Posts Tagged ‘sexism’

This really interesting article was posted on the Huffington Post the other day. This article, which you can read in full here, discusses how many schools in India are implementing gender studies classes at public schools across India, thanks to cooperation between the Indian government and advocacy organizations. The goal of this, according to the organizers of these programs, is to get students thinking hard about how gender roles affect them and make some changes for the better. Maybe even bring down the  rates of domestic violence.

And so far the programs seem to be working, according to 15-year-old Shakir Parvez Shaikh:

“We talk about how boys and girls are equal as human beings, but how we treat girls differently,” he told Reuters. “For example, girls are not allowed to play cricket or watch as much television as boys because they have to do housework or because it is not safe outside for them. I didn’t realize before … I think it’s unfair.”

A lot of activists see these programs as one answer to a very sad problem. According to the National Crime Record Bureau,  India saw a nearly 27 percent rise in 2013 in reported gender violence, including rape, sexual harassment, and other related crimes. And for many the 2012 gang rape and murder of a woman on a bus in India is still pretty fresh in their minds. This has helped to spur the creation of these programs, which might help today’s youth see things in a different perspective and cut down on instances of institutionalized sexism, gender discrimination, and domestic violence.

When I read this article, two thoughts went through my mind. The first was that it was good that so many teens, boys and girls, were being exposed to these classes. With statistics like the ones cited above, these programs could bring down that rate significantly and help to foster a more egalitarian society. And then I thought, “Why can’t we have that here in the United States?”

And then I marveled at how we didn’t have any of those programs in the United States. Generally speaking, gender studies courses are normally only taught at the university level, which means that students might never be exposed to these ideas in the midst of taking science and literature courses. The concepts of feminism and gender equality do sometimes come up in high school or middle school settings, but they are usually in the backdrop of English literature or history classes, and they may not always be given the attention they deserve.

Current statistics suggest that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be victims of sexual assault, though those numbers may be potentially higher due to under-reported. Women still earn only 70 cents for every dollar a man earns, and in fields such as business, politics or STEM, women may face people who believe that women aren’t suited to those fields, that they are only promoted due to their looks or sex rather than their ability, and trying to be assertive is considered “bitchy”. On the flip side, men frequently under-report domestic or sexual abuse and are expected to be tough, virile and sometimes violent to show their masculinity. If you aren’t those, if you’re not depositing your DNA in as many women as possible, then you’re seen as less as a  men, something I see as absurd.

All these reasons and more are why perhaps gender studies courses should be taught in middle and high schools in America. Getting today’s teenagers to engage in these issues may bring down rates of domestic violence, reduce sexism in the workplace, and perhaps get Americans to stop treating the word “feminism” like a swear word. It seems to be working in India anyway, so why not try it over here in the States?

What would it take to get such a program in schools?

Now, I’m no teacher or education major and my formal training in gender studies consists of one class in my first term here at Ohio State (though I’ve informally found ways to expand my training). But even if I’m not, that doesn’t mean I can’t at least get the ball rolling or start a conversation. So tell me, if you’re reading this, have a background in education, gender studies, or anything else that could possibly relate to this, what would it take to create these sort of programs and implement them in a school system? What sort of course materials would be needed? And what sort of obstacles would such a program face? I’d love to hear what you have to say, as well as your thoughts on what I’m suggesting and if it’s at all possible.*

I know that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to change society rapidly or get rid of a prejudice or stereotype. But at the very least that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If anything, it means we should try harder to eliminate it, looking at every available option. And perhaps this can be one of them.

*However, if you use the comments section to be hateful or say really mean things, I will not approve the comments. We don’t need any of that here on this blog. I’ve already gotten plenty of that from Second Amendment and anti-circumcision advocates. Not really interested in seeing that again.

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I went to a certain event on campus this evening, but I arrived not realizing that while the event is advertised as happening at a certain time, it only really starts much later (a part of me actually knew that, but the part of me that’s a total freak for being on time or missing something won out in the end). The library being nearby, I decided to pop in and check my email before I decided to go home or not. When I logged onto WordPress though, I saw a notification that I had a comment. I checked, and it was from a post I’d commented on a while back.

The post itself had been from a woman who was relating her experiences being sexually assaulted in the work environment, and how several other women she’d worked with had been in the same situation, and the owners of her workplace had tried to sweep it under the rug for the sake of business and for the attackers’ families’ sakes! Naturally, I was upset when I read that post. Sexual assault is a horrific thing that happens to so many people, mainly women but men as well. And what’s just as upsetting to me is not only the act of rape itself, but those who try to cover it up or downplay it or make it seem likes it not a big deal. This sort of conduct not only adds insult to injury to the victims, but it also sends a message, that rape is okay, that the attacker can go on doing whatever because it’s not a big deal, that if we make it into a big deal than it is then innocent people will get hurt and besides, it’s only one measly person who had a bad experience, right?

