Sexism is defined as discrimination on the basis of gender. Another definition is attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
Traditionally, the wife was expected to cook the family meals, be the primary child nurturer and – of course – was told to look good, smell good, and sound like a lady at all times.
Well, even though women are moving closer to the board rooms and spending less time in the kitchen, we still tell our daughters that no man likes a foul-mouthed woman and you won’t catch a man if you don’t cook.
Even though you hear echoes of “I am a strong woman and don’t need a man,’’ we still enjoy the door being opened, the dinner bill paid, and being told by a man how nice we look.
But be careful, men. Too many compliments can easily lead to a charge of sexual harassment, and it may be by someone you’re not remotely interested in!
We want a man to be sensitive and help more with the children and housework. But, admit it: We still like a strong man that can take over and make it work (whatever the it is) when we can’t get it to work.
There continues to be a gender socialization that states men must be in control, powerful, dominant, macho. Which is it? Do we know what we want? We as a society are confused about the roles we want men to play.
However, there is a greater harm than just being confused. There is a flip side to the sexism coin. We need to take a closer look at the outdated stereotypes. If we do, we’ll find that the English language, with so many negative descriptors for women and our body parts, along with the media, support this outdated view.
Feminists have been fighting sexism for decades, but this is a problem we should all be working to fix. Let’s look at it through two lenses: One, how it affects our men and, second, how women are contributing to the problem.
We rarely look at the toll that the weight of being macho and carrying the load, gender socialization, takes on men. While trying not to flinch in pain, the heart attacks, strokes and other ailments among men are increasing, and so is the number of fatherless homes.
Somewhere along the way, we must take a second look and ask, “Is it all economics, the loss of jobs, drugs? Or is collusion by women contributing to the fact that our men are breaking and disappearing?’’
Men have to walk carefully around “unacceptable language’’ and even the appearance of being too friendly in the workplace. What about home? There, he is the man of the house, king of the castle, father, decision maker, leader. There, he is allowed to take his shoes off but not put the weight down.
Simply, moved from one environment to another; the load is still there. Society does not allow him to complain, cry, or pass it on, even at home. It’s not manly.
What are we doing? The first step for any social change begins with an awareness and realization of the depth of the problem. We need to understand that there are real parallels between sexism and violence; that sexual violence is rampant, profitable and embodied in our society’s definition of what is a man.
Dialogues about being macho, stereotypes and even rape, including date rape and domestic violence, are needed. After the dialogues, a commitment to action to stop the perpetuation of sexism in our daily lives is key.
My next column will take a look at how sexism is affecting our youth.
Priscilla Dames is founder and president of Wingspan Seminars, LLC, specializing in strengthening relationships through conflict resolution and crisis management. Her website is www.wingspanseminars.com. Info@Wingspanseminars.com