Sh*t “Ilan” Says

I came up with the idea for this blog post last week, and have been compiling phrases since December 1, 2012.

“Ilan” is a good friend of mine and hall mate for the second year now. I consider “Ilan” to be an intelligent and thoughtful young man. However, sometimes “Ilan” says really sexist things. Ever since I started taking this class, I’ve started to pick up more on the sexism in some our conversations, and started to consistently call him out on it. Here goes the list:

  • Using the “she” pronoun is not generally accepted. I can’t use that.
  • Gender inequality in the workplace is not due to sexism.
  • Women should wear dresses to the orchestra, not pants. It is not a matter of gender differences, that is fashion.
  • I’m really not sexist, I think you’re being too much of an activist.
  • You’re just elitist.
  • I am not sexist, I just Wikipedia-ed it. I don’t think men are superior to women.

I don’t think “Ilan’s” thoughts are extraordinary. I have simply been surprised by how unaware he was of what could be considered sexist and what was not. From my conversations with my friend, I concluded that his idea of sexism was more along the lines of misogyny -as long as there was no hatred being expressed towards women, it was not discriminatory. By the same lines, his perception of a feminist was a self-righteous woman, who hated men.

It is difficult for “Ilan” to accept that the above sentences are sexist. When I openly called him sexist, he went through many phases of denial: disbelief, anger, and offense. See, I’ve realized that “Ilan” does not want to be sexist. He is simply not open to admit that he is, and as a result, is not open to no longer being sexist.

“Ilan” and I recently had a breakthrough regarding gender inequality in the workplace. At first, it was difficult for him to accept that women, who are just as qualified as men, are receiving less pay for the same work in the U.S. At the end of our conversation, he was baffled by the fact that the Equal Rights Amendment had not passed, and catapulted to the other extreme of the conversation.

My conversations with “Ilan” have shown me that people know very little about sexism in the society in which they live. Even writing those words, I realize that I did not know 1/4 of what I know now. Had “Ilan” said any of those things to me last semester, I would not have been able to explain to him why his statements were sexist. So, I have a piece of advice for all of the students in our class: whenever you see sexism, call it out.

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2 Responses to Sh*t “Ilan” Says

  1. taek2012 says:

    I, too, have both male and female friends that make comments like “Ilan’s.” I almost always call them out on it (to the point where I know my friends become very, very annoyed), and the response is usually defensive. Because of this class, though, rather than simply telling them the comment was sexist, I’ve been able to use actual facts and anecdotes to back myself up. The most remarkable thing about this is that the response is so different. My friend’s comments, like Ilan’s, come from ignorance, not misogyny. When I actually explain sexism and oppression, like you did with Ilan and the workplace, people realize just how sexist our society can be, and usually apologize for their comments.
    One specific comment, though, that seemed especially problematic is the one you bolded. Feminists, like the other commenter said, tend to get demonized. They are seen as crazy and irrational, and it is definitely not fashionable to identify as one. I think this is why it’s so important to explain ourselves to people, because most people write off feminism and fail to recognize the oppression that goes on daily.

  2. juanfe93 says:

    I have had similar experiences with people who make statements like those made by “Ilan” and who are either baffled or completely taken aback when I counter by pointing out the blatant sexism ingrained in their remarks. In my experience, just as the word “feminism” elicits a strong response from some when it is suggested that they may subscribe to the general ideas espoused by feminists –because the word has been demonized and successfully redefined as a slur– the use of the word “sexism” is met with similar negativity from those who are called sexists because of the strong social negativity associated with the word. While it is a word that should be used to call people out for making statements which are offensive not just to women but also to the very principles of gender equality and social justice, “sexism” as a label allows people like “Ilan” for who it is used to reduce the discussion/argument about their thoughts and statements into one of semantics.

    I have, in the past, found it most effective to call people out for making comments such as these by declaring that they are “extremely offensive towards women” or by delving straight into the evidence which disproves their comments or which at least makes them sound as unreasonable to the person as they are to me. Then again, there are a number of people for whom “that’s such a sexist thing to say” or “you say really misogynistic things” is enough to spark a rational conversation about the extent of their conscious or unconscious offensiveness. I feel as though, coming out of this class at the end of this semester, we have become well-equipped to provide evidence and clear reasoning for our oppositional stance to statements like this and it is up to us to determine the ways in which we must combat it regularly based on who or what we are dealing with. That may take the form of anything from your open calling out of his sexist behavior to Dr. Felicity Paxton’s “culture jamming” practice of stamping so-called ‘women’s magazines’ and tabloids with text reading “this material is offensive towards women,” but I do generally agree with your call for all of us to more readily react to sexism and other hateful speech when we are confronted by it.

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