Sexism is Hard to Explain
Kel Campbell

Your article and particularly some of the responses remind me a Zen koan that goes something like (shortened from Two monks were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side. The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman. Then, without a word, one monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey. The other monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them. Two more hours passed, then three, finally the second monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?” The first monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”

I see a quite a few men in the comments trying to change your viewpoint, and a few women trying to change men’s viewpoints.

I really liked your approach instead, which (it seems to me) is to explain what happened and share your experience. The fact the people jump to many conclusions and try to force their viewpoints on the situation isn’t super helpful (like the second monk).

I feel like we need to be able to recognize that “micro-aggressions” that we all face in life (white dudes less than others, but we all experience some) are generally not something we can remediate directly. In my opinion, with rare exceptions, we can’t change others through confrontation and argumentation. We can share our experiences and engage with others, and allow them to decide when to change. And in particular change the social currents that flow through society, which ultimately allows people to change on their own (gay rights and marriage seem like a perfect example of this kind of change, still underway).

It seems to me that a lot of pain and anger could be avoided by focusing more on raising issues for others to consider (as you did, and the first monk did!) and focusing less on complaining about others’ inability to change.

I sincerely believe and hope that social changes occur when enough people recognize an issue, and decide to change themselves. Almost no one is changed through a persuasive argument, but rather through the collected experiences with others near to them.

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