Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sexism. Or, How I Alienate The Men Reading This Blog

Departing a little bit from my normal variety of post, I wanted to share a link to a blog I follow called Mom-101: 


She posted this a few days ago, and I've been putting off talking about it because I wasn't sure it fit in here, and I'm probably going to have to use my brain to type this post instead of writing children dumb make head hurt probably drink wine talk about poop.

So please go read it and then come back.

Hello, again. Doesn't she make an excellent point?

Honestly, I don't very often think about "sexism" as a concept or even particularly notice it in my daily life, not because it isn't there, but because it's subtle. As Mom-101 puts it:

Sexism is pervasive. It creeps into our daughter’s lives in stealthy ways, before they’re able to identify it and refute it. Before they’re able to understand irony. Before they’re able to separate out the messages we tell them at home from the ones they see on t-shirts or posters on the subway. Man, if only they were one and the same.

After reading that post, I brought up the subject with Husband. Let me say right now, that it would be a hard to find a more supportive, open-minded, liberal guy. He couldn't care less that his son dresses frequently in a hot pink sequin gown and at work has hired women in part time roles over full-time candidates because they were the best people for the job. He is the last person you could accuse of sexism.

When I told him about the post, I talked about it in terms of my job search and how difficult it was to find a role with the flexibility I want. I reminded him that it was mostly women who were looking for a part-time position (in 2006 in the UK 38% of women with dependent children worked part time compared with only 4% of men with dependent children.) Women are disproportionately affected by people not wanting to hire on a part time or flexible basis, by the fact that they also pay those part time workers less (never mind that the gender pay gap in the UK is already one of the highest in Europe, with women who work full time earning 17% less per hour than men.)
Whoa, whoa, whoa, he said. This has nothing to do with women, and you are confusing two totally different things. It's simply not economical for companies to hire on a part time basis. Rightly or wrongly, it's a business decision; it just happens to impact women more.

Which I understand. But I disagree. While it's not as obvious as my UK driving instructor telling me that I should pass my test based on the tightness of my jeans (true story), it's sexism none the less. The playground near my house is FILLED with smart, educated, motivated women (yes, mostly women) who are staying home to look after their kids. They probably all have different reasons, and I know some of them choose to be with their babies, but I would put money on the fact that quite a few are there because they couldn't find a decent paying (i.e. earns more than childcare costs), flexible role that is challenging and interesting and as good as the things they were doing full time before they had kids.

There are ways to economically hire people part time (job share comes to mind) and certainly all the women I've spoken with are incredibly dedicated and would make great employees. So why don't we fight more to do something about it? Why do we continue to accept this?

I think it has something to do with the fact that this is "the way that it is." It fits really nicely into the stereotypes we all accept and live with. We don't really think of it in the context of sexism and subtly teach our daughters it, like I'm doing right now as I stay home while Daddy works. It's easily overlooked, but as Mom101 put it, while one little thing like a t-shirt or a part time job might not be the end of the world, it's symptomatic of a larger problem, and I just wanted to call that out.

*Steps off soapbox*

Stats are from the Women's Resource Center: http://www.wrc.org.uk/resources/facts_and_statistics_on_womens_inequality_in_the_uk.aspx


  1. Wow. You should write like this more often. With or without the wine.

    I was so fortunate to have a part-time, very flexible job for many years. Including those during which I procreated. I doubt I could have had my kids--and been so fortunate as to be around them in those early years--had I not been in a very flexible situation and I'll always be grateful to my boss for that.

    Meanwhile, at work I was productive and loyal, and it took me a lot longer to feel burnt out than most jobs. There's something to be said for part-time work, moms or not.

    Wouldn't it be fabulously utopian if more businesses felt complicit in supporting so-called family values?

  2. I have just finished reading 'How To Be A Woman' by Caitlin Moran (a strident feminist) so this post was particularly relevant as we are discussing it at our book club next Wednesday.

    I'd strongly recommend you read it if you haven't already as she articulates the 'subtle sexism' in our every day lives very well and how "...modern sexism has become cunning. Sly. Codified."

    She suggests that... "Most sexism is down to men being accustomed to us being the losers. That's what the problem is. We just have bad status. Men are accustomed to us being runners-up or being disqualified entirely."

    And before you get angry or defensive about that observation.... it's worth reading the context of the chapter as she offers reasons why women have gained that status.

    Elsewhere, she also highlights that women are physically the weaker sex. (Fact.) And that we get pregnant. (Fact.)

    IMHO these should be the only two things taught to children when we enter into a conversation about the difference between men and women. Forget the rest. As Caitlin Moran puts it.... we should all just be seen as "The Guys".

  3. Thanks, Mom101. I appreciate the comment and am also thankful to be currently interning with a start-up where there are nothing but understanding women to support me. It makes such a difference.

    Westward Five - thanks for the reading recommendation. I'm always open to new authors.

  4. I'd described myself as 'a bit of a feminist' for years. Then I found myself on feminist sites and discussions and I realised that the problem was much larger than I'd thought. Simply because the sexism is so pervasive I couldn't even see it. My favourite teacher has been Shakesville.com - I don't necessarily agree with everything, but it is incredibly accessible and helps to to find jumping off points.