There is nothing casual about Casual Sexism as the concept is directly related to sex-based discrimination against women. If a woman is treated differently than how a man would be treated in the same situation, the possibility is that an underlying sexist prejudice is working there. In today’s post, we are going to probe a little into the concept of casual sexism and understand what it is, how it affects women and how to deal with it.
What is casual sexism?
Let us start with the definition. Just like racism, sexism is a form of prejudice or stereotypical thinking against a certain group or class of society– in this case, based on their gender. Sometimes, these prejudices can be quite obvious and intentional while sometimes they are more subtle and quite thoughtlessly or casually tossed off in a conversation. Instances like rape, sexual assault or abuse are all too obvious forms of sexism that undermine and humiliate a woman.
However, there are many not-so-obvious forms of sexism that are parts of our everyday conversations that are hard to be identified as sexism. Such subtle or hidden forms of sexist attitudes and behaviors that are intentionally or unintentionally practiced and propagated in the society can be called casual sexism.
In any case, any form of a prejudiced thought, speech or behavior that undermines the equal position and rights of women in the society and has an undertone of discrimination against them on the grounds of their gender is fit to be termed as sexism against women.
Some everyday examples of casual sexism
We regularly come across many instances in our family, workplaces or society where sexist comments are passed quite casually without knowing that they propagate gender-based prejudice against women. These are often referred to as low-intensity sexism and include light-hearted jokes, casual remarks or comments. However, research has shown that they are just as demoralizing to a woman like any other form of harassment. After all, if a so-called joke is more offensive than funny, it is no longer a joke.
I, personally, hate the fact that how Sexism has ingrained in our culture so deep. Unfortunately, it all starts from a very own family, specially, the way we raise our boys and girls so differently.
For example, when parents tell a girl that she should not learn something she wants, such as a sport or martial arts, just because she is a girl or weak is a typical casual sexist response that undermines the girl’s ability to learn something on the basis of her gender. Remember the Amir Khan Starrer blockbuster, Dangal?
Another example is when a parents remark to a girl that they missed out on a part of parenting experience because they doesn’t have any son, is a sexist comment that is hard to recognize as one. This person may not have said so intentionally. He obviously didn’t mean to degrade the value of his parenting his daughters in any way. However, his words do imply that he lost something as part of parenting those girls as against having a boy, and expressing it to his girl, does make it eligible to be called a sexist remark.
One common social example of casual sexism is when a woman is automatically served a softer alcoholic drink in a bar while the man is served a harder one. This is subtle and nothing serious. However, it does point at a common sexist prejudice.
Take a look at some of the classic sexist assumptions:
- Telling a girl that getting married and having kids should be her most important goals in life.
- Insisting that a woman should only marry a man.
- A remark like: “OMG! Don’t tell me that you are one of those feminists!” – As if being a feminist is a bad thing.
- A remark like: “Why are you so grumpy? Looks like it is that time of the month!”
- Insisting that “Women should be home before dark.” – Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to insist that men should stop troubling women who go out after dark?
These, and many more such casual remarks or ‘suggestions’, have become such an integral part of our beliefs and attitudes that we hardly recognize them as propagating a seriously skewed mindset against women.
Now, let me clarify here that sexism is not necessarily only and always against women. As I stated earlier, we raise our boys and girls differently so both the genders can be victims of such discrimination. For example, it is commonly believed in our society that men should not be emotional while it is completely fine to be so for women. This is a form of sexism against men. However, the types of prejudices against women are generally more atrocious and damaging than those against men.
How to deal with casual sexism
As with any other form of sexual harassment against women, casual sexism is also a mindset that presupposes that a woman is in some way inferior to her male counterpart. This mindset has developed over a long period of time. Although some natural differences in the physiology and psychology of a man and a woman to play an important role in the development of these prejudices, man’s ego and superiority complex have been feeding on these gender-based beliefs and prejudices. And that is the main reason why they are still present in our society even in the day and age of women empowerment.
So how do we deal with these subtle sexist attacks? The answer is – with courage and tactfulness. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.
Now obviously, you cannot change the mindset of your parents, relatives or co-workers overnight. Why maybe it will never change in their entire lifetime. However, when some of them throw a sexist remark towards you, how to respond to it is most definitely in your control.
These types of remarks are mostly made as a joke or a casual, non-serious comment. Take it like that – as a joke or a non-serious comment. Just laugh at them and say something like, “Are you serious?” or “Are you kidding me?”Don’t let your moral get dented by the sexist undertone in them. Always remember that it speaks more about their immature thinking and nothing about you as a woman. This way, you will be able to take away that subtle sting out of those remarks.
There are situations when your superiors pass a sexist comment unintentionally. Under those circumstances, politely asking them what they meant by the comment will make them think about it and possibly realize that what they said was more derogatory than humorous.
Whether the casual sexism is intentional or unintentional, it is our responsibility as women to stand firmly against it. Most people don’t even know they are practicing and propagating it. All it takes is to point out to the person that what they said is not funny or casual but can make someone feel like being treated differently just on the basis of their gender. If you confront the situation gracefully, not only will you save yourself from feeling bad and disheartened by the comment but you will also force that person to reflect on his own mindset.