October 7th, 2010
Recently I was hit with a very serious realization:
Sexism still exists.
Call me naive, but I thought it we were over that. Shame on me for being so blind.
In the past few months, I’ve been the victim of sexism—nothing serious. Just an acquaintance who was clearly discriminating against me and felt that, as a man, he has every right to talk down to me and try to “correct” me.
This became crystal clear in one conversation when he told me I needed to massage Dave’s back 2x a day:
I thought he was joking, so I said, “I’m going to need some sort of payment for that!”
And he responded, “The satisfaction of serving your husband is your payment.”
Laughing, I said, “Oh, spoken like a true bachelor.” (<—please note that he’s not, nor has ever been married)
And his response?
“Spoken like a true American woman.”
You see, I caught on pretty quickly that in his opinion I was doing it wrong. Dave was a fine and wonderful husband, and I was a rogue wife hell-bent on destruction—because I have a job and a mind of my own?!
I came to understand that he feels that the husband sets the tone for the marriage (and the husband is always right). Judging not only from this conversation, but from other conversations we have had over our short friendship, I would assume that he thinks wives should be reminiscent of June Cleaver:
Ok, ok, I know I’m joking around right now. But the purpose of this post has some depth to it, though. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has felt belittled and judged, and discriminated against so I want to share with you some insights.
Here’s what I’ve learned about sexism:
- It hurts. To be looked down upon for something that I can’t control makes me feel worthless.
- It’s not reflection on me. I have done nothing to invite this except be a woman. Someone looking down on me because of my gender means nothing about who I really am. It’s like hating a robin because it has a red belly. Everyone can see that it has a red belly—a harmless red belly. To not like a robin because of the color of its belly is to not like the robin. A robin is a robin because of it’s red belly. You can’t separate them.
- It’s a reflection on him. When someone has unchallenged ideas and issues that aren’t dealt with, they tend to push their problems onto someone else. That’s just a fact of life and it sucks.
- It’s a form of fear. One of my favorite quotes about fear is from Cool Runnings..a movie, albeit humorous, that addresses real life issues of discrimination. The character Yul Brenner (a.k.a. “Baldie”) says, "We’re different, people are always afraid of what’s different." When we don’t understand something or someone, our reaction is to try to keep it at bay. Why? Because we’re comfortable with our worldview. Instead of inviting challenge, we run from it.
Here’s what sexism has taught me about myself:
- I am confident in my role as a wife. I don’t lie awake at night wondering if I really love my husband because I don’t make him every meal
- I am also confident that I have talent, intelligence and wit and know that I do have something to offer in this world. My identity is not defined by my marriage. it’s a part of me—probably the most important part of me. But not all of me.
- I am beyond blessed with godly, loving men in my life. My husband, my father, my brothers, my grandfather, and my father-in-law are all wise, loving and respectful. It may even been considered a good thing that I was so blindsided by this guy’s sexism because it means that the men I am surrounded by are absolute saints!
As a Christian, I look to the Bible to define marriage roles. It’s clear (read Ephesians 5:22-33). Women are to respect their husbands, and men are to love their wives. But that looks different for every marriage. If a husband and wife together decide that their marriage will look like my June Cleaver list, that is wonderful. That is a private decision that the two of them should make regardless of what modern society thinks of them. However, no one, let alone a practical stranger, has the right or the insight to tell you what your marriage should be.
For example, I am working right now because Dave would like me to work. My money goes towards things for both of us and things for myself (like my student loans). I do that out of respect for him. Now, because I have a fulltime job and I don’t love to cook, cooking every night would be like torture to me. Because Dave loves me, he is “ok” with the fact that I don’t cook every night. Would he love it if I did? Of course! But he recognizes that my sanity is more important that a hot meal or two.
When the wife respects her husbands, it’s easier for him to love her. And when the husband loves his wife, it’s easier for her to respect him. It’s a two way street. Easy? No. But marriage is a team sport. You both have to work at it.
One thing that also stood out to me is that in Ephesians is that a woman is called to "submit to her own husband." (Don’t get scared about the word submit, it means the same as "respect". Check out Ephesians 5:33 again.)
You see, even though I am reminding myself that I am a loving wife, and that I have worth as an individual, I need to remind myself even more so that God wants me to submit to my husband, and to my husband alone.
So some random guy who thinks it’s his responsibility to correct me? Well, he needs to go read those verses again—particularly the very first one.Then maybe he’ll understand why I don’t care one bit about his opinion of me as Dave’s wife.
Dave loves me. Dave appreciates me. Dave is happy with me. What more do I need?
Thoughts on sexism? Anyone else ever feel discriminated against because of your gender?
P.S. I know I threw a slight tantrum on Twitter this morning regarding this (something specific triggered it this morning, which I did not address in this post. It will be addressed with the appropriate person, though). Thank you to all who sent such encouraging tweets and messages to me. I love you all so much!