By Livvy Murphy
Sexism is a term used when someone is discriminated against because of their gender.
So, if a boy is told to ‘man up’ and ‘stop behaving like a girl’, that is sexist.
If a boy is treated differently, or considered ‘odd’ because he wants to wear eyeliner is that sexist? Of course it is.
If a father fails to secure that promotion from his boss at work because he chose to take paternity leave and care for his newborn alongside his wife, is that sexist? Hell yeah.
And for the record, eating disorders or the ‘slimmers’ disease’ doesn’t just affect girls. They affect all genders.
These examples emphasise that men’s issues have one common denominator: the patriarchy – the perception, treatment and behaviour towards women. A combination of tradition, lack of evolution and lad culture is discriminating against both boys and girls. This is why I wish to stress: it is not a men vs women issue; it’s about people vs prejudice.
Let me explain myself. As an example, the #fitforsummer #summerbod trends affect not just us girls, but our men and boys too. With billboards of David Beckham stripped down to his briefs, David Gandy swimming seductively in his next-to-nothing swimmers for a Davidoff advert and Channing Tatum exposing his toned torso more times than not in his film ‘Magic Mike’, it is unsurprising that gym membership statistics are at their highest ever. Want to look like ‘The Rock’? Then be prepared to consume 4000 calories of lean protein and endure three rigorous workouts a day. If you fail to do so you are just not good enough.
It is this sort of pressure that is stimulated, perpetuated and fuelled by ‘lad culture’. For example, alcohol consumption (or at least the amount of ‘alcohol stamina’ one can take) gives boys massive ‘lad points.’ Such messages are prolific in the media nowadays; take reality show ‘Geordie Shore’ for example. By day the boys are in the gym ‘getting massive’, by evening they drink as much alcohol as possible without ‘getting mortal’, and by night the real success depends on whether a ‘lucky lass’ (or two, or three or four) will be staying for a sleepover. Bonus points if you ‘take one for the team’ and get with the ‘ugliest’ girl in the club.
It is this normalised misogyny that must change, and we must never underestimate the influence of societal expectation. Perhaps we should stop segregating the world into two genders and just see ourselves as ‘people’. Sexism affects all sexes and is instigated by all too. Yet, if we are so similar, why do we continue to feel the anger and desperation of men who feel it is their fundamental right to be superior to women? Ashamedly, I have been on the receiving end of comments such as: ‘if you had just stuck to the kitchen, none of this shit would have happened’. I feel it is about time that such backward thinking is abolished.
As I emphasised in my previous blog post, feminists are not man-haters. It is a particular shame that many men’s rights -activists are guilty of this misconception too, despite having so much in common with us. I feel that the majority of men feel threatened by feminism, setting themselves in stubborn and angry opposition to us, when really we could work towards equality together by sharing our stories and finding a mutual appreciation and love for one another.
Unfortunately, there is a fear that ‘male privileges’ are at risk of being taken away. The thought of abolishing page 3 for example, means abolishing a male tradition that the majority of men feel is rightfully theirs. But we should not be too quick to judge this reluctance to change. Why? Because we are conditioned to behave in ways that cohere with society. Male and female individuals adhere to societal convention to essentially ‘fit in’. I wish to increase the awareness of learned behaviours, because I believe the majority of men and women who are occasionally sexist do not do it deliberately. We must not blame these people, but the rules, traditions and conventions that govern our world. Our patriarchal culture influences all sexist behaviour, therefore in most cases sexist behaviour is not intentional. The solution is to be bold enough to challenge concrete expectations and norms, for if we don’t challenge, we will never change. We are all in this together, therefore we must work towards re-educating and reconstructing society, to make a new world where all genders are mutually respected, harmonious, and protected. Only then may we be able to truly live life to the fullest, and fulfill our potential as human beings.
*Note: This is Livvy’s last blog for PBG. We’ve been honoured to have her as a member of the team and wish her all the love and luck for the future