Thursday, April 16, 2015

Men, women, and sexism

My son called me a feminist after making a casual comment about men. The way the word flowed out of his mouth irritated me. Before I knew it, I had blurted out, "Don't call me that". It's not that I'm against feminism or even women, but he had said it with such a negative tone it set me off.

It's not the first time we've had this conversation. As I explained during our exchange, he only labels me a feminist when it's to call me on what he believes is anti-male rhetoric. I don't agree that my comments are anti-anything really, just stated facts about the odd behavior that is Manish.

With all this talk about gender equality, there is yet to establish a boundary on what constitutes opinions from facts or just plain discrimination and sexism. Let me add though, that I am very judgmental about the comments my sons make that they or society find particular to women. Like that we're emotional, or tend to overdramatize. I give my son a stern warning when he starts along that line of conversation.

You find this hypocrisy in gender-based research. There are studies that show there are absolutely no real differences between the sexes. We're just all wired differently because it's human nature, not because we belong to one gender or another. Then there are studies that divide the sexes along personality types, brain chemistry, and private parts. These contradictions make it difficult, once again, to determine what is sexist and what is fact or opinion.

If we are to adopt today's status quo where any description used on a woman based on her gender is open for criticism, and apply it to males, then we have to be honest and agree that lines are crossed into that grey area we're still trying to figure out. I can't tell you the number of times that I or my BFF's made sarcastic remarks about men and excused them as jokes, but then turned around and reminded men not to make similar comments. We can blow off such interactions as expected, or resort to the stereotypes that women are more sensitive and men are more adept at just shrugging things off, but that won't solve anything.

What needs to happen is that we need to allow men the same freedom women have when discussing gender and relationships. Let them have their say, however sexist and stereotypical it is, so long as the goal is to start a genuine conversation about gender equality and to tackle misconceptions. If they can't be free to express their views about our mixed messages, silent treatments, sensitivity, whatever, then we should be more cautious about sharing ours.

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