In Emma Watson’s recent speech at the UN, she calls for men to stand in favor of gender equality. She describes her life as a privileged one because everyone from her parents to her teachers cultivated a supportive environment for her in which she didn’t feel her gender was a factor. She calls those people “inadvertent feminists” and states that we need more people like that. Well, you know what Emma? I’m with ya. I’ve been with inadvertent feminism ever since I realized that commenting on a girl’s sexual attributes often had a negative impact on her well-being. I never called myself a feminist, because I thought it would be odd to be both a “feminist” and a “man”, but because “humanist” sounds pretentious and useless, I’m going to go with feminist. I’m themellowdramatist, and I’m a feminist.
For a long time now, thanks to having strong, confident women in my family, I’ve realized that I hate sexism. Out of all the prejudices out there, I think sexism, which the OED defines as “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex” is the most frustrating. Probably because no matter what country I’m in, what political views the people have, or what television shows they like, I see sexism. I see sexism every day. I see it when I walk home at night. I see it when two men are talking to each other. I see it on Bravo. It’s everywhere! If Ed Wood were still alive, he’d make a movie called “Return of the Sexisms.” If King Kong had to fight Sexism, he’d lose.
Why is it so ubiquitous? There’s a fine line with sexism. There’s nothing wrong with discussing something on the basis of sex — sex is a pretty interesting subject. I get why people would want to talk about the difference between the sexes or sexy things. It’s when the conversation about sex leaves neutral territory that makes it problematic. Take this conversation for instance:
Last weekend, I met a dude, who was a mutual friend of a dude I already knew. New Dude seemed very nice, asked me about my day and what I was doing in LA. Mutual Dude discussed how he and this girl he’s seeing aren’t having sex anymore, despite the fact that he stays over her house nearly every weekend. New Dude expresses surprise that any dude would keep hanging out with a woman once they weren’t having sex anymore. I asked Mutual Dude whether they were having any problems, but before I get an answer, New Dude suggests Mutual Dude force his way “in” to make use of the time he has with her. The dudes laugh. I stop enjoying the conversation, because we are no longer in neutral territory. We are “this is a problematic conversation” territory. The thing I regret the most was that even though I stopped enjoying the conversation, I personally didn’t say anything to stop it.
The fine line between having primal desires and objectification is often described as “consent.” Without the consent of the person one is interested in sexually, any verbalization or action expressing said interest is considered harassment or assault. The concept of being harassed or assaulted appears, to me at least, to be something most people would not like inflicted on them, but for some reason, it keeps on happening. Ask any girl about their routine about getting home at night and you’ll hear a well-rehearsed set of parameters they give themselves not only to be safe, but to get home without drawing any attention from a dude. What kind of world do we live in that normalizes this? I hate living with the knowledge that no woman I know is free from harassment just because she wants to walk down the street at night.
So I’m going to walk this walk. If I hear the same kind of conversation again (seeing as how I’m in LA, I’m sure it’s going to happen any second now), I’m going to explain why that rape joke is not funny. It might not be funny because the girl you’re talking about might be your daughter someday. Maybe that girl has suffered sexual abuse all her life and she thinks assault is a part of a loving relationship. Or maybe there are a bunch of people joking about raping you. None of these possibilities are funny.
I’m standing in solidarity with HeForShe, because I want the catcalls, the rape jokes, the harassments, abuses, comments, everything to be abnormalized. The longer we act on the plane where we don’t treat each other equally, the longer we operate a world that fosters inequality, and it’s just too late in human history to keep inequality going.