My “Sexism” Piece from Two Years Ago Because Women Know that None of This is New

Two years ago, I wrote a post about sexism that stemmed from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s revelations in her book, Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World. The following is a modification of that piece based on the recent news about Donald Trump:

As shocking and disgusting as Trump’s remarks and deeds were, most women are clearly not surprised by them. And not just because we’re talking about Donald Trump.

While the majority of men thankfully do not go as far as the Republican nominee, women are all too familiar with male sexual aggression.

Author in front of Title IX Mural at Pitzer College, 2015

And as we’ve been reminded during this long presidential campaign, sexism is just as prevalent among younger generations of men who can be even more threatening towards women — especially on the internet.

And then there is the behavior of those who hang out with the perpetrators, or even those who are within earshot or occupy the same social and professional circles. We live in a culture where sexist and demeaning behavior is all too often tolerated by those who witness it. It’s time we acknowledge that to witness the behavior silently is to condone it — and to condone it, is to perpetuate it.

We also need to acknowledge the economic consequences of predatory behavior. We need to acknowledge that once again, women face a false choice. Most women feel like they must ignore sexism or laugh along with it if they want to keep their jobs. This brings the breadth and depth of the violation and humiliation to a whole new level.

And it affects whole families. The vulnerability of working women when they have to deal with men like Trump has been very clearly highlighted in the recent stories. Given that women make up half the civilian workforce,that 70 percent of mothers work outside the home, and in 40 percent of households, the mother is the primary breadwinner, this kind of behavior has a very real economic impact on families. It’s high time that cultural norms around personal behavior, state and federal legislation, and the media reflect these realities, not just out of compassion and fairness to the women themselves, but in order to strengthen families and our economy.

There is much the media could do to help make these changes, but more often than not, news outlets undermine the credibility of women and support predatory behavior. They report on the looks and clothes of female professionals and politicians, use demeaning adjectives that would never be applied to males, and raise questions about women’s roles as mothers that would never be asked of working fathers.

Two years ago, Senator Gillibrand asked women to “get off the sidelines” and “raise their voices.” I would like to suggest that it’s high time men “get off the sidelines” and “raise their voices.”

Men continue to dominate government and the media, and as has been made clear this election cycle, men continue to patronize and bully women who speak up. All men — particularly those in power — need to condemn sexist behavior.

Until they do, sexism will continue to be seen as a woman’s problem or at best, one that is hurting our sisters, mothers, and daughters. It is much more than that. It is a malignancy that hurts all of us — including our brothers, fathers, and sons — while at the same time undermining our economy and society.

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