An old lecturer of mine – an intelligent, successful woman may I add – recently made the comment that sexism does not exist anymore in the western world. Upon further prying, I found that her opinions on the subject were slightly less controversial. Although not claiming that sexist comments and actions are nowhere to be seen in present day interactions, she maintained that making a sexist gesture or remark would be the equivalent of ‘outing’ yourself out as a mugger who preys on vulnerable pensioners or a thug who engages in animal cruelty. In other words, although it happens, sexism has become so socially unacceptable, that the subsequent backlash from said offensive act would result in the perpetrator being shamed and deterred from future sexist behaviour.
Now, when it comes to comparing ourselves with our female counterparts in third world countries, who are subject to instiutionalised domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, lack of education and arranged marriage, I completely agree with the point that we Brits have things an awful lot better than many around the world. But sexism is still sexism, no matter how big or small, and the sad fact is that discrimination against women and girls in the developed world is a lot more widely accepted than we may initially think.
We need only look at the shocking stories broadcast on the Everyday Sexism Project’s website to see that instances ranging from gender-related name-calling to full-blown abuse remain relatively commonplace in the world today. One disturbing story documenting a young woman’s sexual abuse by two males is particularly striking in that, upon hearing of the incident, her peers appeared to condone the perpetrators actions, stating that she ‘deserved it’. If this is not sexist, misogynist and just downright despicable, then I don’t know what is.
Another shocking find in the field of anti-feminism came a few years back, when I read this research which outlined the similarities between the statements of convicted rapists and quotes from the pages of popular lad’s magazines. Even more disturbing was that, when a sample of 92 men was asked which statements they identified with most, the majority – unbeknownst to themselves – agreed with the rapists. This clearly suggests that the dominant ideology when it comes to gender relations is one in which women are viewed as objects and playthings. Obviously, not all men hold these views (I know very few, in fact, who do)- but the reality that comments such as ‘go and smash her on a park bench’ are published in mainstream publications is indicative of a deep-seated sexism still evident in society.
So although there is a backlash against misogyny from a select (albeit growing) sector of society who are championing feminism and equality, the fact that women are still being threatened, degraded and abused means that more needs to be done. If we want to see a real end to sexism, then the battle must rage on.