Men, we have some work to do. Not the physical labor that I so much enjoy. You know the type: the kind of work that gives you the feeling of accomplishment because you just sweat (and perhaps bled) a lot and now you've built something. Nor am I talking about the kind of work where a concrete problem can be solved through logical troubleshooting and some creative thinking. No, the work we have is much harder, and much more complex - which is probably why we haven't done it yet. We like to check things off our list, and feel accomplished. We don't like to sit and think about ourselves as the problem. But that doesn't mean it's untrue.
I'm talking about sexism.
Yea, I know. That word brings all sorts of tension into the air. I'm not a sexist. You're not. Of course not. We love women. Why on earth would we be sexist toward them? And just who are you to say that I've ever been sexist toward anyone? You don't even know me! I respect women. I respect the HELL out of women.
Maybe you're right - maybe you've never cat-called a woman on the street. Perhaps you've never assumed that when someone was talking about a mathematician, an engineer, a doctor, or a lawyer, that they were talking about a man and not a woman. Maybe you've been nothing but respectful and open-minded your entire life, never assuming that women are incapable of doing something just because they have a vagina instead of a penis.
This is still for you. Because even if you haven't been outright sexist, I guarantee you're guilty of sexism. It's a hard truth, one that took me a while to accept too, but that doesn't make it a lie. In fact, the difficulty of us to accept this truth probably reinforces the truthfulness of it.
What I'm saying as that this: we are all, wether we admit it or not, subconsciously sexist. We don't even realize that we're doing it. That's how bad it is. I can't count how many times I have passed by a woman and immediately begun to think about how she should or should not be wearing those clothes. I don't have those thoughts when I pass by a man. That right there is sexism, plain and simple. I don't mean to, but it happens. Like sometimes, when someone mentions they have a software engineer friend, or they visited the doctor, I immediately picture a man, only to find out later that it was a woman. These biases and assumptions are always there, constantly finding their way to the surface and manipulating the way I see the world, and, in turn, how I act in it.
That's the thing, it's not something that you or I are actively seeking out. You don't want to admit it, because, well, you are in control of your actions, right? And of course you wouldn't be outright sexist. But the truth is, you're not always going to be consciously thinking about sexism. And that's when you find yourself objectifying the women around you.
I hate this. I hate that this society has helped shape me into a man who is constantly evaluating females around me according to my standards, but ignoring what most men do, think, or say. I hate that we live in a world where I have never once in my life felt real fear of being raped as I walk across a dimly lit parking lot, but my wife has to worry about it every day she comes home. I hate that when I go to work, I can focus on work, while many women need to focus on how to get their ideas heard, or proving that they can be just as good or better than some of their male counterparts, or wondering if when they stand up for something they're passionate about or disagree with something a coworker says, the others in the room will just assume that it's "that time of the month."
I didn't want this world. And I didn't create it, so why should I have to be responsible to change it?
The answer is simple - because once I admit I'm part of the problem, I can be part of the solution. The next time I see someone cat-calling, I can step up and call them out instead of just letting it happen. I can change a million little things in my life to start making a difference for the women in my life, which will set an example for the men in my life. I don't have to accept culture for what it is, and while there still exists inequality between how certain people are treated, I shouldn't.
If a woman does the same job as a man, she should be paid the same amount of money. If a woman wants to dance at a club without fending off a horde of horny, sweaty men, she should be able to do so without having a male friend pretend to be a boyfriend. Little girls don't have to just dream of being princesses - they can dream of going into outer space, or writing the world's next groundbreaking algorithm. They can grow up thinking that they have just as much shot being a police officer or scientist as their brother, or classmate.
I don't have a little girl, but I do have a god-daughter. I want her to grow up knowing she has a future in other areas of life other than teacher or receptionist. I want her to know that she doesn't need a boyfriend to say no to dancing with someone, that her word should be respected as much as the guy's next to her. I want her to know that she is more than her body. I want her to grow up in a world that sees her ability to take charge as a trait of leadership, not a sign of "being a bitch".
At first, it seems like there isn't anything I can do. The problem is too large, and I'm just one person. But the fact is, I'm surrounded by women in my life and I'm in control of my actions and thoughts. That's the only place to start. And I'm writing this post in the hopes that my realization can be shared with many of my male counterparts. It's a very hard realization to come to, but I'm hoping we all realize that we are part of the problem, and that doesn't make us bad people. It makes us able to make change happen. Because that means that all we have to do to end sexism is to start with ourselves; with a small step forward, and then another.