Clothes maketh the man (and the woman) by Susan Grimsdell

The other day I read such a good demonstration of how our society is saturated with sexism.

It’s this:  if you had to choose, which would make you uncomfortable – seeing your 8-year-old son dressing up in a tutu while twirling a pink fairy wand, or your daughter wearing dungarees and playing with a wooden sword?

I think almost everyone would say the former.  There could be a few of us who would be perfectly happy and equally accepting of either, but realistically, I think not many would fall into that group and almost no one would say they’d be fine with their son dressed up in girls’ clothes but would hate to see their daughter in dungarees.

Male privilege

The reason underlying this choice serves as a way to open our eyes to our inherent sexism.  This isn’t to do with it being a negative reflection on us personally – it’s the way our whole society looks at girls and boys and how they are supposed to dress and behave.  We live in a fundamentally sexist world, and these two images of boys and girls confront us with that.

In our world, males are the privileged group and females are less so.  This difference in privilege is why it’s so much more worrying to think of a son looking and behaving like a girl than a girl looking and behaving like a boy.   Emulating the privileged gender makes sense and we’re happy about it, emulating the less-privileged seems wrong.  On top of that, many of us have a degree of homophobia, that this example brings out into the open.

Disadvantaged groups

If sexism didn’t exist, we wouldn’t need “MeToo”.  If homophobia didn’t exist we wouldn’t need gay rights.  If there were no racism, we wouldn’t need special rights for Maori and other disadvantaged minority groups.

If life were fair we wouldn’t need special anything.  We’d all have an equal chance to be happy and successful.  Sadly, we’re a long way from that.  We can take steps towards making things better though and the first step is to consider the way we think about these things, to choose to focus our passion and commitment on a desire to even things up, to take what steps we can to help make sure those on the bottom end get some of our advantage – whether it’s money or privilege or status.

We’ll know we’ve got there when the question in my first paragraph makes people shake their heads in puzzlement – and reply, “What kind of a crazy question is that.   Why would I care one way or the other?”


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