It’s 2017, and although traditional values and religious practices are still pretty much the same, a lot of Nigerians are different. Sexism has always been justified by the fact that we, as Nigerians, cannot help it – seeing as it stems from upbringing and social context. However, people are so much more enlightened; thanks to all the gender movements in recent times, quite a number have updated their attitude and views towards the opposite gender.
Now, you can actually call someone in and explain how their sexist behavior made you feel or how you’re worried it could make others feel, and they will actually apologize and thank you for pointing it out rather than becoming defensive and continuing with it.
But while all may seem merry and bright now, there are still some actions and views we have that are completely sexist, but we do not think that they are. Perhaps we are living in denial or we are just not aware. Either way, they are the subtle ones that slide under the radar, and you can’t point your finger at them. A lot of times, people miss them because they assume that person didn’t mean that sexist thing they just said in a sexist way.
While these subtle forms of sexism do not necessarily hurt as much, it is important that we recognise them and nip sexism in the bud, as much as we can. Consider these:
Being offended when a man refuses to help a woman with physically demanding activities
When people talk about sexism, there is this impression that men are the eternal culprits, but the truth is anyone can be sexist. Women can be sexist too. You are hauling a 25 litre keg of water, you run into other women but do not mind that they did not offer to help. But, the moment you run into a guy and he doesn’t say “Sister, can I help you?” you get upset and refer to them as uncultured and ungentlemanly. It is justified to get upset when you are hauling a heavy object and no one offers to help, but when the anger only comes with a male refusing to help, then you are definitely sexist. The man is not the enemy here, you are your own enemy and the earlier women realize this, the less they shortchange themselves.
Saying phrases like “Be a man” or “Man up”
It seems like a completely innocent thing to say. You simply just mean that the person should be strong and stay tough, right? But saying this is sexist and even demeaning. Who says men are the only ones who can be strong or be tough? Even more, who says men are not sensitive? Both genders have moments where they exhibit several strengths and are brave; every one is allowed to show when they are scared and emotional. You cannot attribute these behaviors to any one gender or sex whether unintentionally or not. There are so many other ways to pass across the same message without necessarily being sexist. How about: “Be strong!” Or “Get yourself together”?
Calling a woman pet names such as “babes, sweetie” on the first date
Men are usually the most culprits at this one. You are probably wondering how this is even sexist; but believe it or not, calling someone by anything other than their name when you have not established a relationship is actually condescending. It reflects an air of superiority on the part of the man saying it, even though it may not seem like it.
You probably may want to argue that it is to show love and affection, but…really? Someone you don’t know, you love them already? You care for them already? It may even be an unconscious act, as such words have unintended shades of meaning; but when you think about it, it implies that the lady is “less” than you are and you can’t be bothered to learn their names. Worse, you feel they would swoon at the show of false endearments, since they are unintelligent and easily react to such sweet words…and that is completely sexist.
Paying compliments that compare a person to others of his/her gender
Compliments are great, but sometimes can have unintended meaning. For instance, compliments that compare people to others of their gender or contrast them from others of the same gender, aren’t really compliments. This includes saying things like: “You’re not like most girls” or “You’re not the typical Nigerian man” .
I’m also not like most birds in the air, most monkeys on the tree, and most humans on the street, so what exactly is your point?
People who give such compliments are low-key sexists, as it implies they generally have a very negative impression of the said gender and most likely discriminate against them. There is the slight chance that it could mean they’ve never met anyone like you, but it contributes to the sexist idea nonetheless – so be aware of it.
Making jokes at one gender’s expense
When you see a driver struggling afar off and you immediately crack a joke and say: “Oh, I’m sure it’s a woman” or you see a woman who throwing tantrums, crying unnecessarily and you joke that perhaps she is… because she is on her period, you are being sexist.
Likewise, when you see a man fighting with his wife and you suggest that he may have cheated on her or maybe he is unwilling to give her money, you are being sexist. Making jokes at the expenses of a certain gender is a huge sign that you are sexist, even if you don’t know it. There are so many other ways to interpret a situation and still have others laughing, without necessarily attacking a particular gender.
Asking a woman when she is getting married and/or when she is having children
You meet a woman and because she seems like she may be 25 and above, you automatically assume she wants to be married, because, isn’t that what all women want? Or you meet a woman who is married and without a child, then you ask her why she does not have a child yet or when she plans to have one, because she is a woman and she definitely wants to have a child, right?
Assuming that a woman is going to be thrilled at the prospect of getting married or having children simply because she is a woman may seem normal, but it isn’t. It is different if she has expressed such desires beforehand; however, if you do not know, do not assume randomly. It is sexist and should be discouraged.
You probably did not imagine these were subtle sexist moves right? Or maybe you still do not agree that they are. The point is, sexism is something that can be traumatic to the body, mind, and spirit of the affected no matter how subtle, and the more we are sensitive to it, the easier it is for us to put an end to it.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Igor Golubov