skill?
This may come as a shock to some, but the answer to all those questions is a resounding YES.
It’s a wonder men don’t realize how it affects them too. That this is the very phenomenon that makes them feel ashamed to buy a stuffed animal. This is why they feel like they’re not allowed to like the color pink.
We are the generation that’s supposed to change how we view the world. Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but you can certainly teach a young millennial with infinite resources at his fingertips. And if our youth today turns a blind eye to casual everyday sexism, then how can we expect the next generation to change? Everything around us has become gendered, and it’s difficult to fight what you can’t even see. So turn on the light. For yourself and for the people around you.