Complacency in a sexist society
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Contributor
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
– Margaret Atwood
Every man is a sexist.
Merriam-Webster defines sexism as “prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially discrimination against women.” To keep things simple, I’ll focus on that definition: To be sexist is to be prejudiced against women.
I think the fact that women are discriminated against in society is obvious and doesn’t need to be argued. You can look at the statistics for yourself: Women have it worse in pretty much every way. To me, this is clearly a result of patriarchal oppression. Women do not put themselves in this position. They are systematically discriminated against, disregarded, and dehumanized by males in society, who possess the majority of the power.
Whether cis or trans, it appears men experience a status and privilege in society that makes them think women are inferior. When you live in a society that treats females as second-class citizens, you’re going to have some of that bias, consciously or not. Not every single man directly oppresses and abuses women, but we all experience a privilege that women will never know.
Some men reading this will deny they are sexist, perhaps even becoming angry. It’s upsetting to suggest we oppose women. To be called prejudiced is perceived as one of the worst things you can be. However, I think it’s important to acknowledge we’re all prejudiced, and that we’re working on it. By denying there’s a problem, you are only contributing further to a sexist atmosphere.
For what it’s worth, I’ll admit to sexist and disrespectful behaviour. I’ve certainly never abused anyone or supported such a thing, but I have treated women in an unacceptable matter. I’ve regretted and apologized for my actions, and they were wrong. I think all men have done something like this—we’ve done it to our families, friends, and many other women in our lives. We interact with women as individuals and in groups in a much different way than we would to another man, and a lot of this behaviour is negative and toxic. There is a difference between blatantly disrespecting a woman and making an immature mistake, particularly if the behaviour is repeated. Owning up to our actions and admitting we were in the wrong is important, as well as not making the same mistake again.
It’s not my place as a man to speak for the experiences of women. It’s even less so to suggest I know a woman’s thoughts on other women or gender dynamics in general. However, in a sexist society, I’d suggest that to a degree all women are internally sexist as well. They are raised to believe they’re second-class citizens. There’s going to be a toxic masculine influence that leads them to disrespect feminine actions, even the ones they perform themselves.
Every man needs to do better. I’m not saying we all must devote the rest of our lives to women’s advocacy issues, but recognizing and fighting sexism in society is something that can be done everywhere. We need to be honest about our responsibility and role in creating a society free from gender discrimination. Above all, we have to give women a chance to lead and advocate for their own rights. Men should have a voice in feminist and gender issues, because these things affect everybody, but they should not overshadow the discussion. Men have dominated literally everything since the dawn of civilization, it’s time to let women lead and take control.
This is not a radical or complicated subject. This is basic-level gender and women’s studies, which is an entire academic field. Most women know how sexist all men are, and more men than ever are starting to understand. We owe it to women everywhere to recognize our faults and learn how we can be better.