I am aware that discussions of racism or making any comparisons to racism can be a touchy subject. I am also aware that some people strongly disagree with the perspective I express in this post. While I am in no way trying to minimize the seriousness of racism, say that sexism is any more important than racism, or disrespect anyone, I do feel my observations at least merit consideration and discussion, and may give some a better standard with which to view sexist statements in the media. Although I’m not out to offend anyone, I’m not one to shy away from controversy when it comes to important issues. Through this process, maybe I’ll open your eyes to what I’m seeing, maybe I’ll open up my own eyes to the perspectives of those who disagree, or maybe we’ll find the truth lies somewhere in between. Only time will tell.
Recently, Newsweek had a cover of Sarah Palin in short shorts, with the headline stating that she’s bad news for the GOP and everyone else. Glen Beck made a statement on his radio show to the effect that Sarah Palin belongs in the kitchen, and accused those who didn’t laugh of not having a sense of humor. Although I’m by no means saying that these are the strongest examples of sexism in the media, they are some of the more recent examples I’ve noticed, and these are just a few of the many examples of sexism in the media. All kinds of sexist remarks were made about Hillary Clinton during her campaign. Why do we accept such blatant sexism?
Often I’ve noticed little reaction from the general public to what I see as blatant expressions of sexism. In some ways it seems like people are either less sensitive to or less aware of acts of sexism then they are to other forms of prejudice, such as racism. If Obama was on the cover of Newsweek in a basketball outfit or baggy jeans, with an article bashing him as a politician, I can’t imagine this would go over well, and it shouldn’t. People risk losing their job for that type of conduct. Sure, Obama was shirtless on a cover of Washingtonian Magazine and people have used that as reason not to call Palin’s short shorts picture sexist. Although the shirtless picture of Obama may not have been an appropriate way to portray the president, I don’t think these things can be viewed in the same way. The purpose of Obama’s picture was complimentary; Not only is Obama great, he’s attractive. Plus, Women have a very different history than men when it comes to objectification. We can’t ignore the history of judging women based more on their appearance then intellect when we consider the Palin picture in shorts, with a headline criticizing her. A female politician portrayed in this manner on Newsweek carries a particular meaning, just like the baggy pants and basketball uniform would carry a particular meaning for a black male politician in this context. When Palin posed for the picture in running shorts, it was one of several running pictures for a running magazine, not to sell a political magazine insulting her as a politician. If Glen Beck’s statement about Palin belonging in the kitchen was rather, a racist statement about where Obama belonged, how would people react?
The only reason I make these comparisons, is because even the idea of these acts of racism seem so obviously wrong and can cause a very strong reaction in people. For those who agree, such a comparison might be useful in heightening your awareness and increasing your standards when it comes to what’s acceptable treatment of women.
If you want to insult Palin or Clinton as a person or politician, fine, but do it in gender neutral way, which shouldn’t be difficult if you are insulting them for legitimate reasons.
Too many people accept sexism as the way it is, and the way it’s always been. To end sexism, we need to start viewing sexist words and actions similiar to the way we view racism, with Zero Tolerence. Sexist actions and statements need to start making people feel as uncomfortable as blatant acts of racism do, and people need to express their disapproval when sexist statements are made. If something might be considered sexist, people need to start erring on the side of caution. As with other minorities, women are no less worthy of respect then men are.
Obviously, racism still exists, and there’s still work to do in that area. But, people are now much more afraid to publicly express their racism then ever before, which has in effect, led to less racism. Because expression of racism is so frowned upon, acting racist now carries consequences, it’s not socially acceptable amongst most people, and people risk losing their jobs and relationships for expressing racist views. Due to the consequences, it’s less frequent, and people are not only changing their behavior, they are changing their minds about the equality of minority people.
Treating sexism in a similar fashion will affect peoples’ actions, and with time, their beliefs.
I will continue to clarify and expand the ideas in this post. Feel free to comment.
HERE’S ONE REACTION
“Only white people believe that displays of racism are viewed as less acceptable than sexism–only white people.”
I wanted to address this response that I recieved to the above Post via Twitter. The reason I write this blog is because I want to open up dialogue about and bring attention to important issues, so that we can learn from one another. Avoidance of controversy will not achieve that affect. The only relationships I am making about racism and sexism are those that I have expressly addressed in my blog. I am referring only to publicly made reactions of the words and behavior of mainstream media and what is considered socially acceptable behavior amongst otherwise resepectable people, obvious, outward displays of racism and sexism only.
I am a white person and I fully acknowledge that despite my desire to be empathetic, compassionate, and sensitive regarding racial issues, I cannot experience the world the exact same way a person of color does. Because I’m a white women, I also fully acknowledge that I am more completely in tune with issues of sexism then racism. As a result, I am open to the possiblity that I am incorrect. Regardless, I would like to engage in intelligent conversation about this subject matter, and would like those who disagree to take this as an opportunity to share their views with others, allowing us to learn from you. Again, the only statements I am making about racism are those I have expressly stated in my Post, and ask you not to imply more. All inequality is damaging and I am not comparing the damage caused by different types of discrimination. I’m only comparing what I’ve experiences as the general public reaction to the specific forms of sexism and racism I’ve given specific examples of.
The primary point of my post is that overt acts/words of racism, even with the best of intentions, gets people fired up, and this reaction supports that statement. Regardless of whether certain types of inequality are more or less damaging, inequality is damaging. For those who find my Post offensive, it would be helpful if you refer to the two specific examples I gave regarding the sexist treatment of Sarah Palin, and point out any flaws in my assessments of them. Also give examples of overt words or portrayals of racism against blacks in the mainstream media, in the past few years, that you consider equivalent, in their nature and the public reaction they recieved. Thank you.