Norms. Stereotypes. “-isms”. So many within the context of mental health, racism, gender identity, sexism, ethnicity. I find personally I’ve been fighting against ageism of late. Language is prevalent in reinforcing stereotypes, even when we say we do not have any. Let’s start with simply what is male, female? I don’t mean in the binary sense, but in traits, so sexism really. What defines male? What defines female?” Gone are the stereotypes of boys represented by blue, girls represented by pink. Yet is this true? Even now our language reinforces identities we do not own ourselves.
Two examples of recent date happened to myself in regard to sexism. One was at work when I expressed my frustration to a male coworker over being admonished by another female coworker. The individual I was telling my story to said, “She needs to be put in her place!” This surprised me as the message was two-fold. One “I am superior and she is inferior” and “Men are still wanting to put women in their places.” Both these messages are a reflection of a patriarchal society. Neither message was specifically said out loud, but they were the undertones of his comment. Another message I “heard” was today. I was wore out and tired at work, and very rattled, so needed a place to calm down. I chose a secluded spot on campus to play a few rounds of Mahjong on my phone and calm down a bit. A gentleman on campus passed by and asked what I was doing, and as explained, he said, “Good girl!” I found that patronizing and disrespectful. Even if not intentional, this male coworker was showing his superiority. Despite the effort to change to non-gendered terminology, sexism still is portrayed liberally in our language and terms such as “girl[s]” are belittling (Douglas, & Sutton, 2014) and reinforce sexism not only in a patriarchal sense, but also within victimizing the survivor.
I discovered an excellent example of victimizing the survivor while researching blogs to write in an excellent blog called “Reclaiming the Latino Tag”. The author wrote her own list for the hashtag #SiMeMatan (If I’m murdered). I will conclude with her list. It is a strong statement on how our language in our culture, actions, words, and law reinforce stereotypes. In this particular example, the ‘why’ is it was the female victim’s fault she was murdered. I would encourage you to read the blog for context.
“If I’m murdered:
It would be because I lived by myself in my apartment.
It would be because I confront people that catcall me on the street.
It would be because I like wearing knee high boots and stockings.
It would be because I dyed my hair a lot in whacky colors.
It would be because I hang out more with men than women.
It would be because I go out alone at night without the company of a man.
It would be because I drink when I go out.
It would be because I was flirty and friendly to everyone.
It would be because choose to have sex without being married.”
Douglas, K. M., & Sutton, R. M. (2014). “A Giant Leap for Mankind” But What About Women? The Role of System-Justifying Ideologies in Predicting Attitudes Toward Sexist Language. Journal Of Language & Social Psychology, 33(6), 667-680. doi:10.1177/0261927X14538638