Learning to see

Although I’ve always been a feminist in the broadest sense, it’s only been the last few years that I’ve really thought about it much, or even really read much about it. (As a child I saw feminism as the default, the norm, and was somewhat surprised to find how far from equality we really are). So it’s a fairly regular occurrence that I make a new realization about the sexism endemic in our culture and how it has affected me. The most recent one has been simply how much this stuff bothers me.

One of the most frustrating things about sexism is just how normal it is, which means that all many instances go unnoticed because they’re fairly small (and if they are pointed out someone will say that you’re just looking for reasons to be angry). But even though you don’t notice things, they’re still there and they still affect the way you think. Although I’ve never felt particularly limited by my gender, it was only a couple years ago that I realized that I’ve spent most of my life seeing the male ‘ideal’ as the ultimate goal, for one example. I was still constrained by gender roles, even as I freely explored both sides.

When something is as ubiquitous as sexism, even in small amounts, it wears on you. I’ve spent most of my life reading books about men, watching movies and TV shows about men, and even in instances that feature a woman she is usually surrounded by, surprise, men. (Ghost in the Shell I love you, but you have a real issue with gender balance). I’m constantly told, explicitly or implicitly, that I don’t belong, that I don’t exist, that I’ll never be as ‘good as a man’, that I’m ‘good for a girl’, etc. And as I’ve learned more about the issues and begun to recognize them easier I’m discovering a lot of pain, sadness and anger that I didn’t know was there. Because even while my conscious mind didn’t see most of it, those millions of slights were still out there, each hurting me ever so slightly. It was simply so normal that I didn’t realize things could be any different. Pain and pleasure are largely experienced as relative to one another, and so it wasn’t until I saw how things could be better that I had any way of knowing just how much I was being hurt.

There’s a cultural meme that feminists are angry. Yeah, we are, but not because we’re feminists. We’re angry because we’re women living in a society that is constantly belittling us, and we know we deserve better.

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One response to this post.

  1. Hi Jayn, I just found your blog through Love, Joy, Feminism. You should check out the Everyday Sexism Project, if you haven’t heard of it–I think it’s recent. It’s goal is to expose how ubiquitous sexism is, and you can submit your own stories of everyday sexism to add to the file.

    Reply

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