I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while now, but I had to work up the nerve to do so. And that is exactly the problem. I shouldn’t fear that I will be attacked for the things I choose to say on my own blog, but I do. I do because I’ve grown up in a world where the fact that I am female dictates what I can and cannot say.
I’m over it.
I think that when people hear the word prejudice, they immediately think racism. Don’t get me wrong, racism is a huge problem. Something that enrages me and brings me to tears, but that’s a topic for a different day. Today, I’m talking about the blatant and other times not so obvious sexism that I live with every single day. The sexism I’m sure every woman lives with every single day.
How do I tackle this issue in a blog post? Well, simple answer is I don’t. I can’t. This isn’t something I can do alone, it’s something all women have to do for each other and for themselves. All I’m trying to do right now is point out areas in my life that are filled with sexism, and by doing so, hopefully you will recognize some things in your life as well. That’s how we really start tackling this issue. So, here we go.
Who am I writing this for? I asked myself that question before I sat down to write with my coffee just a few minutes ago. Here’s my answer:
I’m writing this for every little girl who was told she throws like a girl.
I’m writing this for every middle schooler who was bullied because her skin wasn’t clear or her hair was frizzy or her glasses were crooked or her teeth weren’t straight.
I’m writing this for every girl who was catcalled in the hallways or on the sidewalk.
I’m writing this for every girl who was told no.
I’m writing this for myself.
I’m writing this for my future daughter.
This one’s for you.
First off, what is the definition of sexism exactly? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, sexism is a “prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially discrimination against women.” Now that you have a definition, how about some examples?
The first time I experienced blatant sexism was kindergarten. Of course, at 5 years old, I didn’t know that’s what it was, but at 19, oh I know. That’s exactly what it was. “You can’t play with us, you throw like a girl.” What does that even mean? Throw like a girl… well, last time I checked, I am a girl, so thank you? No, not thank you. Shame on you. Since when did being a girl become an insult? In 2014, the #LikeAGirl campaign started with an advertisement for Always products. If you’ve ever been told you do something like a girl, and it was meant as an insult, watch this commercial. It’s great.
Fast forward to high school. School is for learning. FOR EVERYONE. I was minding my business carrying my AP US History text book to the classroom when I was stopped in the hallway by a school administrator (she happened to be female… it’s not only men who are sexist people!). “What do you think you’re wearing?” she asked me. I looked down at my clothes. I had on my school issued Nike soccer uniform shorts, our warm-up shirt and tennis shoes. We had a game that day and the whole team was wearing the exact same thing. I was told that my shorts were “distracting” and “provocative” and “asking for it.” I was told to call my mom and have her bring in sweats or else I would be punished. I saw red. I was humiliated, for one. I was confused, I was hurt. Since when did mid-thigh athletic shorts become sexualized? I’m sorry, is my knee distracting you from learning? My mom has a job. A job that pays for my education. I am not calling her to leave that job to bring me longer pants so that some guys hormones can chill the hell out for the next 4 hours. That administrator never said anything to me about clothes again after that.
Now, at 19, I’m faced with so much sexism I can hardly stand it. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, I truly think some people don’t realize they’re doing it, but it’s still not an excuse. Society has taught them that it’s ok, and that’s why they continue to do it. I can’t go a day on my college campus without someone asking me about my future. The conversations usually go something like this:
“Jordyn, what do you want to do with your PR degree? You’re staying in Murray, aren’t you?”
“No, actually. I’m going to Los Angeles after I graduate.”
“You really think you can pull that off? I mean, it’s a man’s world out there, I don’t want you to get your hopes up.”
“I’m sure, have a nice day.”
That’s what I have to do. Smile, be polite, and walk away. I’ve trained myself. I have it down. That’s a sad sentence to write, I’m not going to lie to you. To be so used to being told that you can’t do something to get to the point that you have a scripted response down to a science? That does not feel good. Would this story be different if I told people I wanted to get married, have 2.5 kids and stay at home making organic baby food? For sure. But here’s the thing: that’s not me. More power to those women, I applaud you. If that’s what you want to do, congratulations! You’re doing it and don’t let anyone, male or female, bring you down. You smash those sweet potatoes to your heart’s content.
I don’t want to spend my days smashing sweet potatoes. I want to write. I want to make people feel better. I want to make it to my highest personalized glass ceiling and shatter that sucker so hard God himself hears it. That’s what I want to do. And in order to do that, I can’t stay home and smash fruit. I have to be ambitious. I have to put myself first. Sometimes I’ll have to be a little selfish and maybe a little cocky.
This is where I tell you that it’s ok. It’s ok to put yourself first. I know society has taught all of us who were blessed with ovaries and a uterus that our job is to take care of everyone else. I know that because I was taught the same thing by the same society. But they are liars. You are responsible for you.
To the strong, single mother who raised me: thank you for showing me what it looks like to work hard and commit to being the best version of myself that I can be.
To the women who taught me that it’s okay for me to speak up for myself: you saved me.
To the women who shattered glass ceilings: you made it possible for me. Now I can get further and shatter more.
To every person who has ever tried to hold me back from anything because I am a female: I am stronger because of you. I am driven to prove every single one of you wrong.
To all the little girls: don’t listen when someone tells you no or tells you that you can’t do something. Keep your head up and prove all the haters wrong.
And to Beyoncé: thank you for being born.
I want to leave you with something. If you have never watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists,” I am urging you to watch it now. Take 30 minutes out of your busy day, grab a glass of wine and watch. Really listen to what she’s saying. After you watch it, show it to everyone you know. Show it to the men in your life; husbands, fathers, boyfriends, best friends, the mailman… I’m not kidding, it’s that good.
“You’ll never make it.”