My Photo
Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Blog Against Sexism Day

Vegankid has suggested that we use today--International Women's Day--as a day to blog against sexism. Sounds good to me. This is what I know about sexism.

I grew up in an all-female household. My mom was a single mom and we lived with my grandmother and my mom's two younger sisters. I grew up surrounded by women at a time when women were roaring. Women could bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan. They also could never ever let you forget you're a man, but I never understood that part of the commerical. What men? There were no men in our house. In many ways, I had the best of all possible worlds. I had my grandmother, who was the matriarch as well as the traditional caregiver. She cooked, cleaned, and cared for me while my mom was at work. And I had my mother, whom I saw go to work without complaint every day of my life from the time I could remember.

My aunts were 13 and 15 when I was born. With my child eyes, I saw them grow up during the wild and crazy seventies. I remember tight bell bottom jeans, long hair, endless hours spent sewing patches, necklaces made out of Wrigley gum wrappers, peace signs on stickers, mind your Ps and Qs, vests, afros, granny afghans, Led Zeppelin, Carol King, roach clips, lids, and the smell of something funny. I remember my grandma banging on the door of their bedroom: "I smell something funny in there!" "It's only incense, Ma!" came the choked reply.

I grew up surrounded by women. Strong, hard working, fun loving, smart women: my role models.

So I was completely unprepared for the World According to Men when my mom started dating. It took me a while to get used to these large grumpy creatures who liked things their own way. My mom eventually remarried and from junior high to the present day, my world has always had men in it. I lived with my mom and stepdad until I went to college; in college I lived in a co-ed dorm and then in various housing situations with both male and female roommates; I've lived with more than one male in my adult life and I've been married once before. To a man.

In my life with men, I have often wondered if the experiences of my early years didn't provide me with enough knowledge of how to be in a man's world. Maybe it was a good thing; maybe I just didn't know that women acted one way and men acted another way. The way I saw things growing up, women did whatever they wanted to do, whether it was take care of the house, pray, go to work, play the piano, or smoke dope.

It took being in the working world for me to begin to understand the personal implications of sexism. First, I have been paid less than my male counterparts in every position I've held except my most recent one, where, coincidentally, my manager was female. And there is no doubt in my mind that in each of the jobs where I was paid less, I did at least 25% more work than either the men I worked beside or the ones who held my job before me.

It also took being in personal relationships with men for me to start truly groking sexism on a daily basis, in my own home. Without fail, the main issue I've had with any man I've ever lived with--friend or lover--was one of housework. Apparently, women are raised to do housework and men are not. I never knew this. When I was growing up, my grandma did all of the housework including clearing our plates off the table and stirring my chocolate milk until all of the lumps were gone. I have always wondered why I now do housework when it's obvious I was raised like a princess. Or at least like a male child.

In order to co-exist in a world where half of us are women and half of us are men, I pick and choose how I fight my battles on the sexist front. I persistently fought for raises when I was working, but I never compared my salary to a male co-worker's and used the result as a reason why I should get one. At home, we have discussions about housework and how it's divided, and I try to live with the idea that it's an equal split. On bad days I have my doubts.

Sexism rears its ugly head in so many aspects of our daily lives that it's almost invisible. I can't recall the last time I experienced it. But wait, didn't I experienced sexism today when I was reading that magazine at the gym and realized that most of the articles were written by men? Didn't I experience sexism today when I read such positive reviews of George Clooney's behavior at the Oscars and such negative feedback about Reese Witherspoon's speech? Why is Clooney revered as a good 'ol boy in the best of the classic chauvistic pig tradition and Witherspoon is dismissed as being too gushy and girly? Didn't I experience sexism today when I chose not to go jogging because it was getting dark out? What man "knows better" than to jog after dark in a suburban neighborhood lit with streetlights?

Today is International Women's Day and Blog Against Sexism Day. It's also a good day to remind ourselves that we do not live in a society where men and women live with the same notions of what to expect from life or the same notions of what to expect from each other or the same notions of what to expect from themselves. Regardless of how far we've come (a long way, baby!), how loud we've roared (I am woman!), and how much bacon we can bring home, we still live in a society where sexism is professional, personal, and omnipresent.

And that's what I know about sexism.

Technorati tag: