Sexism, as a whole, is a deep-seated prejudice that has been spanning centuries and has only begun being addressed effectively in the last few decades. It stands for bigoted mentalities directed towards a particular gender, which is almost always the female gender. When compared to a hundred years ago, women are faring exponentially better financially, socially, politically as well as mentally today. Even so, in the status quo, is it sufficient?
The writer, female herself, believes it is safe to say that the answer is negative. A girl, from her very birth, has to deal with remarks of her gender — something she didn’t choose, something that is her identity by birth. And it is not always the big things. It is not always not being allowed to stay out at night or choosing her own profession or chasing her dreams. In numerous cases, it is the small things that mold into something severe, despite being thought of as trivial. It’s not just in our society, either.
Stereotypes are what poison girls’ lives. They grow with firm roots underground and bloom into grotesque trees. Every fruit that it births is saturated with venom. These are the fruits that bigots feed on. They spew it with acrid remarks. And who are the ones having to swallow their hurt? Girls.
Stereotypes are so viciously ingrained in people’s mentality that if they had to extricate it, they would cause their own demise. Funnily enough, yes, they would rather perish than consider someone else’s perspective. They would rather remain rotten in their grime than ever even think that the opposition could have their own feelings and arguments. Starting from blatantly misogynistic 1950s advertisements which announced in bold letters “SHOW HER IT’S A MAN’S WORLD” to modern day promotion of products and body images that ultimately dehumanize women, sexism throbs in every vein of normalization of these adverse content to the general public. Popular media, a platform heavily controlled by algorithms and A.I. propelled marketing, directly contributes to this normalization. Before the introduction of media in Fiji, for instance, a woman having a portly body was considered someone respectable. With the coming of TV in 1994, young women shunned the ways of their mothers and aunts, and began slimming down to cater to the Eurocentric beauty standards. In this way, endorsement of monopolistic standards has perpetuated the unforgiving judgment of women based on their bodies.
On the other side of the coin, the subtleties make themselves prominent in minuscule typography — words that go unread or unheeded. For instance, if you present a crocheted craft to people, they would say, “Ah, yes. Good work indeed, my child. Knitting is a hobby that best suits girls.” While there is encouragement, no doubt, it also implies that the remark expects you to knit/crochet as you are a girl. They are not seeing it as a craft you made out of your own creativity for your own pleasure. They believe you are good at it because you are a girl.
It also goes the other way around. Math might not be your forte and you might hear them say, “Girls are bad at math.” If the sentence was only framed as “You are bad at math”, it would have been acceptable. But believing an entire gender is incompetent judging by the results of one person is the writer’s point to be discussed.
Girls are expected to be good at singing, dancing, cooking, keeping their rooms clean and other indoor activities, whereas, even before they can prove themselves, they are judged to be bad at driving, gaming, travelling, fighting and other outdoor activities. While it is absolutely creditable to be good at something, one should not be inclined to believe they are good at it by virtue of their gender.
The writer, who happens to be an avid gamer, would like to share what happens if she makes herself known in the gaming community. As the community is largely occupied by guys, she has to keep her gender a secret so she can be allowed in the big leagues. You cannot enter a brotherhood if you’re not a brother. It isn’t only that either. She will have to deal with sexist comments and inappropriate advances, and it frustrates her to no end that she doesn’t hold the power to do anything about it. It is only gaming we are doing to have fun and occupy our time. Why should there be a gender boundary there, then? Idle time, irrespective of gender.
And then there is the most remiss of the minutiae — the ones that are polished to look positive, when in actuality, it instils the belief that women are inferior. To cite an instance, if a man offers company to a fellow woman at night for her safety, of course, it likely could be out of goodwill. But what it also does is entail the idea that she cannot defend herself, that she is not enough of herself and that she requires the presence of a man to reach home safely. These subtleties are often misleading. They appear to be benevolent but the effect that it inscribes are deep-seated and long-lasting.
In order to uproot sexism as a whole, these minutiae can, in no way, be overlooked. The worst part is that even most girls fail to identify these as sexist acts. They are so used to accepting discrimination, even on the slightest of grounds, that their sense of identifying something wrong happening to them is blurred. This article aims to address the small things that are enough to splinter a girl’s self-esteem.
The writer, a cynic, is a part of the TDA Editorial Team.