Sexism For Dummies (And Everyone Else)

Are you any sex or gender* at all? Then this applies to you.

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Sexism does not only apply to women. In fact, women are quite often sexist towards men without necessarily realising. Women have had it tough in past centuries/millennia, but now they are finally grasping at equality, it’s about time we actually paid attention to ‘male sexism’ (the term we’ll use to refer to sexism aimed at men).

Have you ever heard a young boy be told to ‘man up’ for displaying emotion? Or perhaps you’ve heard someone tell a man to ‘grow a pair’? These are just a couple of examples of extremely common male sexism. The issue with statements like this is that it creates an unrealistic expectation for boys and men to live up to. What does it mean to ‘man up’ or be ‘manly’? We’ve accepted this to refer to strength and lack of emotion. It implies that a man is not a man unless he is strong and burly, and that if he shows any emotion then he is not a real man. Women are finally fighting unrealistic expectations placed on them, yet why do we still ignore what society is doing to men? This isn’t to say that the battle fought by women isn’t real, merely that everyone should be aware that everyone has things to face.

An interesting example of the difference between the sexes is the verbs ‘to mother’ and ‘to father’. ‘To mother’ a child generally implies to nurture it and rear it, but ‘to father’ a child implies a mere contribution of DNA towards the creation of a child. Why is it that our language also reflects that it is supposedly inappropriate for men to display emotion or offer care without being seen as weak and unworthy?

There are a few campaigns fighting to raise the awareness of these matters but the first step is to learn more about it yourself. Being aware that nurturing aggression and lack of emotion in boys and young men is what causes some of the behaviour that later leads to sexism towards women which causes fear of violence and rape. It’s not that simple, but you get the idea. If we all finally opened our eyes and allowed fluidity of gender and individual interpretation of what masculinity truly is, we might make life for boys and young men much easier. Making life smoother for anyone is worthwhile, especially when we are already to striving to achieve as much for women who have fought against inequality for centuries and more. Men are capable of emotion, of multitasking, of nurturing children and so much more; it’s about time we realised that men are just people with different bits between their legs, and that this doesn’t impair their ability to behave like kind and caring, fully-functioning human beings.

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*To read about the difference between sex and gender, read this article about transsexualism.

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Feminism 101: Y Chromosomes Permitted

obama-feministWho truly knows what feminism is? Is feminism the extremist behaviour of women seeking superiority over men? Is feminism the act of drawing attention to the inequality that women face? Is feminism simply a myth? So many questions, so few answers!

But, wait, there is an answer. Feminism is women seeking equality. So does this mean feminism is just the concept of being against sexism? If so, why is it called feminism? Why is it fem- if it’s equality for all?

Women have their own movement for equality because that’s how bad we’ve had it. Before you call me a ball-breaker, or a feminazi, or some other pointless and actually quite irrelevant name, just think about it.

Have you heard of anti-Semitism? Anti Semitism is prejudice and discrimination again people of the Jewish faith; racism against Jews. How come Jewish people get their own special word? Let me answer that for you; have you heard of the holocaust? Where one of the oldest religions in the world was penalised because… well, because they were different.

Feminism is kind of like that; it has it’s own name because the female people have been discriminated against for so long, with little relevant reasoning as to why. Each wave of feminism has brought about action for something different. In the early 20th century in Britain, it was the fight for suffrage – the right to vote – and we won! Looking back now, there was no true reason as to why women were any less able to vote in a well-informed manner like their male counterpart. I’m not saying all women are highly intelligent, some are pretty idiotic, but so are some men. So surely we can conclude that some of all sexes (and some of those who don’t adhere to gender-binary standards) are foolish. Everyone is stupid, regardless of what’s in your pants.

