Not-So-Vintage Sexism

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Courtesy Digital Sextant

Sexism is everywhere. We constantly see images, hear phrases, and read words that disrespect, demean, or undermine women. What’s scary is that many women are taught to believe that sexism is a thing of the past. That is is vaulted and sealed up with ancient black and white images of housewives beaming phony smiles over a pot roast. But is sexism really so ancient? Or have we just been conditioned into accepting sexism into our lives?

There is a short and easy answer to this leading question and that is a simple “no”, sexism is not a thing of the past. And within our ever evolving social media world, conditioning is inevitable because this media content (images, video, sound, celebrity gossip) is omnipresent.

One recalls the exceedingly ridiculous amount of sexism employed against Hillary Clinton throughout the 2008 Primary Election. Everything from Clinton’s dress to her voice were criticized, and in a Primary where examples of sexism and racism played out in the media, it was evident that sexism is still very much an inequality within our society.

Or think back to the backlash Kristin Stewart received after admitting to an affair with her married director, Rupert Sanders. The married Sanders, was hardly slammed as hard as Stewart in the tabloids.

Fortunately, we have organizations like Women’s Media Center, that are dedicated to fighting sexism in the media. Founded in 2005 by Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Robin Morgan as a non-profit progressive women’s media organization, WMC aims to make women visible and powerful within the media. The organization also employs media campaigns to hold individuals and other organizations accountable for sexist behavior.

Media is great space where we can start to reshape the images of women portrayed in the media, as well as bring into existence new images of women who challenge sexist ideals (transgender, LGBTQ, and women of color). It is equally important to bring this challenging work into the physical, public sphere to broaden our awareness of everyday sexism and fight to end the conditioning and socialized sexism within our communities.

Hollaback! and Street Harassment

Have you ever walked down the street and heard “God Bless You” even though you didn’t sneeze? Or been called “Mommy” when you are, in fact, not a Mommy? Street Harassment is a very common epidemic in New York City and across the world. Unfortunately, many people view Street Harassment as just one of the downfalls of being a woman or LGBTQ person and often discredit its seriousness.

It’s not exactly breaking news to inform you that Street Harassment has been normalized by our society. But there is one activist group in particular who refuses to accept Street Harassment as just comme d’habitude. Hollaback! is a movement founded by Emily May dedicated to ending Street Harassment. Local activists in 54 cities, 19 different countries, and in 12 different languages are fighting to end this form of aggressive violence towards women and LGBTQ people with Hollaback! and their organization continues to grow by the day.

What Hollaback! and other similar organizations (Stop Street Harassment, Incite Blog) are doing is addressing the problem (street harassment) as a problem. For years, women have have deterred themselves away from a low-cut top, or mini-skirt for fear that they might invite unwanted attention from leering eyes and harsh sentiments. But regardless of what a woman wears or any LGBTQ person wears in public, it does not invite unwanted attention and by no means should an outfit be an excuse for harassment or assault.

Because we live in an age of exploitation, we can exploit these offensive acts quite easily and advocate for change. I urge, beg and plead for people who find themselves victims Street Harassment to capture a picture or video and post it online, either at Hollaback!, another Street Harassment site, or better yet – start your own online campaign! Let others know that this is not okay. Call it what you will, cat-calls, jeers, whistles, or stares – Street Harassment is not allowed. It’s time we picked our heads up from the pavement, snapped a picture or video and became our own united front. After all, who says you need a cop present to police a perv?