This is a classic example of the more subtle gender discrimination that is so prevalent, and so devoid of intent to harm, that we mostly just don’t see it. The fact that we’re so used to it we hardly notice, doesn’t lessen the harm it does, the message this view of women drills in over and over again. It’s actually heartbreaking to use this example as it’s from an article highlighting a lovely song with a touching accompanying video. Even so, I cringed when I read this:
The heartbreaking yet understated video has Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino on the piano as a svelte Aguilera, clad in a little black dress, lends her soulful vocals.
Did you miss it? Let me rewrite and try to show you what’s happening here:
The heartbreaking yet understated video has a trim Ian Axel in figure-fitting casuals and dreamy Chad Vaccarino in a fetching suit on the piano as Aguilera lends her soulful vocals.
I just can’t get this to not bother me anymore. It is wrong, and it has to stop.
I’ve recently come into contact on a regular basis with a person who has brought home the impact of subtle sexism to me. The definition of subtle sexism is:
1. Discrimination based on gender.
2. Attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.
This kind of behaviour matters a lot. Without the person promoting it meaning to do so, they damage those around them (women are on the receiving end in the vast, vast majority of incidents, but it is totally possible for men to be the victims). Women feel isolated, targeted, and intimidated. Subtle sexists create a hostile environment for women.
The tragedy lies not only in the damage to women, but that the men in the situation are also damaged. Their views of women are warped. In the case I’m aware of, the boys involved are told again and again in little “jokes” and endless anecdotes that women are useless chatterboxes who always turn out to be stupid, and whose views always turn out to be wrong, especially when these airheads insist they are right and the superior male goes along with it just to show the ridiculous woman up for the idiot she is. They are trained to disregard or undervalue the opinions of those who don’t have a penis.
Lastly, the perpetrators of this kind of misogyny damage themselves in a tragic naked-emperor-like way. By contaminating the world with their belief that all women are useless bimbos, they reveal that the only women they ever get a chance to know are useless bimbos. The intelligent, funny, practical, strong, pleasant majority of the female population are smart enough not to hang out with arseholes.
I am attempting to widen my news reading, as it’s probably as closed-minded to only read the Guardian as it would be to only watch Fox News. So I visited Independent.ie for a bit of a different view on what’s going on in the world. Good website, except they have in their menu across the top the following categories: News, Sport, Business, Woman, Entertainment, Lifestyle, Videos, Photos. My first question on seeing that was, why should there be a separate category for women?
I clicked on it and understood why: because clearly, the Independent is still extricating itself from the view that women are vacuous creatures who shouldn’t bother their cute little heads with such weighty issues as world news. No, ladies, we at the Independent realise that what interests you is Celeb News, Photos, Videos, Fashion, Beauty, Love & Sex, Diet & Fitness, Horoscopes, and Competitions.
Grow up, Luddites. Your sexism is showing.
Does it matter?
Author Michael Merriam linked to an article about a fan-made Wonder Woman short which has generated a lot of interest. The point of the article is that this short’s popularity proves big studios wrong, which have not wanted to make a WW feature length film as they feel there would not be enough interest. Also, the string of woman superhero flops is pointed to as evidence that we just don’t want to see our superpowered folk in female form.
I have a question for those who hold this view. Would you take Batman seriously if he arrived at the scene of a crime in stilettos? Or would you think a picture of Superman in flight, face grim, is impressive if he was in stilettos?
For that matter, a male superhero whose costume covers him literally head to toe, leaving only his neck and head exposed – in the case of Batman, not even that – is the norm. They even wear gloves. Female superheroes are much more likely to wear costumes which can barely containt their boobs. If they’re lucky enough to wear something that covers them, it looks more like an outfit purchased at the local BDSM shop than a practical costume which optimises physical activity. Even the most practical of them are still stuck with stiletto heels which require superpowers to simply walk in, never mind perform anything physically demanding.
How can anybody be surprised that Halle Berry’s Catwoman was a joke? Would you feel relieved if you’re in a fix and someone dressed like this showed up?
People can suspend disbelief enough to accept, for the duration of the film, that someone can fly, has a magic hammer, can lift trucks or freeze water with their eyes. Asking us to take someone seriously who apparently thought, that morning: “Hmm. I’m likely to get into a physical fight with men twice my size, I’ll need to run, jump, and climb up the sheer wall of a building. I know! I’ll wear my nine-inch stilettos!!” is taking it a step too far.