Several weeks ago, a young male colleague said that ‘sexual discrimination is not nearly as bad as it used to be’. I wanted to respond that 1) he didn’t have a vagina so how the hell did he think he could even judge such a thing and 2) he hadn’t even been on the planet long enough to remember much of what life was like before the Internet, much less what it was like in the ‘good old days’. I did not, however, respond at all, feeling that if I got started it would be pretty ugly or unprofessional. He’s a decent man but a little unthinking at times. He is not the first to say such things, however.
I have heard this kind of reasoning before but mostly in regards to racism…”it’s not as bad as it used to be”. What does that even mean? Because bands of KKK can no longer roam the streets stringing up people of color with impunity, it’s better? Because now black men only have a one in ten thousand chance of being beaten to death by a bunch of drunk young crackers as opposed to one in a hundred, they should be grateful and lighten up?1 Well, yeah, there is a valid point that some stats have improved, but racism is not as simple as that and sStatistical improvements like the one I just mentioned can’t, by any means, be considered as a conclusive victory. The kinds of racism that we encounter today is much more insidious and as such, is not always obvious especially to someone in the white and/or male majority. Just because it isn’t as obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t there and that it isn’t just as damaging. Same thing with sexism.
But make no mistake the overt stuff still occurs. The only thing that has changed is the vehicle by which it is expressed. Here is one incredibly worrisome recent example of a woman who was harassed and threatened online because she had the nerve to express an interest in studying female stereotypes in computer games.
The intimidation and harassment effort has included a torrent of misogyny and hate speech on my YouTube video, repeated vandalizing of the Wikipedia page about me, organized efforts to flag my YouTube videos as “terrorism”, as well as many threatening messages sent through Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, email and my own website. These messages and comments have included everything from the typical sandwich and kitchen “jokes” to threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape. All that plus an organized attempt to report this project to Kickstarter and get it banned or defunded.
It’s not like she came out and said that all men are assholes and she wants a new lawpassed that says we should imprison all adult males and castrate the ones we don’t want to breed with. She just wanted to do some scholarly examination and share that study in a series of videos. Yes some aspects of sexism are better but it’s still not good enough. Furthermore, with the anonymity provided by the Internet, now the sexist (and racist2 and just plain hateful jerks of the world) are pretty much free to be as overt or as subtle as they choose to be. In the end, if you only give me a dichotomy of better or worse now, I will say sexism is neither–it is simply different in delivery method but not in outcome.
1. I am sick to death of people who have never been the target of an “ism” telling me to “lighten up”. Ironically it only pisses me off more and increases the likelihood of a verbal beatdown.
2. I fully expect the poor Harvard researcher who did this study to be harassed and threatened to a sickening extent–look at the way the woman was treated and she was only proposing to DO some research, much less having done it, published it and had the MSM distribute it worldwide.