Thursday, 8 March 2007

Stirring the sexism pot

Today is/was Blog Against Sexism Day and here lays my contribution. I have not read a wide range of articles on sexism, nor have I looked at the issue in any depth since uni (I graduated 10 years ago - yikes) therefore I have no sources to back up anything that I may say. So here goes.

Sexism, sexist behaviours, sexual discrimination, sexist attitudes and sexual harassment are bullshit. That goes without saying, but I thought I'd say it anyway. If this is such a simple, basic understanding shared by the majority of the western population, why are these issues still so prevalent? Certainly, there must be some allowance for the ignorance of older generations who grew up accepting these values (or lack thereof) as social norms.... some but not too much. Also, there should be some understanding given to people who have recently migrated cultures (again, some but not too much). However, no excuse should be allowed for the generations of western children who have grown up since the Women's Lib movement put sexism on the political and social agenda.

How far have we really come in changing to a non-sex based mentality? A couple of centimetres. Video clips still portray women as sexual objects - eye candy for the male viewer. Even Madonna, Pink and other "liberated" singers convey themselves in sexual manners although this is marketed as statement of female sexual power. Advertising agencies still predominantly use female actors for adverts promoting cooking, cleaning and child-care goods. Female actors are still cast as secretaries, beauticians or shop assistants in movies. Sometimes, they are upgraded to corporate high-flyers, but usually in an industry which is considered feminine such as the fashion industry. If they are outside of these media-driven norms, they are portrayed as "different" or "unusual" in some way - the ball-breaking bitch, a lesbian or a rebel.

Is sexism so ingrained into our cultures that it will never go away? I recently watch Ayen's Cooking School for African Men on SBS. This doco followed a Sudanese woman who set up a cooking school for Sudanese men in Australia. According to the doco, in Sudanese culture, males do not cook - full stop, no correspondence will be entered into. For the men interviewed, they viewed cooking as a purely female task, it would be a sign of weakness for a man to even enter the kitchen. Likewise, the women interviewed said that men can't cook as it isn't masculine. The problem is that, due to the large number of Sudanese migrants coming into Australia, many young Sudanese men are living in all-male share houses and practically starving as none of them know how to cook and refuse to cook.

Western culture isn't that much different. School children still view cooking as a female oriented task, regardless of the fact that the majority of professional chefs are male. Sure we "liberated" western males know how to cook, however a guy who professes to enjoy cooking is often viewed as being a little bit (if not completely) gay by both men and women. We continue to feminise the basic duty of feeding one's self to survive even after years of being taught better. Sexual stereotypes are still rife, regardless of gender.

Sexism, like racism, will be with us for generations to come until such time that we as a society can see each person as a unique individual and not as a collection of stereotypes conveyed by media and culture.

Songs played while writing this entry:
"Give Your Body" Random XS
"Come And Die" Therapy? & Fatal
"Gimme The Car" The Violent Femmes
"Surrender" U2
"Automatic" Chrome & Price
"Angel Particles" Hallucinogen
"High Voltage" AC/DC
"Disorder" Slayer & Ice-T
"Mutant Was In Love" Taho
"Black Hole Sun" Soundgarden
"Tremor Christ" Pearl Jam

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