Sexism, not respecting women, interpersonally and institutionally, is still very much alive. Yes, women are allowed to vote, there are more women in recognized leadership roles and they get almost paid as much as men for the same labor (no, not for that kind of labor), and soon even the “greatest democracy on earth” might get a woman as president (gasp!).
Despite my ironic words, there certainly is progress. Girls and women are taken much more seriously and are often seen as maybe different but nothing less than men. But disrespect of women and what they have to say is not gone. As we most recently heard from the Tokyo Olympics chief.
There is this false impression that, with so much progress done in the last 100 years, things are pretty OK now. They are not. Sometimes, that is referred to as the Glass Ceiling: invisible limits specifically put on women.
Every oppression of any societal group has its unique points but also has general things in common with other oppressions. And because of that latter point, comparisons can be made that can teach us. For example:
YouTube would not allow a clip that has a White guy explain how to make Black workers obey. ‘Keep them short. If they ever even begin to object to anything you say, fire them. They must know their place.’ Unthinkable.
But the same texts from a man about a woman are allowed. ‘If she even as much as looks at another man, dump her.’ This is not only allowed on YouTube — it’s popular! This must stop. YouTube, remove sexist junk!
[No, YouTube computers, the vlog clip posted above only flags sexist vlogs. So, when you go after the bigoted vlogs, leave this good one up, please.]
If you’d thought it’s only vloggers, here’s an ad of today on how to work “any girl into becoming your girlfriend.” How disgusting and false.
Listen More to Women
Sometimes, I go to a Haredic rabbi’s class for women, men allowed. The women there ask such learned, sharp questions. It must be that ‘look how cute I am’ questions can only live in an environment where women are not taken seriously. Besides, often men and wealthier people take so much time parading their egos. While often, women have such valuable things to say, not related to ego-boosting. But even if not, to listen to them less is a core form of sexism. From the math school teachers not really answering girls’ questions to husbands who rather listen to guys than their wives.
Women are first indoctrinated that they always need to please men and then they are blamed for being ‘manipulative.’ Blaming the victim! When men welcome anything women say, they will be more frank and honest.
Yes, abusive and arrogant women exist. But they are a tiny (but irritating) minority. And in any case, their behavior doesn’t cause nor justify sexism. And abusive and arrogant men are far worse. Far worse.
And when women are generally seen as a blessing and not a scourge to be controlled, we will all live in a better world and all reap their blessings.
Men should not argue back that they love women and that’s enough. Often, the word love is used as in ‘I love fish.’ They mean: ‘I love to eat fish; it makes me feel good.’ If they really loved fish, they wouldn’t eat it. If they really love women, they should listen to them more and argue them less.
Listening more to women is only one thing against their systematic abuse. But it’s 101 feminism. And more, it is the very basis of being a male ally.
NB: We are better allies to people of an oppressed group not for liking or even pitying them but rather because we don’t want to be part of a system that hurts. And we don’t want exploitation and subjugation to stay around. Rather, we would like to be part of the solution than of the problem.
We can learn to be an ally but not without making mistakes. Which is not so bad if we can say sorry instead of wasting time to justify ourselves.
One doesn’t need to identify as a feminist to be against sexism.
Outlaw a Sexist Knesset
Friday night, the long-defunct Jerusalem Post reported “Israel Elections: Next Knesset to see female MKs coming up strong – poll.” By the end of Shabbat, someone must have told them that going down from an all-time low 37 to 30 out of 120 seats is not actually much improvement.
There is such a simple way to remedy this. We need a law that says: Any party is only allowed to send any man to the Knesset for every woman it already sent. That means that if a party gets 12 seats, the first one to take her seat is a woman, the second one may be a man, but the third one must be a woman, etc. This way, the Knesset will be a fair representation of the Israeli population. The same should be for cabinet seats. It should also be illegal to suggest a man as president after the previous one was male.
Maybe a sole exception could be made for homosexuals and transgenders. It’s not that they have no (ex-)males and learned sexism, but they will easily bond with women to break cis-male dominance and dictatorship.
The argument that this is unfair to the more competent men is laughable. On average, women are clearly more competent and capable than men. And, you can’t say that, when 48% of the seats go to men, that men are discriminated against. Male supremacy must be stopped. It’s high time.
Worse than Femicide
Over Shabbat, another murder of a wife in Israel was reported. This time by a policeman. He’s supposed to protect the public and his wife. In front of their four children. The heart aches so much, it’s hard to write about it.
But, what could be worse than the structural murder of women, from female infanticide (infamously in China but not only there), sorocide (infamously by brothers who are extremist Muslims), to uxoricide, the murder of female partners by male partners and ex-partners? I’ll tell you.
The murder of women relates to sexism as Auschwitz related to Anti-Semitism. It’s the ultimate expression of hatred and negation. But it’s also the top of the iceberg. Most of the mistreatment of women in the private sphere does not end in murder but in life-long repression and subjugation. For every wife-murder, there are thousands of men who treat their female partners with round-the-clock disdain, who demand total obedience and self-negation, exploitation with nothing in return — because the only obvious return would be protection but also that is not guaranteed.
Spousal murder is the culmination of the problem, not the problem itself. And it roots in male supremacy, that women are less to not important, just men’s adornments and service providers, and the worldview that women secretly and deeply want to be humiliated and dominated.
The well-meant feminist teaching that men and women are the same is not working. It’s simply not executed and not believed. We must teach the meaning of the difference: that women are oppressed and men can only choose between being accomplices to sexism or allies to women.