Sexual Assault. Sexual harassment. Sexual Aggression. Women have endured these transgressions across the sea of time from men exacting their control and ideas on how they should behave or what roles they should move in. All of these different manifestations are abhorrent, sickening, foolish and overbearing in its act, right? Of course it is. However, with all our knowledge and experience, all of these occurrences still seem to hang on like a virus in our “civilized” society. Yes, we’ve had progress but we still seem to be haunted by these heinous actions. I’m starting to think sexism and every way it expresses itself is not going anywhere. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s something we’re going to have to live with.
I’m sure all men can agree we’re no longer the cavemen of the distant past playing out the scene of clubbing a woman over the head and dragging her back to the cavern. We’re no longer visualizing ourselves as Conan the Barbarian pulling in women with our muscular charisma as if we’re their only viable choice at the moment. We give her the she-might-as-well eyes and all should go as we wanted. We no longer live in a time where women were dragged to a fiery pole to be roasted in front of a crowd for being accused of witchery. We have moved past the days of women only being capable of working full-time as housewives raising children, cooking and coordinating Tupperware events with their fellow housewives. All of these concepts were based on warped age-old concepts through the eyes of male power supported by the influence of religion. We have to be honest. Where did these ideas come from? Where and how did they flourish?
Today, we know better. Everyone, more or less, has an understanding of the imbalance the sexes exist in. Considering the plethora of historical evidence and the current state of gender inequality in today’s society, men and women have to work together to actively deconstruct the system that keeps women as the proverbial housewife in the kitchen. The funny thing is the conversation of sexism plays out differently in other countries. In many cultures the battle over sexism continues on. It’s a conflicted subject matter that slips in and out in complex twists and turns. Franchesca Ramsey recently has been brought to the challenge on this issue. As the host of MTV’s Decoded, she had Fareeha Khan, a secular Muslim, speak on the varieties of Muslim headdresses and what they mean to the 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. A viewer made a response knocking Franchesca for allowing Fareeha to use her 1st world privilege to misinterpret Muslim headdresses as not being sexist and repressive. Whoa. A subject best left in the hands of the people who are of the faith and culture. You can see the complications to sexism and its deep reach in several cultures around the world.
Now, we all are aware of patriarchal societies on this Earth, but we also have matriarchal societies as well. We have the Akan of Ghana, the Nagovisi of New Guinea, the Mosuo in China, Iceland and others. It ranges from property being passed down along the female line, men raising the children as much as their partners, the elimination of strip clubs, etc. Being that we live in the U.S., we’re mostly exposed to the negative treatment of women. Also, considering European culture is the focus of what we’re taught in history class, we know women haven’t had much of a fair shake over the centuries. Sadly, we’re ignorant on the roles of women in other cultures and we assume the way women are treated in America is how women have always been treated everywhere.
That being said, we have to deal with the gray area of sexual misconduct. What constitutes dirt–baggery when dealing with the opposite sex? I’m pretty sure 99% of men can be called out for that. I, myself, have done some questionable things in my past. We have been conditioned to think that our bad behavior towards women can be disregarded as men just being men. Case in point, the recent Aziz Ansari episode involving a young lady he met at an event a year earlier. I won’t go over the details but from what I gather, I see it as bad conduct from a guy using his celebrity power to get what he wanted from his date. Should he lose his career over it? No. Was it done in bad taste? Yes. At times, it can be the hardest type of behavior to reign in. Who engaged first? How do men gauge a woman’s refusal? How far do we go in between the yes and no responses? I believe this is a conversation we as men have to have with one another to adjust ourselves when hanging with ladies.
I won’t bother to be self-righteous and run off a laundry list of how we can do things different for future generations. It would be quite presumptuous of me to think all people have to do is follow these bullet points and all would be peachy. Well, it’s not that clear cut. Let be honest… In the real world, our society is torn apart by a range of bad circumstances and constricting conditions. We have people that do the best as they can as parents and some who don’t. There are those that haven’t been blessed with the ideal surroundings to raise children. Keep in mind, America has a poor population of 13%. In that percentage, people deal with what they have. They have children. The parents have multiple jobs for their children. Some come from broken homes of abuse and neglect. Children and young adults seek family outside their home in their friends. Their ideas come from other kids with poor ideas of gender relations. Our individualism breeds dysfunction. America is loosely strung together by broken towns, financially strapped cities and, of course, media. Mass media plays a huge role in our perception of women.
I believe it’s time to take another road. We’ve walked that abusive path a little longer than we were supposed to. We all grow as individuals, communities and society, right? It’s time to step into 2018 and beyond with a thought of care. It can simply start with an honest conversation with our sons and daughters. We can explain what is real and not. Just giving some honest direction on how men and women should conduct themselves on a consistent basis can have more weight than any music video or blockbuster movie.
If you’re wondering how we could have real, substantive change in our communities, it will require a serious overhaul of our educational system, community involvement on balance between the sexes and equal representation of women in all facets of society. We have had some progress in some areas but real change will require a wholistic reimagining of gender equality. It’s the type of radical change that involves every person to take personal responsibility. Sounds familiar? It’s the same approach we should have for racism and every other ism. That, my friend, is a hard feat to accomplish. As I said earlier, our individualism breeds dysfunction. Our dysfunction is a badge of honor to every American citizen.
By Nova Phoenix