So I commented on the post. Since so many women had been attacked at this place, I suggested that maybe they band together and bring to the workplace a class-action suit or something, because sexual assault and covering up for it is illegal and a disgusting act to boot. That comment got a few likes during the preceding week or two after I’d read it, but the post got a lot more! Comments, likes, new stories coming out, stories of tragedy and stories of support. One newspaper even did a story on the place, so I’m assuming that got something rolling. At the very least, that place is seeing a lot less business than it had prior to so many women coming out.

Of course, not all of the people commenting have been supportive. The comment I got was from some woman with a generic sounding name. She basically said that while sexual assault was a crime, so was lying about it. That’s it. Lying about sexual assault was a crime.

Now, I’ve seen this sort of behavior before, and I know not to comment lest I end up getting attacked. Heck, I wrote an article on this very subject a while back, so I didn’t want to be a hypocrite by getting confrontational. But I was curious. Maybe because it was supposed to be a woman who commented, maybe it was the subject matter, maybe it was because I was kind of bored and I didn’t want to walk back to my apartment just yet. But I wanted to know who this person was.

So I clicked on the article to familiarize myself with it again. I also viewed my comment in full, as well as the reply comment. And then I started looking through the comment feed, seeing if anyone else had gotten any comments from this person. Sure enough, there were more than a few comments from this person on other people’s comments and they all had a similar message:

  1. Rape doesn’t happen
  2. The women who say they were attacked at this place weren’t attacked. Whatever happened there, they wanted it.
  3. Any woman who says that they were attacked is lying for attention or some other cockamamie reason and they’re the ones being sexist and cruel by calling supposedly innocent men rapists.

Very curious now, I clicked on the person’s username to see their blog. All I got was a bland background. No blog posts at all. Not even a post saying, “Hi, this is my first post. I’m hoping for good things while I write about so-and-so a subject. Please support me and follow me.” I checked the About page as well. Not a single thing.

At this point, any doubt I have has flown out the window. And while I’m not certain if this is someone who’s personally connected to the case and the workplace in question, or just someone who generally feels that they’re being assaulted as a man (yes, I say a man, because based on the language used by this person they’re probably male) by feminists with too much power and really without hacking skills, of which I’m lacking, there’s no real way to find out. But it does tell me something. That whoever this is feels threatened by women who speak out and feminists in general and will go to great lengths to stop it.

As if there weren’t enough obstacles making it seem like a bad idea to victims to speak out. On university campuses, some of which have really bad sexual assault rates, college administrators have mishandled assault cases, expelling or blaming victims and protecting rapists with light or no sentences at all. U Va recently got into trouble for this, and even my dear Ohio State has gotten into a lot of trouble over this. In the justice system, the system that’s supposed to protect us, there are cops, judges, and many more who will say that rape isn’t a big deal or victimhood is a status to be desired or that the victim knew what they were getting into, or that rape has to be “legitimate”. Some of this is even said by politicians at the highest levels of government. And when women speak out, they can face ridicule or disbelief by strangers, acquaintances, or even their friends and family. If their case gets to court, they risk being attacked by lawyers on the stand and disbelieved by juries. There’s a chance the rapist goes free and they have to live with that every day.

In other words, there’s a great fear, and a legitimate fear too, that speaking out will only make things worse.

And it’s the people like my wayward commenter, someone who seems determined to shut up victims and women in general, who are making the situation worse. There seems to be a great terror among certain sections of the population that giving women any sort of equality or power is akin to castrating all men and forcing them to live in a dystopian society where men are slaves to power-hungry lesbian dominatrices. That is simply not true. Feminists (of which I am one) only want women to have the same economic, social, and political rights as men, without taking away men’s rights. But there are those who believe it, and will go to great lengths to make sure women are afraid to speak out or seek equality.

Last month, feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian was sent a threatening letter by a man who claimed that feminists had ruined his life and that if she spoke at Utah State University, he would commit a mass shooting at the event. Because of Utah’s ultra-relaxed gun atmosphere, Ms. Sarkeesian had to cancel the event lest she risk her life and the lives of others. What does Ms. Sarkeesian talk about? Her latest videos, articles, and appearances tend to talk about how women are objectified in video games and seen less as actual people and more as sex objects or devices that (often violently) advance the game’s story.

Violence is a common threat from people who don’t want women speaking out. And while the actual incidences of violence are low, these threats, plus the threat of ridicule, of becoming a punchline in a joke, of being called a money-grubbing slut or a power-hungry feminazi man-hater, makes it much more difficult for many women to speak out. No one wants that sort of attention on them, and for victims of assault, it’s even harder to come out when facing all that.

So what is there to do about it? Well, I’m doing it right now: I’m fighting back. I’m writing an article that exposes what is happening and pushes back against it. And I’m letting people who have been attacked and that are afraid to come out that I’ve got their back. Yes, I’m a man, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe women should be equal in society. Far from it. I’m willing to fight alongside the many women out there who demand to be treated equally and with respect in the world towards men.

So know this, folks. If you’re a woman and/or you’ve been assaulted, know that I support you and I’m there for you. And for those who still think that men are under threat by these women, I’m so sorry you feel this way, but it’s not true and some day I hope you come to this realization.

