As a feminist in this day and age (2010’s) it’s hard not to face opposition from many men and unfortunately some women as well. Myself and other millennials of this generation are by no means exempt from sexism in our society. Many would call me idealistic and would advise me to turn the other cheek regarding these social issues–they would tell me to ignore it, fake a smile, and kindly bear it. However, I disagree strongly with this solution—there is a reason for the whole feminist movement after all; we need it and if we ignore the issues at hand that squanders the movement altogether. At the end of the day it all comes down to respect. If you respect each individual regardless of their gender and get rid of the preconceived notions of the roles assigned to us, we would be having less problems of sexism in our society.
As a woman, and as a student in my early twenties I experience sexism and prejudice on almost a daily basis. I understand that this is changing, however is it really?
Recently, just this summer actually, I experienced something that I’ve never experienced before. I was in the city that I loved, New York. My best friend and I set out to explore central park and we were excited to ride our bikes there. As we entered –these men trying to advertise their bikes approached us, which was completely fine until they started becoming disrespectful.
I don’t doubt that most women face or have faced sexism multiple times in their lives. In this particular case, it was a woman instead of a man who came to our defense. When my friend and I stated that we weren’t interested in their bikes and proceeded to walk away–they relentlessly followed us and kept asking. At this point I became extremely aggravated and told them to back off and that we’re not interested. The men ignored that and continued to badger us. There were men and women in the crowd but the men didn’t try to step in to intervene. One of the women present however, saw what was happening and told them to leave us alone (luckily she worked with them). They finally backed off and left and in light of the situation she offered to give us a huge discount as compensation for what just transpired. I was grateful for that and felt very lucky because things like that wouldn’t happen often. In this scenario most people would think that a male would come to our rescue with the whole “damsel in distress” scenario but such is not the case. Women can relate and the fact that she intervened so strongly gives me cause to believe that our strongest allies are people that can empathize and have gone through the same situations we have.
This is just one of the many instances where I’ve experienced it. More recently as I was backing out of a Starbucks and turned to look to see if there were any cars–a middle aged man saw me and blew kisses my way. Why of course I thought all the while debating whether I should give him the finger or not. Later that same day, I rode my bike and I passed by two teenage boys who moved out of the way to let me pass yet one of them made a comment stating “You so cute”. Again, I just shook my head in disappointment; they definitely start young. It’s important to educate young people, even as young as elementary school on how its not okay to cat call a woman, feel entitled to her body, or to disrespect girls, and view them only as objects for your pleasure. That seems to be the mentality in this male dominated society which still has a long way to go despite this idea of “progressiveness” we’ve received in recent years.
The most recent incident of ignorance I’ve experienced actually happened just last weekend. I was in an art gallery with my neighbor and one of the gallery managers came up to us and made remark that made me cringe. He basically gestured towards me and told my neighbor: “She’s beautiful, you should buy a painting for her.”
“She’s beautiful, you should buy a painting for her.”.
Trying to basically solicit the fact that since we were on a date, he should try to get me something in order to get something out of it. Of course inside I was fuming but I let out a comment and said,” We can buy paintings ourselves and don’t need a guy to buy it for us thanks.” It wasn’t really his remark that bothered me, it was the fact that he spoke to my friend as if I was nonexistent–an object like one of his paintings if you will.
I honestly feel sorrow for girls who experience this daily like myself, but at the same time I feel like it is our duty to educate ourselves about it and to educate our young men from elementary school up to highschool at the least. We all live in this society together, the little steps we take to make it that much better –no matter how “idealistic” it may seem can have a profound effect. Because of sexism, gender wage gap, and perpetuated gender roles–we need feminism. Through education and the practice of respect maybe then our young men wouldn’t grow up to be condescending adults, whether they are conscious of it or not.