By morgan Miles, Staff Writer
Women seem to forget that they are often sexist, too.
While listening to passionate, history-centered conversations in class, I can’t help but consistently overhear the rhetoric that men were sexist toward women. Though I’m sure the particular wording is unintentional, it’s still problematic. Problematic not because it’s wrong, but because that’s still a prominent belief today: Men are the ones acting on sexism, which is solely against women.
Rather, the world has changed and sexism’s spectrum has shifted.
I’ve had the luxury of discussing this subject with someone who was adamant in proving herself a feminist. But when I brought up how men and women sometimes experience the same kind of challenges in regard to sexism, she immediately chastised me, telling me how it doesn’t matter if men are catcalled or objectified in other ways, much like women are. Why? Because women have had it worse.
I forgave her for her ignorance because the false label of feminist was all she had. Women have had it worse. That’s not wrong. I lost respect when she showed me that she validated our sexist actions.
Objectification of men, acted out by women, has clearly been normalized. We’re disgusted –– and rightly so –– if an attractive woman receives unwanted, inappropriate attention on the street. But if a man is attractive, who cares if women grope, kiss and flirt with him?
I mean, does anyone remember a 40 year-old Jenny McCarthy forcing Justin Bieber, who was 18, to kiss her? How McCarthy grabbed his butt and then said he was delicious? He looked horrified, and she laughed in an interview afterward. Many supported McCarthy with the belief that Bieber was lucky to have the experience. This is sexual harassment. Today, men are justly called out for their unwanted, sexual advances, especially the men who are 40 and go for 18 year-old women. Yet, McCarthy can write her harassment off as a “cougar fantasy.”
Similarly, in Blank Check, a Disney movie, a 30-year-old actress kisses a 12-year-old boy on the lips. And yes, the older woman is the one who makes the move. Worse than the kiss is the proposition she offers the little boy: Let’s have a real date in 10 years. Lots of groomer vibes, right? Yet, the response has been quite minimal in the sense that there’s backlash on social media and that’s about it.
In many ways, we all sit back and enjoy the objectification of men in the media. I’m not one to deny that a shirtless Chris Evans is always a pleasant surprise. But, looking past the abs, the representation of there being a single, ideal type of man in the media can be as harmful as it is for women.
This concept may be harder to conceive, because women historically are the focus when it comes to body types. However, men face a growing trend –– heightened by advancement in media –– that creates expectations of what encompasses true masculinity. And these expectations include a specific body image of a large, muscular manly-man, comparable to the idealization of Barbie’s thin figure.
Blatant objectification of men isn’t the only form that sexism takes. Parenthood idealizations also tend to pull the most sexist, traditional values from the depths of our souls.
It’s expected that women will stay home and men will work. A man cannot be the stay-at-home parent, and if he is, women are quick to dote on him for “babysitting.” There is no babysitting if a parent is caring for their own child, regardless of gender, yet this idea is continuously perpetuated.
Far too often, women will be quick to make the assumption that if a man is alone with a child, that child is being kidnapped or the man is a pedophile. This point may seem ridiculous, but the media has brought to light the extent to which this occurs –– even in subtle ways.
Subtle ways include keeping a close eye on a man at a park, even if he points out he has a child with him –– especially if that man is not conventionally attractive. More extreme examples involve women approaching fathers on an outing with their children to accuse the father of kidnapping or human trafficking, sometimes having the police called to investigate.
Reactions to men simply being alone and enjoying time with their children in public exposes the sexism that inherently comes with parenthood, hidden behind a curtain of normalcy.
I only scrubbed the surface of the ways women tend to forget they are sexist. And this isn’t a diminishing of the issue that is patriarchal society oppressing women since literally the beginning of time. It’s merely a reminder that sexism is a two way street, and the steps we take to combat its manifestations shouldn’t shy away from tackling how men are harmed, too.