Uphill Starts
Emma Oulton

The Unknowing Sexist

Something happened to me that had never happened before.

“SEXIST!” my friend shouted at me, “SO sexist! I cannot believe you are saying that, Lasya!”

“I agree.” my other friend was saying. I was so flabbergasted by the accusation that I could only respond after twenty seconds, and that too with a weak “Why I never!”

The whole thing was a shock to me. You see, up until that moment, I believed that I was the furthest thing from being a sexist person. I was a crusader for human rights and dignity and I believed in equality. I defended feminism to people who believed it was about establishing a female-dominated word, and I was careful enough that I would never pick a cooking gift set for a child just because she was a girl.

But a few boxes on a self-made checklist does not automatically mean you are exempt from being a sexist. My opinion in the matter being discussed with my friends was sexist. The uglier truth regarding the reason for my having such an opinion was simple ol’ prejudice.

The incident forced me to ask myself some difficult questions. How is it that I, someone who has faced so much discrimination and prejudice for either being a person of colour, bisexual or a feminist- still carry with me prejudice? Am I a hypocrite for being that which I admonish in others, but excuse or worse, ignore in myself?

No one can really escape prejudice. We grow up believing that the world is in the four walls of our house or our schools, or our lecture halls. It is hard to reconcile yourself to the diversity of the world; when we cannot do so, we carry it with us as prejudice. It starts out as involuntary, and when it comes to light (as it eventually will)-you have a choice. You can deny it and brush it off, or you can think hard and work on being better.

When faced with a crisis of beliefs, you can continue on, or you can start over. Feminism, sexist behaviour, equality and privilege are some of the things that neither religion or school taught me. It becomes increasingly difficult to navigate these waters the more you wade in. The only solution is to take a deep breath, acknowledge that you don’t know everything, and just start over. I failed as a feminist yesterday. And I may fail tomorrow. But each day I will start over anew.

This is not about who is a better feminist or who was not sexist for longer. It’s a journey of learning and evolving of minds. So the next time someone accuses you of being sexist, use it as an opportunity to start over.