In high my high school yearbook a select few students are given a superlative; most likely to skip class, best smile, class clown etc. I won most likely to be president along with my friend Keith Pence (a boy and a girl won each). The day we found out, one of the ugliest guys in our class approached me and said through his crooked teeth, “Well you’d have to be VP.” When I asked him why, he responded as though it was obvious. “Because you’re a girl.”
Now if this ogre had given me a valid reason why I’d be a lack-luster president I might have backed down. You’re too cranky, or selfish would have been sufficient, but the fact that he used my gender as a handicap hit me the wrong way. After pushing him in the hallway, I proceeded to try and run him down in the school parking lot with my Toyota Rav4 (not my proudest hour). Here’s the thing. As a woman in American society, I haven’t felt that things are going to be easy for me. Employers are wary of hiring me because I may be pregnant in a few years. Could I do the job better than the next mediocre male who walks through the door? Probably. But my gender has held me back in success, and it isn’t for lack of intelligence or effort.
Again in high school, I was held to yet another double standard. After a heated debate in my government class about whether women should be allowed to fight in the military, I had heard just about enough. A kid who I had known since elementary school had revealed particularly sexist tendencies, pontificating about the physical weakness of women. Thinking I’d show him weakness, I slapped him across the face twice. Of course my government teacher saw and the next thing I knew I was sitting in the dean’s office.
“You’re going to have to call a parent.”
“Okay…can a choose which parent?”
I told my dad what had happened. “I hit someone in class.”
“Boy or girl?”
“He deserve it?”
“You hit him hard?”
“We don’t have to tell your mom about this.”
Feeling relieved with my dad’s reaction I sat comfortably back in the deans office chair. The female dean said to me, “You know, I know how you feel. This high school is a bit of a boy’s club. You know if you were a boy, you would be getting detention for this, but since you’re a girl, we’ll let you off with a warning.”
The whole reason I was in that office was for trying to defend my gender, and here again I am treated differently. I told her that I wanted the detention. I served it, and frankly I consider that blot on my record a battle scar in the war of gender rights.
Sexism is imbedded so deeply in our culture that it is hard to find the exact origin. Kate Millet in Sexual Politics explores this phenomenon in several disciplines including psychology, anthropology, sociology, and finally literary influences. Though there is no clear solution for the problem of sexism, understanding the basis of out culture’s understanding of gender is essential in moving forward. I highly recommend this book to both males and females to better understand the gender politics of current society.