What is an appropriate reaction to gender discrimination?

Growing up in a traditional Mexican family, I realized early on that I was supposed to play the feminine role with which I didn’t identify. My reaction to people’s constant remarks about my lack of femininity was to do the opposite of what they expected. I used to control my movements so they wouldn’t look “girly” because I regarded “girliness” as a negative, weak and submissive attitude. Even if crossing my legs felt more comfortable, I wouldn’t do it, and I never wore make up until my senior year in high school. This was my way of confronting sexism, but in reality I was merely avoiding it. I was nonetheless playing a role.

How, if at all, should we react to gender discrimination? Should we spend our lives calling out everyone around us who makes sexist remarks of any sort? It is not realistic to imagine ourselves proactively confronting such an omnipresent issue.

I admire and respect intersexuals who use their stories to advocate for the rights of everyone to make our own decisions regarding our own bodies. It must be very difficult to constantly remind themselves and others about their difficult pasts and what caused them.

Our society is so inured to gender discrimination that finding a balance between a fair and appropriate reaction to the issue and our own identities becomes a very difficult task.

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3 Responses to What is an appropriate reaction to gender discrimination?

  1. juanfe93 says:

    Taking a hard-line approach against those who make statements which either propagate negative gender stereotypes or which are simply downright sexist is a position which, as you say, inevitably alienates people. I agree with “anneweis20” with respect to the vast majority of people don’t understand the implications of their comments, however hurtful and backwards they may seem to us who are actively studying precisely this. With pop music tracks liberally using pejorative terms like “bitch(es)” and tactless internet memes suggesting that women ‘stay in the kitchen’ -as opposed to… doing just about anything else- it’s hard to pin the blame directly on those who we hear making such statements. I, like “nickvolpe1,” have found that calmly -but never condescendingly- commenting on the fact that comments such as those you mention are offensive and betray a certain degree of ignorance/insensitivity towards the very real issue of gender inequality and its implications goes a long way in helping people understand the consequences of casually making sexist references.

  2. anneweis20 says:

    I too agree that the line between standing up to gender discrimination and not being perceived as militant or offensive is a difficult one to toe. As a young woman who defines herself as a feminist, I am hyper aware of and sensitive to the instances of gender inequality and discrimination that go on around me. It sincerely bothers me when I hear people (both male and female) making ignorant sexist remarks, or acting in a way that propagates negative gender-based stereotypes. Worse than that is the widespread ambivalence among my peers to serious global gender issues such as systematic sexual and domestic violence against women. Thus I believe it is fundamentally important to speak out against sexism whenever possible—to point out, for example, that it’s not ok to throw around the word “rape” in a casual context.

    However, I also believe that sexism and gender inequality are so ingrained in our society that people often do not realize how what they are doing or saying relate to larger and more serious gender issues. In that vein, it is truly difficult to confront every instance of sexism in my daily life without alienating the people around me by appearing unnecessarily argumentative. The author asks, “Should we spend our lives calling out everyone around us who makes sexist remarks of any sort?” And states that, “It is not realistic to imagine ourselves proactively confronting such an omnipresent issue.” Perhaps the author is right, and that this cultural issue is too big for any one of us to fight individually. However, we must start somewhere if a change is to be affected, and making it clear that we do not tolerate sexist actions and words, however “harmless” they may appear to be, seems like a good place to begin.

  3. nickvolpe1 says:

    While my experience hasn’t been in confronting gender discrimination, I really like the points you make. The ubiquity of gender-inappropriate terms doesn’t stop at just gender discrimination/sexism. Although I wasn’t really aware of this until college, after hearing my little cousin talk about how he “raped” his friend in Call of Duty and how friends of mine were “raped” by their organic chem exams, I decided I couldn’t let this continue in my presence. I’ve noticed that a firm, but not angry, response to the word is the most effective. You were exactly right in saying that the balance between fair and offensive is really tough to maintain. I want people to respect me for what I’m saying but I don’t seek to intimidate. Despite this risk, the decrease of hearing the term used around me makes it worth it.

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