Yet, the female comedian, Jenny Collier, was recently pushed out of a line up because there were already “too many women on the bill”. Now, I have the sneaking suspicion that her email didn’t come from a concerned individual worried about men’s rights, but rather from an unfortunate soul who clearly didn’t think through what he was doing when he sent an email likely to cause uproar from all right-minded people. How can someone get away with something so obviously sexist? Some people say that female comedians just “aren’t as funny as men”; but that isn’t even what’s being questioned here. It’s agreed that Jenny Collier is funny, so why is she being brushed off? If she wasn’t funny enough, not a good enough comedian, then that might be fair reasoning; cancelled an act because they aren’t what you want in terms or their skills – fair enough. However, cancelling an act because their 23rd chromosomal pair is ‘all wrong’.

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It’s true that in some professions, men suffer discrimination. In jobs like teaching or nursing, any man who enters the career “isn’t a real man”. It’s a problem, but that is a whole separate issue that would require and whole separate post. Men can suffer discrimination due to their sex, but how often does it happen? More often than not, women are judged purely based on the fact that they are women. Even women who were born women and underwent gender reassignment will suffer the same oppressive behaviour towards them.

It is time that people realised that women are subjects, not objects; active, not passive. Even women can be sexist towards women without realising. A woman and a man are just people. Once we learn to view people as people, we can progress. Men may love women, but so can women, and men can love men! More than ever, gender and sexuality has become fluid and broad, so how come something as archaic as sexism is still lingering like a bad smell?feminist

Feminism means equality for women. I personally think that we should use a different word, a word for equality for all genders, an inclusive word that is neither feminine nor masculine. I can only hope that if there were a non-specific word, then people would stop judging this book by its cover and start understanding the cause of the friction. Feminists are not crazed women, controlled by their wombs. Feminists are fighters for equality, womb or not.

The Life-Giving Properties Of Birth Control

Birth control, in modern society, is just another thing we take for granted; much like flavoured vitamins and an abundances of vaccinations. Medical miracles of their time that are now little more than, so we insist, our right. How often do we look back to the birth of contraception? It wasn’t all hunky-dory from day one: it was like abortion, and same sex marriage… “Unnatural!” the religious fanatics might cry, “Expensive!” call the politicians, “Ridiculous!” shout out the fortunate classes who do not necessarily understand these controversial burdens.

Birth control gave power back to the woman. The power to say ‘if a man can take a meaningless lover, why can’t I?’. It gave her the power to choose the order of her life: marriage, career, children. It gave her the power to love others, and herself; fewer offspring gave her the time to appreciate herself as well as her family.

During the early twentieth century, the woman was trapped by an endless cycle of reproduction – sad really, that such a monumental act as giving life became so mundane and disdained. This was the time of the female revolution, a wave of feminism that modern medicine facilitated. Although the initial idea came into being centuries ago by founding father, Robert Thomas Malthus, it took its time to take hold.

Birth control gave life to the woman, so she was no longer forced to decide between another child, or celibacy; so she was no longer a prisoner to the unrivaled wonder of childbirth, no longer stuck behind the bars of motherhood.

The average family in Britain today doesn’t even have three children, yet if we go back only two or so generations, it was not unheard of that our grandparents were one of twelve. Is it that women have become lazy and greedy? Wanting more career and entertainment, and less maternal responsibility? No. It is a mother taking initiative to give more love and attention, more support and opportunities, to her reasonably-sized, nuclear family. Some women do not want children, but unless they are celibate or homosexual then, without birth control, they would struggle.

Unnatural? Or is this free will handed down from the heavens in the form of a tablet or discreet foil packet? Birth control is control. It allows women to decide ‘When’, ‘Who with?’, ‘How many?’. It allows a man the freedoms to wait, to not have a child until he is ready. (Isn’t that something men often complain about anyway?) However, joking aside, it gives freedom to all people; regardless of sex or class, regardless of age or occupation, regardless of intelligence or race or lifestyle.

Birth control may prevent births, but this does not stop it giving life and strength to the people of today. From a time when it seemed radical and ridiculous, to the era of dating sites and one night stands; birth control was a natural progression necessary for the world to move forwards, to nurture young minds more attentively, and allow ourselves the necessary freedoms. This is how birth control yields life.

(This piece was a  response to Emma Goldman’s article on The Social Aspects of Birth Control, which looked at the attitudes towards birth control in the 1920s.)