The Box, Male Oppression
Recently, I had the great opportunity to listen to a talk about sexism. One of the panelists mentioned the box that society puts male children and men into in which they cannot feel emotions, are not allowed close male friendships because of gay oppression, and are the first ones sent to war. This opened my eyes to what it means to be male in our society, and the experiences that my dad and brothers, and by extension other male persons, have had as members of the male group of humanity. I resisted the idea that men are oppressed because women are the oppressed ones, so that means that men are the oppressors. But, men have been conditioned to be the oppressors and so are oppressed just as women are.
No one is born with sexism. Sexism is a social construct that makes biology the reason for differences in power. This social construct hurts men as well as the women it oppresses by making men the agents of sexism through hurting them to the point they think it is normal and right to be in charge because they are male, a happenstance of hormones. This indoctrination begins as children with blue, trucks, and outside being the sole provinces of boys and pink, soft, and indoors being the province of girls, at least in this society. If you see a child in blue and can’t tell on first glance that that child is a girl, you get labeled as a boy until corrected and then it’s apologies for the mistake, but also in a way, apologies for the elevation of the girl to boy, and accusations to the parents for trying to pass the girl as a boy, when in reality that may simply be her favorite shirt or the last piece of clean clothes because today is laundry day, either way, it is just a blue shirt, not a marker of boyness or girlness. Just a shirt.
And, so the indoctrination begins. It continues as children are told that boys are supposed to be good at math and girls at words, and that boys can have as much sex as they want because no one will know what they do, but if a girl has as much sex as she wants then she is labeled a tramp or worse. It continues when girls are told to change how they dress because it distracts boys from getting an education and that girls’ bodies are just for objectification as sexual things no matter how unsexual the child feels. It continues when boys are teased by others for crying when something hurts them, so they learn to keep the hurts hidden, and that just festers like a sore wound because it is. It continues when youth, beauty, and feminine mystique are used to send messages to children that only those who look and act perfectly matter, and the rest better know how to make the best of whatever assets they may have because they aren’t loveable because they aren’t perfect or ideal and will need to work hard to prove themselves, whether male or female. It continues with the myth that all rapists are males and strangers. It continues with the myth that only other places have sexism and that the glass ceiling doesn’t exist anymore.
So, how to stop the seemingly inevitable flow of indoctrination? Stop and think about these things, and then, talking about them with yourself and your circle of family and friends. Then, sharing time equally to allow everyone the chance to be heard and have a voice while sharing the stories of the hurts from sexism and the joys of being a girl or woman or boy or man, as your case may be. Then, not just listening to each other, but taking the chance to be heard and heal from the sexism and oppression to the rest of the world.
There are many organizations doing this kind of work, but one I know of is the No Limits/The Liberation of Women program of the International Re-evaluation Counseling Community. They have brought the ideas of RC, Re-evaluation Counseling, to the topic of Sexism. They are working towards the end of sexism worldwide by 50 years, now being in the middle of that time. Re-evaluation counseling is the name given to the shared listening process where each person gets an equal amount of time to talk or just express in whatever way the feelings the topic has for them. This time is considered confidential, is done with the idea that we are intelligent, capable, and good., and that we can figure the solutions to our own problems just by being given the space to be listened to while we process through the thoughts and feelings associated with the topic.