It always amazes me how many instances of everyday sexism exist in society. What’s worse is that up until recently, I just accepted so many of them as societal norms. I never questioned things like, women needing to make up a significant other just to get men to leave them alone. It’s something I’d heard of people doing many times throughout my life, seen in many media outlets, and something I’d done myself. I didn’t understand why this norm existed nor did I question it. It just seemed normal. We’re so conditioned to accept these sexist, patriarchal ideas as “facts” that it’s no wonder there hasn’t been more discussion on the problems these assumptions cause. However, women have started speaking up, something I’m thrilled to see.
First, the hash tag #questionsformen was recently introduced by Daily Life columnist Clementine Ford after tweeting this:
As with many feminist hash tags, women of all kinds chimed in to share their own experiences with sexism. Would men be comfortable with only women weighing in on laws and policies related to their reproductive organs? Do men ever get called “meninazis” when they have strong opinions? When men achieve something great, is the media’s first question about what they’re wearing? The list of thought provoking questions continues. Jenna Guillaume of Buzzfeed complied a list of 19 tweets that especially highlight the sexism that occurs everyday in our society. It’s worth a look!
This is not the first time that women have taken to the Twittersphere to address examples of sexism that have become so ingrained in many of us. Seeing as awards season is upon us, it’s only fitting to address the blatant sexism that occurs annually on the red carpet. At the beginning of the 2014 awards season, people began tweeting with the hashtag, #askhermore, started by the Representation Project. It’s ridiculous how women are asked little about their roles and more about what they’re wearing or how they got in shape for a role or something similar. As the website points out, awards shows like the Oscars are meant to honor the highest achievements in film and female stars’ appearance is all that reporters seem to care about. Male celebrities, unsurprisingly, are more often asked the meatier and more intellectual questions about their work. Throughout the night of the 2014 Oscars, people tweeted questions that would be more appropriate to ask actresses on the red carpet. You can bet I’ll be on the lookout for a similar movement at this year’s awards.
I love that we’ve seen so many great feminist hash tags pop up on Twitter in the last year. It puts these issues in the forefront of conversation, making it harder to ignore the blatant sexism that’s always been targeted towards women. I will say though, that while this attention is good and can help prompt discussion, I have to wonder if creating trending topics via social media will ever be enough to truly make a difference. As with many movements like this, I feel like men and even some women really miss the point that is being made or try to discredit the ideas presented. An article from The Libertarian Republic demonstrates this .
While trying to see if I could find more in-depth coverage on reactions to this hash tag, I stumbled upon an article called “20 Stupid Feminist Questions for Men Answered”. Now, with a headline like this, you think I’d give my blood pressure a break and avoid at all costs. Of course, curiosity got the better of me and I had to take a look and it was all exactly what you’d expect. First of all, let’s just take a look at the photo they use at the opening of the article:
The feminist in me is raging because you just know exactly how these readers view women who dare speak against the status quo.
In a couple of cases, the man who answers feminist’s questions does actually point out some fair problems within the #questionsformen tag. For example, when asked if men need to text people to tell them they’ve made is safely home, it’s likely that they actually might because people are still worried about their safety. I will say, it’s a valid observation. However, the overall tone of the article demonstrates how many men just don’t understand why feminists pose questions like these. Women are not asking men if they need to worry about getting home safely because men don’t have to worry about their safety. Women are so much more likely to be hurt when going somewhere alone than men and that’s what makes this question relevant to the discussion on sexism. He talks about how men are objectified too, but the point #questionsformen is trying to make is that it’s such a larger problem for women; and are men really as impacted by this problem as women? The author says something about idealized body standards for men. How many overweight and “unattractive” men do you see in media? A lot, I’m guessing. What about women? As you may have guessed, very few.
Additionally, when people ask questions about women in entertainment, the author asks, “Why do you care? Do other people’s opinions matter that much to you?” It’s not that other people’s opinions really matter that much. The point is that women can’t identify with characters on TV shows because there aren’t enough of them. The point is that women don’t like being called “girl gamers” because it comes from such a sexist place, not because of someone’s opinion. I could go on about the number of times the author attempted to answer a question with this rather irrelevant answer.
As excited I get about seeing hash tags meant to further empower women, I do realize the shortcomings of this approach. Getting people talking is important, don’t get me wrong, but in the back-and-forth world of the Internet, it’s horribly easy for those who are ignorant and ill informed to try to shut women down. It’s not limited to the Internet either; I’ve been asked similar questions by the people in my life who don’t understand feminism. This article makes one thing a bit more clear to me: until we can get those against feminism, primarily men, to participate in our conversations on women’s equality and the sexism we experience everyday, progress is going to be a challenge. However, I am still 100% supportive of these pro-feminism hash tags because while there will be men out there who fight everything we say tooth and nail, there will be girls and women like myself who begin thinking differently about everyday sexism. That’s progress that we should all be happy about.