I have always thought that sexism was wrong. I also always thought I wasn’t sexist. But, lately I have been thinking that maybe I have been sexist all along. Maybe we all have been sexist all along.
I am fortunate enough to be married to an amazing young woman, Natalie. She is beautiful, she is brilliant, she is incredibly competitive, and because of all of these traits I know she will accomplish great things to make the world a better place.
Growing up I quickly became a fan of comedy and I enjoyed listening to comedians and making people laugh. I would frequently tell jokes make jokes every now and then about women. But, I never saw a problem with it, it was no different than all the other jokes that I told. After all, who cares I was only kidding. I remember from a very young age, my friends and I would tell “yo mama” jokes, and jokes about people’s race, and jokes about women. But, it was always in a very sarcastic and purely joking manner. I always said that it was because I’m a funny guy, I was light-hearted, and besides I wasn’t actually sexist or racist so it was fine. If I was sexist, THEN that would be wrong, but anyone cane make jokes as long as they aren’t serious.
I have literally always thought that way. But, this weekend, I started reading the book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. I’m only about a quarter of the way through the book, but it has really woken me up to what is actually going on in the world. I am realizing that there are some huge gender stereotypes that are crippling the chances of women being successful. For example, Sheryl says:
“If a woman is competent she does not seem nice enough. If a woman seems really nice she is considered more nice than competent. Since people want to hire people that are both competent and nice, this is a huge stumbling block for women”
Over time, women have developed labels that have become engrained in our culture. These labels have put women at a disadvantage.
The way that I understand it is by a simple analogy, women in our culture over the last several hundred years are similar to a kid in grade school, let’s call him Johnny, that has been bullied throughout the last several years. Everyone tells Johnny that he is ugly, and that he is un-athletic. If Johnny hears those things often enough, and people keep saying that to him, eventually he will start to believe what everyone is telling him. He will probably grow-up lacking self-confidence. You could bet money that he probably isn’t going to grow up and become a model, or a collegiate athlete.
Now, in my opinion our culture has been labeling women in a similar way to how Johnny was. Currently, we have made an effort to stop calling him names, which is a great first step, but we still haven’t leveled the playing field to get Johnny back to where he should be with the rest of his class. We can all stop saying those things, but that is not addressing the mental state that Johnny is in. What I think needs to happen is that Johnny needs to start being told that he is handsome, and he looks great, that he has a beautiful smile. I’m not saying that we should lie to him, but we need to start acknowledging the natural characteristics that Johnny has.
I firmly believe that people become what they are told they will become, and if you say something to someone enough times they will eventually start to live up to that label. Even now, I would tell you that I’m not sexist, I don’t think I ever have been, but I definitely have not tried to do anything to build the women of our culture back up, and remind them that they are beautiful, smart, and capable. Just like the men are.
It’s not a matter of favoring women over men, it’s about making the playing field equal.