Digging up the Roots of Sexism
I want people to be treated equally. I want women and men, people of all colors, sexualities, and socio-economic statuses to be treated without the pre-judgements, stereotypes, or bigoted beliefs that prevent them from being seen as anything more or less than exactly who they are.No assumptions of intelligence or background, strengths or weaknesses. I want simply to take people at face-value and allow them the opportunity to show themselves.
So the other day when I read the article, “When Feminism Goes Too Far,” by Davita Gurian, illustrating her belief that female climbers are not as oppressed as they may claim and that such claims distract from real issues of sexism, I was surprised when I found a few of her arguments hard to ignore. Throughout the article, she made many examples that I agree with: climbing is a very inclusive sport with many female superstars, female-oriented articles and events, and a community that is psyched for anyone to join who is excited about climbing.
Davita’s article, and others like it, make us question, can feminism go too far? By fighting microaggressions (actions that are often unconscious, innocent, or innocuous) are we distracting ourselves from the bigger picture, and putting ourselves at risk of crying wolf? Or the opposite: does ignoring these actions hinder the broader goal of equality?
Put more simply, we all want equality but can’t agree on where exactly we see sexism. It took me awhile to crystallize what I believe to be true: that the moderate base reinforces the extreme upper tiers. Microaggressions are the pillars of the patriarchy. Unconscious biases are prevalent today because of the small, daily reminders that strength is the equivalent of testicles, and that pussy is the equivalent of weak and cowardly. Just as importantly, we cannot be careless in our identification of these more subtle repressions or jump to conclusions without providing the opportunity for discussion.
In Shelma Jun’s article, “How Gender Affects Your Experience at the Climbing Gym” she sites a few examples of women’s experiences of sexism while climbing.When these situations occur, let’s stand firmly and unhesitatingly in support of equality, but assume best intentions while we do it.When someone shouts to “man up” are they purposefully reinforcing the engrained societal belief that being brave is associated with the masculine? Likely, no. But, do his or her actions fortify that idea?Yes. Either way, don’t be afraid to start a dialogue. It is when we step on our high horse and assume the worst of people that we inadvertently prevent growth and change. And yes, once someone is made aware that their “harmless” actions are actually the underpinnings of oppressive societal stereotypes, it becomes their responsibility to take action and change their ways.
Some individuals may never feel the demoralizing and disheartening affects of sexism, but to this day the playing field between the sexes is overwhelmingly uneven. For instance, in a 2016 study by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company, it was found that men are 30% more likely to be promoted from entry level to managerial positions than women. These studies should not only anger us, but fuel our resolve to make a change. Ultimately, we must push ourselves to exist in a place where society is equal at its foundation and in the very depths of our pysche, not just topically. It’s the difference between pulling off the leaves of a weed or getting it at its roots.