25 Jun Sexism is the symptom. Genderism is the real virus.
I would like to address those that are aged 15 to 25. Anyone younger and it’s too early, anyone older and they most likely won’t get it because they’ve already been institutionalised. You’ll find a list below of some of the clichés your parents tell you and why you should ignore them. If you want to find out what they are right now, you can skip to the end. If, however, you are interested in going on a trip that shows why sexism is not the real enemy, please read on.
First thing’s first, let’s define the two. Sexism is being unfairly biased towards one sex; for example, allowing one sex to vote but not the other, paying one sex more than the other for the exact same job, or permitting one sex into a club but excluding the other. Genderism is generalising according to sex; for example, women are more expressive, men are more analytical, woman are more emotional, men are better drivers, and so on. We, or those living in liberal societies, have done so much to combat sexism; yes, there’s more to be done, but we’ve come a long way. Tackling genderism, however, is something we haven’t done well, in fact we seem to be going backwards.
Focussing on sexism and ignoring genderism is a bit like trying to cure child obesity by taxing junk food chains. We need to be asking why are those children eating so much and why is most of it unhealthy? The journey from birth to becoming a serial burger muncher is a long one; the fault cannot be placed solely on the shoulders of the burger outlet. The answer lies in the story of healthy living awareness and the time it took for it to get to where it is today. It is not the fault of fast food chains that one hundred years ago no one knew what we know now.
Fast food outlets were set up to meet people’s demand for what was considered acceptable at that time, not to make kids fat. They were justified in their decision to sell fast food. Looking at them now as if they are the perpetrators of evil is short-sighted and doesn’t really solve the issue. What is needed is for children to be taught our recently acquired health awareness from an early age so that they learn better lifestyle habits early giving those habits every chance of continuing into their adult life. Looking at the part played by neglectful parenting, the price competitiveness of healthier options or the need for ingredient transparency in all food products might reap far more reward than simply taxing junk food outlets.
Similarly, treating men and women differently has existed ever since we became farmers some twelve thousand years ago. The question to ask is were there well-intentioned justifiable reasons for this treatment imbalance? And the answer is yes, of course there were. For one thing, physicality became paramount in our day to day farming based survival needs. Another reason is safety; once we started living in larger groups, villages and towns, and not just in a group of twenty as our ancestral cousins still do, walking the streets brought about an element of unwanted risk. I as a father anytime from twelve thousand years ago until even as recently as one hundred years ago, would worry for my daughter’s safety if she went out unaccompanied by a man. There was no such thing as neighbourhood or street policing, not to the level we enjoy today. Therefore as I grew older and weaker, my concern for my daughters’ well-being also grew until she was living with a man who could protect her. Freedom of movement understandably became unequal between the sexes for a justifiable reason.
Financial security can be looked at similarly. Few paying jobs were available to women because a) most paying jobs were manual labour-intensive ones and as an employer, if I was looking at the CV’s of two applicants for a job entitled ‘lift really heavy stuff’, I would always hire the more qualified applicant; b) the pill hadn’t yet been invented; and c) menstrual sanitation was extremely poor. Women contracted illnesses and fell pregnant much more frequently than today therefore not only was it safer, but it was also healthier for women to stay at home as much as possible. Chores were thus divided to cater for such conditions.
We can look at so many customs where men and women are treated differently and when analysed, we’ll find that the vast majority of them came about due to similarly justifiable reasons. However, once the pill was available, once policing improved, security increased, individual freedoms thrived and, in no small part, the need for women to work in factories during both world wars became paramount, many of the justifiable reasons for treating the sexes differently disappeared. What remained were the traditions and customs; they remained for three main reasons: the human being is a creature of habit; one hundred years is a blink of an eye in our social evolution; and social and religious indoctrinations played their part.
Nowadays, we live in a world where we can’t see why the sexes should be treated unequally, but instead of seeing the full journey, we tend to only look at the outcome. In other words, sexism was the result of justifiable genderism, to end it, we must end genderism now that it is no longer justifiable. The place to end genderism is at home, when children begin to learn social behaviours.
