Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sexism Force Field

I want to talk today about the Sexism Force Field. Maybe to you it's a wall, but I'm partial to the force field analogy. Now, there's plenty to talk about here. It works against boys and girls (and men and women) in many ways and changes depending on context. Today I just want to look at one angle of this huge problem.
This is not to malign the Enterprise - it's just what pops to mind when I think of Force Fields. 
I'm not much of a stereotypical girl. I don't like pink or glitter too close to me; I don't wear dresses or skirts or heels or makeup; I don't like perfume, flowers, or most pretty delicate things. But I'm definitely a girl, and in some ways I fit that stereotype mold just fine; I have long hair; I love to cook and bake; I craft like crazy; I'm a fan of romantic comedies. There are tons of ways to be a girl and we can't be boiled down into lists of likes and don't-likes. However, society as a whole tries awfully hard to make it so.

Last week I ran into the Sexism Force Field. I'll be the first to admit I'm no car expert, but I'm not a complete dunce either. Matt asked me to try to track down a part for the car so he can fix it. I'm considerably more free during the day than he is right now, so I of course said yes. After some internet searching, I called one of the local Pick-n-Pulls. Now, I hadn't been to one before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. We clarified that they had the car I needed; I asked about the part and they said I should send my husband or boyfriend down to find it for me. Seriously? It's 2013! I was so flabbergasted all I manged to do was hang up on them. Of course, I then still had to actually go down there and look for the part. When I walked in I got that up-and-down look that I dread. Yes, I'm female; no, I don't need your help. Seriously, do they think having breasts will somehow interfere?

I finally found the car in the back corner of the lot and found the part on it. Yay! But the accident it had been in had wedged it in place. Boo! I sat there and vented for a few minutes because there was no way I was going to ask anyone there for help. Finally, I went all Hulk on the car and ripped enough plastic, aluminum, and fiberglass away to get what I wanted. I imagine they heard me cursing. When I went back to the front to pay I found that I had arrived on the other side of the force field. Evidently ripping car parts off with your bare hands makes you cool enough, despite your gender, to talk to these quality folk. Suddenly it was all "so what are you rebuilding?" and "sweet; want a soda?"

So we went from assuming I was a idiot worthy of contempt to being best buds. Suddenly I was as cool as a guy. This is why I think of it as a Force Field. One little move and here I was on the other side; in the "in club." But I didn't break down a wall; these guys haven't changed their opinion of women. I was just granted an exception to pass through - the Force Field is undamaged.

This isn't exactly my first encounter with the Sexism Force Field either. I've run into it a number of times, especially working on my degree in Mathematics. Also in working in tech support. Not to mention in my other hobbies and interests; D&D, geekery, camping, etc. Perhaps I'll talk more about those experiences in the future, but this is already getting a bit long and I don't want everyone to tune out before I get to the moral of the story. So here it is:

We still have a long way to go, and we should be helping both our girls and our boys get past this gender nonsense. Get your girls toolbelts. Get your boys dolls. Better yet, get both girls and boys toolbelts and dolls and dolls wearing toolbelts! Let kids figure out what they actually like instead of what the media and gender biased adults think they should like. Tell them boys and girls are equals. Show them you believe it through your actions.

Ok, enough soapbox for today. Besides, there are a lot of great writers that do it better than I can. Check them out!

The Achilles Effect - talks about gender stereotypes, especially regarding boys

Princess Free Zone - talks about gender stereotypes, especially regarding girls

Toward the Stars - shopping site aimed at empowering girls

Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies - empowering clothes & gifts for boys & girls

What are your site recommendations? What do you do to try to raise unbiased kids?
Good reading!


  1. This is such a huge pet peeve of mine as well. I think a large part of it is the american society in general. I have a neighbor from the U.K. who has treated me just like he treats my husband from the very beginning of our meeting. My neighbor will carry on a conversation with either one of us and listens to both our ideas. It's nice to have a friend who has made this force field disappear.

    1. Exactly. And there are plenty of people who can just treat people like people. I'm trying to focus on raising kids who will break the cycle!