It is well past time that we begin paying attention to sexism. It is well past time that we begin actually doing something about it.
The other day, I was walking through the doors of the Mark Jefferson building to get to my chemistry class. I was tired, my backpack was anything but light and I was crashing from my morning coffee. I pulled at the door and it wouldn’t budge. So, I tried again and slowly opened it. As this is happening, a man walked up behind me and snickered as he helped me pull the door open. I smiled and thanked him, but his response to this was, “Those doors are heavy aren’t they? And don’t let it be a girl trying to open it.”
Any other day, I would’ve stopped him and gone on a rant about how I’m 94 pounds, anemic and excessively tired from having an average of only four hours of sleep over the past few weeks, but I was late for Chemistry. His comment did, however, start making me think about what’s going on around our campus and how sexism is one of those things we want to just sweep under the rug because women already have the right to vote and access to a decent college education. Yet still, even as I’m just walking to classes, I have to deal with sexist and misogynistic comments that are socially acceptable. These same people who make these comments ignore my abilities and pack me into a box, unable to move.
The problem is not with one man deciding that because I am a young woman that I am weak. If it were just one man and it were just one comment or just one type of comment, I am fairly certain that I would be willing and able to get over it. However, comments like these tell me that even though all of us can walk around with our iPhones and we can communicate with people who live in whole different time zones, we are still not yet evolved enough to treat each other like human beings. Sexism is not the feminist cry to play the victim or to try to get over and get what is not earned by whining. It is the act of treating a person differently based on stereotypes that ensue solely based on their sex. It would seem that a person’s gender is such an arbitrary reason to judge them, but, unfortunately, it happens and it is continuing to happen as we stand idly by and say nothing.
In more than one way, as a woman, I’m treated differently because of my womanhood—it’s not just the assumption that men might make about me not being able to open doors. Because I am a woman, I cannot safely travel this campus alone at night. During the first week of school, I was followed back to my dorm by a young man who insisted I “come here.” I was harassed at night by men who perceived their behavior as “flirting,” and I have been shouted at by young men who think it is cute to harass women, when in reality their behavior can be terrifying to a person experiencing it. We need to pay attention to sexism because absent-minded male behavior causes discomfort in my life that, if I practiced toward males, I would be ridiculed for.
Few people at Eastern Michigan University will take a women’s studies class, will join a feminist organization or will walk a mile in the shoes of a woman and understand what is holistically wrong with sexism. And it is in this state of absence that women are still made to be uncomfortable because they are women.