“Even if it’s Far Away, it’s Better… ‘Cause They’re Not that Scared”

“Even if it’s Far Away, it’s Better… ‘Cause They’re Not that Scared”

I think one of the scariest parts of doing this blog throughout the semester has been how easy it is to find instances of overt sexism. It is 2015, and yet every time I log into Facebook or Instagram (I myself am not a Twitter-er) I find something else to write about.

But I think this video takes the cake.

Let me set the stage. A Buzz60 host Patrick Jones was conducting street interviews to see how New Yorkers feel about catcalling and the new anti-catcalling street signs that have been popping up all over the city. From the edited video, one can assume that the majority of people interviewed agree that catcalling is inappropriate. It makes women (and the occasional man) feel uncomfortable and unsafe, and it’s harassment that women are forced to deal with on a near-daily basis.

But one guy energetically — and moronically — disagrees. He argues that it makes women feel good about themselves. Ladies – he’s doing us a favor! He’s taking the time out of his day to congratulate us on doing something great: getting out of bed in the morning so men can look at us. At one point in the interview, he says something that makes you wonder, “Can this guy even hear himself talk?!” He says in reference to how he whistles and hisses at women, “Even if it’s far away, it’s better… ’cause they’re not that scared.”

‘Cause they’re not that scared. Huh. So… you know that women are less afraid when you’re calling them from afar. Which means you know that women feel afraid when they experience this harassment. And yet… we like it?! And yet, it makes us feel good?! What. The. Fuck?

Need I say more? This guy is a perfect, infuriating example of overt interpersonal sexism that women encounter all the time. And he has no idea that it’s an issue. After all, he uses the exact same whistle to call a dog, and they always head straight towards him. So ladies, what’s our problem?


Division of Labor

Division of Labor

When it comes to roommates, I would rather live with men than women. It’s nothing against women. I’m not the type of woman who claims that “I have no girl friends” or that “I just get along better with men” or even that “I’m one of the guys.” I love my female friends, and I have a lot of them. But in general, in my experience, I have had much easier, much lower-conflict roommate situations when living with men.

Whenever I tell people this, I always get the same response, “But boys are so messy!” (This, too, is a sexist comment, making a lot of assumptions about the men), but I usually agree. “Yes, they are. But I’m kind of a clean freak no matter what, so I don’t mind picking up after them.”

In general, this is true. I’m a very clean person, and I often find myself cleaning up after my roommates. Usually I just assume (rightfully so, this assumption is based on experience, after all) that they probably won’t clean to my standards, so I’ll probably end up cleaning even after they have cleaned.

I never thought about this as a sexist issue, until I was telling a girl friend about a recent experience.

I came home two nights ago, opened up the fridge to get some water, and realized that the bottom of the fridge was covered in coke. There was a 2-liter laying on its side on the bottom shelf, and the cap hadn’t been screwed on all the way. Normally, I would have immediately pulled out the crisper drawers and started cleaning. But… it’s finals. I’m stressed, and I’m moving out in a few weeks. I just didn’t have the energy. So, I took a few deep breaths, reminded myself that it’s OK for things to be dirty for a few hours, and waited until my roommate G came home.

When he walked in the door, I immediately became nervous. Remember, that since I always clean up after the roommates, I am not very well skilled in asking them to do chores. But I knew it had to happen. So I allowed him some time to settle in, then I asked, “Hey G, is that your coke in the fridge?” “Umm… yeah.” “Ok cool. It seems to have spilled all over the bottom of the fridge. Do you mind taking care of that?”

I DID IT! I asked him to clean up after himself! I am strong! I can handle confrontation.

And he did. He seemed to do so begrudgingly (I heard some huffs and puffs), but he did it.

It wasn’t until the next morning when I walked into the kitchen that I realized that in cleaning out the fridge, he got sticky soda all over the kitchen floor. I paused. I thought, “can I wait until tonight to have this cleaned up?” Ultimately, I could not. I did not. I just brought out the mop and dealt with it myself.

So… I was relaying this story to my friend. And she immediately said, “You should write about this in your blog!” And she’s right, but I hadn’t really thought about it before. What does it say about me that I would rather clean up after my (male) roommate rather than just have a conversation. Am I cleaning up after them because they’re men? Do they expect me to clean up after them because they’re men? Is this sexism or is this just me being a clean-freak?

Ultimately, I think it’s somewhere in between: I probably clean more because I’m borderline obsessive AND because I’m a woman who has been socialized to take care of others. But it’s definitely something to keep in mind for the future, especially as I move into an apartment with my partner. What is expected of me? What is expected of him? And how can we ensure that there’s a fair division of labor in our home?


Ellen Pao is Awesome: Part One

Ellen Pao is Awesome: Part One

On March 27, Ellen Pao lost her gender discrimination lawsuit against the venture capital firm where she formerly worked. Pao and her attorneys argued that over the course of her 7 year career at the firm, she was treated unfairly, was not promoted, and was ultimately fired due to gender discrimination. But the court, sadly, did not agree. Apparently the sexism she experienced just couldn’t quite be proved, as is brilliantly referenced in this New York Magazine Article.

We’ve talked about this over and over again in class. What’s better: Outright, overt isms? Or consistent, subtle micro-aggressions? They’re both painful; they both cause harm to the perpetrator as well as the recipient. But the more I think about the issue, the more I’m recognizing that micro-aggressions are more damaging. Not because they are any more painful to hear or process, but because the person on the receiving end must go through so much stress simply determining intent. “Did that person say that to me because I’m a woman? Was I reviewed poorly because I rejected his sexual advances? Would they have listened to my idea more intently if I were a man?”

