Sexism exists in our society in more ways than one, sometimes staring in our faces blatantly and unapologetically, while slipping into our everyday lives ever so casually on other occasions. And though it seems reasonable to call out the former, we often let go of casual sexism that we encounter on day to day basis, because it just seems too much of an effort to be put for a ‘harmless’ issue. Moreover, we aren’t sure what we can achieve by standing up to casual sexism. In fact women, who do so, have to deal with criticism of being uptight and too sensitive to even take a joke. But then what sort of example does it set for our daughters and sons, when you don’t stand up to casual sexism? Doesn’t it normalise the fact that one can get away with sexist remarks which seem harmless or naïve or made light-heartedly?
- Women are embroiled with a battle with gender imbalance in society.
- The focus is on more crucial aspects of gender discrimination like sexual misconduct and gender pay gap.
- This is why we are often expected to let casual sexism pass since it is seemingly harmless.
- But everyday sexism can impact children in their formative years, and affect their mind-set in a big way.
While it seems reasonable to call out the former, we often let go of casual sexism that we encounter on day to day basis, because it just seems too much of an effort.
Women have forever been engaged in a bigger battle with gender imbalance in the society. The struggle seems to have intensified in recent times, with women calling out sexually inappropriate behaviour, demanding closure of pay gap and refusing to entertain misogyny and discrimination in all walks of life. We are looking at a bigger picture, we are expected to focus on more relevant issues than a few misplaced jokes and stigmas. The rise in conversation on crucial problems that women face has shifted the focus from everyday sexism, which is now seen as harmless because there is a bar set for offensive behaviour. In fact, we end up consoling ourselves in the company of a casually sexist person. At least they didn’t try to normalise marital rape or didn’t touch you inappropriately. Small mercies.
But everytime you let a sexist jibe pass, especially in front of your daughter, you end up telling her that women are expected to endure it. That those who raise a voice against inappropriate jokes or casual stereotyping of women and even men are overreacting. Our silence also normalises sexism to boys. They assume that men entitled to berating women or dismissing their views just because of their gender. It is little things like these which set boy and girls on radically different paths while growing up. It (mis)shapes their mind-sets for a lifetime. Girls grow up to be self-deprecatory and internalise sexism, thus seeing themselves as inferior. Boys, on the other hand, watch their male peers make casually sexist remarks against women and get away with it without any consequences, and therefore adopt it.
But everytime you let a sexist jibe pass, especially in front of your daughter, you end up telling her that women are expected to endure it.
Sexism doesn’t present itself in our offices or social media out of nowhere. It originates in our drawing rooms as harmless jibes which go unchecked, or in the form of casual remarks about the incapability of one gender and superiority of another, which we leave unchallenged. So in a way standing up to casual sexism is like nipping the problem in its bud. It also gives girls and boys courage to challenge patriarchal norms and grow in life on their own terms, rather than those of society. It discourages flag bearers of morality and trolls from pushing their agenda on others. Something as trivial as refusing to laugh at an offensive joke or questioning everyday patriarchy can put our children on the course of embracing virtues of equality.
Picture Credit: Charlein Gracia on Unsplash
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.