Now that we know men and women are mentally just as capable, in fact they are equal in every sense (apart from the obvious physical and biological ones), we must do whatever we can to teach our kids this very point. As soon as we hear them ask us a question that, when deconstructed, can be reduced to, “can I treat males and females differently?”, our answer should be “NO”. However, the list I give below are all examples of parents, good ones, those of the well-meaning variety, answering “Oh yes, I insist you treat them very differently”.
Now that my daughters are at that age where dads think their daughters still prefer to go to Disney with them rather than go out with boys (or girls depending on sexual bla bla – compulsory PC disclaimer), when, in reality, that ship sailed at least three years ago, I’m beginning to see how it’s so easy to teach children negative genderism. If they tell us they feel they’ve been wronged and the source of this feeling is the boyfriend/girlfriend, we tell them “haha, oh the mysteries of the heart, never mind darling”; If, on the other hand, a friend was the source of the very same action, we would advise them to deal with the issue and not ignore it. We tell them to be more tolerant with a girlfriend/boyfriends rather than with friends because, or so all believe, the name of the game is not to be alone (derived from safety needs, but these no longer exist). And that is exactly why 80% of adults are in delusional relationships where on the outside they appear united, but on the inside, their hearts are crying out “why did you sell out? You feel more alone now than you ever did when you were single”.
The problem begins when our teenage children come to us and open up regarding their first amorous interactions. It starts with the simplest of situations; we see our child (who is no longer a child) distant or monosyllabic and, at the seventeenth time of asking (the first sixteen were refuted with a “go away”, “get your own life”, or “leave me alone, you’re so annoying”), the answer given is “he hasn’t text me in nine hours”.
At first, us parents may feel some relief because we can immediately discount drugs, pregnancy or STD’s and exhale a little. After that moment of relief, we then try to become the sage we think our children think we are by giving them advice that we feel will help. The problem is that most parents (especially the 80% that have stale relationships) don’t really know, or have forgotten, what love is, why theirs became dull or when was the moment when theirs was set on a course to the land of the stale. What parents do, unintentionally, is regurgitate clichéd advice that we either truly believe but don’t realise it’s the very reason why we aren’t that thrilled with our love life, or it’s because we are void of real answers so we fall back on society sponsored clichés.
The generalisations below, though well intentioned, are examples of the very genderism that inadvertently sets young adults on a course to the aforementioned land of the stale. Once there, only a small number get an opportunity to realise their flaw if they one day, a rare occurrence, encounter a life changing experience, or person, that awakens them. Even if this awakening happens, it usually does so when life’s shackles are well embedded in the form of kids, a mortgage, bills and social ties making it difficult to change courses without causing harm to some if not all in your life, including yourself. Yes, the above sounds pessimistic, but it is only a reflection of the ratio of those that end up in the land of the stale vs those that make it to the land of the fulfilled (4 to 1).
And now for some better news. Have a look at these so-called wisdoms that parents pass on to you and promise me that if you hear them, you will convert them to their real meaning and then substitute them for the better advice:
- Opposites attract.
What they’re really saying: Accept someone you don’t like because relationships aren’t about being best friends, they’re about learning to compromise and bla bla bla kill me now.
Better advice: No they don’t.
- Have fun with your mates, be serious with your girlfriend.
What they’re really saying: Long term relationships are boring, get used to it.
Better advice: Don’t make the mistake everyone makes. If you have more fun with your friends than your girlfriend/boyfriend, then you’re with the wrong girlfriend/boyfriend.
- Boys will be boys.
What they’re really saying: Ignore your feelings, learn not to trust them when it comes to boys and just bob your head aimlessly along.
Better advice: Whatever it was that this boy did, how would you react if a close friend did the same? Would you accept it? If no, then don’t accept it here either. This doesn’t mean he’s terrible or you’re picky. It just means that you two can be friends, maybe even good friends, but not best friends and if a boyfriend does not become a best friend from month three and you decide to stay as an item, then you’re well on your way to boredom city.
- Do what the lady wants.