Thank you, and goodnight, Followers of Fear and everyone else.

This morning I woke up to a very interesting article, about a female volleyball player who was being criticized for “being too beautiful to play”. Sabina Altynbekova of the the women’s under-19 volleyball team of Khazakstan, has come under fire recently because her looks are too distracting. At a tournament in Taiwan, fans becae infatuated with her, and caused an Internet sensation that’s spread to the rest of the globe, with videos of her doing the simplest things gaining hundreds of thousands of views. As her coach, Nurlan Sadikov*, said to the press, “It is impossible to work like this. The crowd behaves like there is only one player in the championship.”

Sabina Altynbekova before a game.

*Just in case you can’t figure it out from the name, Sadikov is male.

If the photo I’ve attached to this post doesn’t make it obvious, Ms. Altynbekova is a very beautiful young lady. in fact, if I were standing right in front of her right now and I thought I had even a sliver of a chance, I’d ask her out. However, what irritates me isn’t that she’s pretty. It’s that she’s being criticized for it.

For years, female athletes have been held to a much different standard to their male counterparts. Males athletes have to be able to stay athletic and be good at the games they play. At the same time, the female players are expected to be athletic, good at their sport of choice, and feminine. In intervies, men are asked about what they do to stay good at the game, where they see themselves and their teams going this year, and what they hope to do if and when they retire. Heck they might even get a question about politics or religion. The women get asked about how they stay fit or what they look like in a bikini or if they have boyfriends or plans to marry and have kids.

And when a man has huge legions of screaming fans, regardless of sex, it’s considered a plus, that they’re the epitome of manhood and that’s just something that comes with the game. Apparently when women like Ms. Altynbekova have that problem, it’s considered a distraction and takes awa from the game and the players. To a female athlete, her status as woman means she must be held to a different standard. She must be pretty, but not too pretty, good at the game but not too good and let it not be suggested that how good she is should be the thing we focus on, lest we give women the idea they are just as good as their male compatriots. Otherwise, she is neither an athlete nor a woman.

Even a guy who is unable to care about sports outside of Buckeye football like me finds this treatment appalling. And you know what else? This attitude isn’t anything new. In fact, one could even say this attitude that the sports industry has towards women–that they are inferior, and only as good as their ovaries and what they must do to get men and children–has been going on since the ancient Greeks, when women were barred from the Olympics and all participating were required to play naked to make sure this was an all-boys club.

It’s no coincidence these figures are male.

And this is just the tip of the problem. There is all sorts of denigration of women in the sports industry, from constant jokes about women’s sports teams being wastes of times unless someone flashes a side boob or that they should waitress instead to the emphasis that women can never be as good as men at sports (considering my stepmom taught me how to play soccer and softball in our backyard, I’ll disagree on that one), and moreover, they shouldn’t.

Occasionally this spills over to the realms of domestic abuse. In May, Ravens’ running back plead not guilty to aggravated assault after being arrested for beating his fiancee and dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator by the armpits three months previously. What did the NFL do about this? They gave him a two game suspension from playing football. You read that right. He’s not allowed to play for the Ravens for two games.

Stephen A. Smith, whose comments have caused a huge storm among viewers.

The suspension, as expected, has caused a flurry of controversy. Unfortunately, some of that controversy has been less than helpful. Stephen Smith, a commentator from ESPN’s “First Take”, said last Friday on the show that women should be aware of “the elements of provocation”, basically saying that women are partly to cause for the abuse they suffer, which is what their abusers would want them to believe. He apologized for it on Monday, saying that it was the most “egregious error of his career”, but the fact is, when he said that women were partly to blame for their abuse, he said it to millions of men across the nation. Some of whom may see it as justification for their own abusive ways and would have shrugged off the apology as something Smith’s bosses or the liberal media or whatever wanted him to say.

At least Keith Olbermann over on ESPN2 had the right idea of it. As he said on a recent segment of his show:

“By some tiny amount each one of those things lowers the level of basic human respect for women in sports. And sooner or later, there are so many tiny amounts that the level of basic human respect is gone altogether…Eventually after all the b-words and ho comments and penis remarks and nudity demands and waitress jokes, the most powerful national sports league in the world can then get away with suspending a wife-beater for just two games.”

Olbermann speaks the truth. And luckily there are ways to fight against this sexist attitude in the sports industry, and in other places as well where sexism pervades. First, we can stop with the comments that put women down, saying that they’re inferior or bad athletes or that they focus on being pretty. At the same time, we should focus on not giving power to the myth that men, in order to be men, have to be strong, dominant, and sometimes even violent. This idea turns men into monsters, not men, and we should work to stop it.

And the best way to do that is to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. One of the ways we can show that is to be an example to other men and women. Show that you are not that kind of guy by being respectful to women, by outright saying that these harmful jokes and stereotypes aren’t funny or okay and also teach those who can be changed and taught the right way to go about things. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

What do you think of these problems in the sports industries and other places? What do you recommend to fix them?