It takes so much emotional time and energy to process these instances of sexism. We can drive ourselves crazy wondering! And beyond that, after we have determined that, yes! That was sexism! Then, we have to bear the burden of proof. If you’re called “a c*nt” in the office, everyone agrees that the perpetrator is sexist. If you’re called “sweetie,” how can you prove that it’s doing you any harm?

That’s the problem with this next-generation sexism. Women often have no allies, no one to turn to for validation, no one who believes their experiences. We’re left with this feeling that something is wrong, but we can’t quite prove it.

Ellen Pao tried to prove it. Unfortunately, she didn’t win in the courts. But perhaps she’ll win in other ways. After all, we’re talking about it, aren’t we?


One Man Tells the Truth on HuffPost Women

One Man Tells the Truth on HuffPost Women

Recently, when I was browsing Huffington Post Women, I came across an article entitled, Men Just Don’t Trust Women — And it’s a Huge Problem. I didn’t quite know how to feel when I saw this headline. Part of me agrees: men don’t trust women; they don’t like it when we are “in charge,” and they have a hard time trusting that our experiences are real. But, another part of me thinks: this is ridiculous. We can’t make such broad, sweeping statements about how men feel about women. This is an outdated way of thinking! Shame on this author.

But then I realized, the author of this overgeneralized statement saying that the way men think is a problem… is a man. And then,  I paused. And interestingly, even though I probably wouldn’t have read the article otherwise (it did seem like “click-bait”), I decided to see what this man had to say.

In his article, Damon Young speaks about how after two years of being with his wife, he has realized that he doesn’t trust her. He makes sure to specify that yes, he trusts her to make big decisions and to “not smother him in his sleep” (ehhh, this seems a bit sexist IMO), but that he doesn’t trust her feelings. If she approaches him and is upset about something, he immediately assumes that whatever her problem, it’s probably not that big of a deal. His first thought, is that she’s overreacting.

My first response after reading this: ANGER. I hate when men tell me that I’m overreacting. Nothing pisses me off more when I’m upset than someone else trying to minimize my experience. But then I realized that perhaps, I was overreacting a bit (It’s ok. It’s ok as long as I am the one telling myself I’m overreacting. Hypocritical? Perhaps. Do I care? Not at all). Once I got over my anger, I found that I really respected this man for writing about his experience. I’m impressed that he is admitting — to the entire world, including his wife — that he doesn’t trust his wife’s experiences. I’m also exceeding happy that he is realizing that this is a problem that needs to change.

Young is addressing a cultural problem: men (and women, for that matter) have been indoctrinated to believe that women are hysterical, that they think with their hearts instead of their heads, and that they are moody… especially “at that time of the month.” Now — and I may get in trouble for this — I think that in general, the majority of women are more emotional than the majority of men. This is not a hard and fast rule, and there are a million exceptions to it. Also, this is not all biological: our society tells men that they should not express their feelings (young boys are bullied and teased if they do) and women are expected to talk about their feelings (do we think it’s a coincidence that so many “tell me about your feelings” social workers are women?!). So yes, despite these disclaimers, in general, the stereotypes are true. Even so, however, even if women ARE more emotional than men, it does not mean that our feelings are not real or that we are not to be trusted. And that is the problem Young is addressing in his article.

I agree with the conclusion that Young made about his situation. He has learned that often, when his wife is expressing her feelings — how frustrated or angry or upset she is with a problem — she is not asking him to agree with her about how awful the situation is. He doesn’t have to be “at a 9” in terms of anger if she is “at a 9.” Rather, she wants him to honor her experience. To validate her emotions. And to believe — to trust — that she has a legitimate reason to feel that way.


A Heroic News Anchor

A Heroic News Anchor

Rima Karaki is a Lebanese news anchor and a brave, inspirational woman. In this video clip, she attempts to redirect an interview when her subject goes off on a tangent, but unfortunately the speaker — who was supposed to be talking about Christians joining extremist groups like Isis — refuses to be interrupted because… you guessed it…. she’s a woman. Without watching the clip, perhaps you would guess that I am assuming that he’s behaving in this way because of her gender. Sadly, that is not the case. He explicitly states — a few times — that he will not be interrupted by a woman and that he refuses to be told what to do by any woman, even if she is the head of the news program.

This clip shows sexism on several levels, and shows how individual women can combat it in many ways. Most obviously, Karaki is a Lebanese woman in a very public position on television, a move which her own family called “irrational.” Although Lebanon’s constitution does legally protect all citizens, in practice, there are no gender based discrimination clauses, and women rarely obtain upper-level positions in their careers and often are not treated as equals to men. This treatment is primarily due to the multiple religions in the area and their views on how women should be treated. Karaki has fought against her odds however, to become a banker in her previous career and now, a popular news anchor. In this way, she has combated the cultural sexism that exists in her society.

Additionally, she is experiencing overt, interpersonal discrimination throughout this interview. Although Hani Al-Seba’i’s opinions about women and where “their place” in society is is culturally based, he has thoroughly internalized these views and is seemingly incapable of treating Karaki with the same respect she is showing him. Karaki hardly seems flustered however. She attempts multiple times to re-direct the conversation, alluding to the amount of time they have spent arguing, rather than discussing the important interview topic, and yet, he will not stop.

Ultimately, Karaki  decides that she has had enough of his sexist talk. She turns his mic off and carries on with the news. My hero.