What they’re really saying: Being a neutered man is so modern and noble, just look at your dad. That’s what distinguishes us, westerners, from those barbaric misogynistic other cultures. Go to the nearest pet shop, buy a lead and a collar and get comfortable wearing it.
Better advice: Compromise is about both saying exactly what they want, standing their ground, being as strong and demanding as they would be with their close friends and seeing if both like the ‘real’ other, not the neutered version of the other. Make this a life policy if you want your love to have any chance of lasting and not becoming mind-numbingly dull.
- Boys don’t think that much.
What they’re really saying: Ignore the fact that with your close friends, you open up and so do they at a level that you like but your boyfriend doesn’t. This is not because you are incompatible, it’s just because ALL boys are a bit ‘thick’ when it comes to analysing stuff.
Better advice: This will drive you insane. If it doesn’t change in three months, stop fooling yourself, stay friends, don’t force a best friendship WHICH IS WHAT A BOYFRIEND SHOULD BE.
- Some girls just don’t get sport.
What they’re really saying: Even if you don’t have common interests, just get on with it. Have fun with your friends and tick boxes with her.
Better advice: Your common interests must outnumber the uncommon ones. If you have five things you enjoy doing (rugby, large parties, rap music, cycling and smoking weed) and your girlfriend/boyfriend hates all five, then you’re going to be bored, no matter how cute, gorgeous, hunky or shapely this object of your affection is. Out of those five, your partner needs to be interested in at least three and enjoy seeing you having fun doing the other two. Letting him/her go and have their fun with their friends while you have yours with yours is a one-way ticket to the land of ‘kill me now, I’m so bored in this relationship’.
- Be patient, love takes time.
What they’re really saying: Ignore all your feelings and learn to devalue yourself for as long as it takes until you’ve invested so much time and effort that breaking up becomes difficult and wasteful so you settle for what you have and start getting your highs from Amazon, drugs or outdoing your friends holiday snaps.
Better advice: If you don’t have certainty of fun and best friendship within three months, go back to being just friends.
- Don’t trust your friends, they’re jealous of what you have.
What they’re really saying: Block all negative commentary, wear rose tinted glasses forever, ignorance is bliss. So what if in a decade you find out that your partner has been cheating for years and it comes as such a huge shock to you.
Better advice: Listen to your close friends’ advice, they know what you like and what you don’t. That’s why they became close friends.
- Trust me, I’m your parent, I know what I’m saying.
What they’re really saying: I’m going to disregard the fact that times have changed and your circumstances can be very different to mine when I was growing up. Instead, can you give me this opportunity to tell you why I’m not a sell-out?
Better advice: Times have changed and you’re not identical to me which is a wonderful thing. Gather all the advice you want from me, your other parent, your friends, and make your own judgment; whatever it is, I’ll support you. This is how young people become secure and independent rather than forever needing other people’s approval and second guessing anything they do.
- If it’s that time of the month, tiptoe extra carefully around her.
What they’re really saying: I am giving you a lifelong excuse to accept incompatibility. Blind yourself and pretend it’s due to the time of the month, nearly that time, or too soon after that time, leaving no more than a week out of each month where you two can expect a trouble-free relationship. The rest of the time, just smile like a moron when she says I hate you, or she sulks and goes quiet, or you both bicker like rival siblings.
Better advice: You’re not supposed to like each other ONLY during zero stress times. There is no such thing. Life is full of stresses with parents, school, college, work, kids, money, neighbours, morning routines, OCD traits, time of the month and roughly four thousand other reasons why someone can be in a bad mood. Spend it alone or with someone that reduces the stress during stressful times. The question is do you get why your boyfriend/girlfriend is annoyed? It’s not good enough to say ‘it’s because he’s grumpy in the morning’, or ‘it’s that time of the month’. What is the actual reason? Is it because the boiler isn’t working, or Deliveroo brought the wrong naan bread, or you said that tomorrow you’re going out with your friends? If so, do you find the reason justifiable, funny, or cute 80% of the time and after a few effortless words or gestures, you’re both smiling and exchanging banter again? If yes, wonderful, if not, go back to enjoying being single because alone is not the same as lonely, most lonely people are not alone.