30 October 2013

Sexism 3.0

Of late I have been following @Everydaysexism specifically the #NNsexism tag. It has been just as horrifying as you can imagine.  Everything from teens and tweens getting cat-called in school uniforms to women being denied jobs due to fear they would leave to raise babies and back again to full on sexual assault.  Do the joys of being a woman ever stop?

My tweet on the subject got a bit of a response and made me realize that while I am "fortunate" to no longer be cat-called and groped in public, the sexism that I endure is less overt, but just as sinister in its subtlety.  In no particular order, here are some musings on the discussion:

Being over 30 does render me no longer a sex object in the eyes of our culture, but that is a double edged sword. Sure I am rendered invisible to the dudebros out trolling for tail, but it should worry us all that being over 30 has such power.  The pervasive belief that women are only worthy as humans when they are young and meeting societal ideals of sexiness is damaging to all of us.  Thank goodness In four years my eggs will instantaneously dry up leaving me with a long, sexless crone-style future. Amirite ladies? 

Additionally being fat (and yes I am fully comfortable identifying as fat! I am embracing it as a neutral descriptor) means I clearly need not worry about men ever finding me attractive.  In the unlikely event that I attract that kind of attention, it is primarily to let me know that no one would ever want to have sex with me.  While I find the break refreshing (how sad is that?) again we see a distinctly problematic cultural norm being reinforced.  Where the sexism ends, the fat shaming begins, or more likely intersects.  Several twitterers commented that they get just as berated for being fat as being female, and that is certainly true for many.  The "war on obesity" means that anyone overweight, just by merely being alive in the modern US of A, has broken some kind of social code. Add in that women, who are by definition required to maintain ourselves in a manner acceptable to the male gaze, might be larger than the randomly assigned medical norm and now you have a real problem. How dare we even exist! I may not get sexually harassed, but instead I get to be considered public property under the guise of "concern for health." Sweet cross-dressing Jesus, can I even catch a break?

I do, however, feel that my position of relative privileged does provide some level of buffer from overt sexism via verbal assault.  As a SAHP I am rarely out in the "meat market" as it were.  Generally if I am out and about I am with my kids putting me (hopefully) off limits, with my husband, or with my girlfriends who are also 30 plus. I am a white-middle class-cis-hetero woman in the culturally liberal northeast US living a generally traditional life.  If you ignore that I am a feminist liberal with socialist tendencies then you might think I am fulfilling the ultimate role of woman.  Wife, mother and not much else.  This assumption shields me from the brunt of the abuse, but also creates an easy way to marginalized me and my life.  

Since I am just the "little wife" it has often been assumed that I don't hold any opinions that matter.  Or that my opinions would be uneducated seeing how I clearly married young and immediately became a breeder.  The fact that I am educated to a graduate level, in sciences and math, and keep up to date with news never seems to be assumed.  Our financial advisor barely even acknowledges my existence even though I handle all the family finances.  A close friend of mine recently asked if Chris was "babysitting" (Yeah, no, it is not babysitting when  it is your own kids. Full stop.) and my neighbor who is a WAHD referees to himself as "daddy daycare" and genuinely expects me to be impressed that he still made lunches for his kids evens when he had a cold.  The work Chris does is valued, the work I do is considered mere piffle, unless a man is doing I, then it is Nobel Prize caliber stuff because, you know, penises do it better or whatever. 

So yes, I am, for better and worse, invisible to most of society and therefore spared the daily onslaught of verbal abuse that many women endure. As for the rest? The sexism in my life takes on quieter, yet still demeaning forms.  Things don't seem to get better, merely different.