The coin spins.
Heads or tails? Male or Female?
It shouldn’t matter. We are equal sides of the same coin of Life. There is no his side, without her side. We are forged together and bonded forever — valuable, compatible and inseparable.
Pretending otherwise is a futile exercise because as any coin collector will tell you, both sides determine the value of the coin. Yes, a distinguishing mark or characteristic on one side of a coin can add value to the whole coin, but if one side is defaced and devalued then the other side loses its value as well.
And so it holds for the coin of life. We can’t positively change the life of women and girls if we don’t positively change the life of men and boys. And we automatically devalue the life of both, when we devalue the life of one.
Because… sexism is a two-sided coin.
And yet, somehow, we seem to think that sexism against males and females come in two separate coins. It doesn’t. And the examples are big and small and seemingly endless…
In a mock campaign to “rebrand girls” and promote them as a birth choice in countries (including the US) where boys are preferred by expectant parents, a series of “humorous” ads were created that demeaned boys and in the process portrayed girls less than they are.
The “Born to Rule” ad showed a group of tiny male sperms swarming toward the single, large female egg above them. You can all but hear the whip crack. Take that you males. Ruling is dominance. It requires obedience. It implies force. It cares nothing for equality. So why did the creators of the ad say “Born to Rule” instead of “Born to Lead?” Imagine how much more empowering it would be for women and girls if that ad was turn on its side and we saw sperms of equal size as and on equal footing with the egg and yet the sperm still followed the egg…
Leadership draws its power from its followers precisely because they do so voluntarily. And the bigger and brighter the followers the bigger and brighter the leader… And isn’t that really the kind of empowerment we want for women? For everyone? And sadly this ad was presented by an organization of 3,000 ad women.
Sexism is a two-sided coin.
Another group presented an ad called “Hope It’s A Girl” explaining that “Boys are 76% more likely to set something you love on fire.” I don’t dispute that it is probably fact. What I do dispute is how women and girls gain value when men and boys are demeaned as mentally and/or morally defective goods? By default? Doesn’t that just lower both? Why not point out that a daughter would be 40% more likely to be the caregiver for a parent in their old age and spend 50% more time doing it than a son? (from NOW)
Sexism is a two-sided coin.
A third ad promoted “Girls. The Smart Choice” for, apparently, the investment driven parents by comparing boys shorter life span with girls loyalty and compassion. Why can’t both males and females be promoted as necessary. “What is strength (male symbol) without loyalty and compassion (female symbol)?”
Is devaluing humor the way we want to change society? What do men and boys take away from it? Wouldn’t it be the same kind of devalued self-worth, self-confidence and lower expectations that we abhor when it is directed at women and girls?
Sexism is a two-sided coin.
And so it spins — male, female, male, female…
In a video presented in conjunction with Miss Representation’s Keep It Real challenge, Roy Cui confesses his shame at contributing to the digital distortions of female images and explains his growing discomfort with his career as a “digital retoucher” in which he alters the images of everything and everyone we see — particularly women. From Roy Cui’s website:
It’s standard for me to thin and elongate legs, thin down the waist and arms, remove any bulging flesh, remove wrinkles, bags under the eyes, blemishes, freckles, tattoos, fix a lazy eye, remove or minimize creases where there should be creases, like the underarm or the neck. As more and more has been asked of me technology made it easier to do more in less time, I never questioned the ethics of what I was being asked to manipulate.
After Mr. Cui recognized that the lies he creates of women could negatively affect his daughter’s self-image and self-confidence, he showed her what he does and explained how the images aren’t real. It is empowering to see him step forward to help create change. And I so applaud his willingness to accept personal responsibility and tell his story. But I also noted that he mentions in the video that he is the father of two boys as well.
He never says that his man-made digitized figurines of female beauty could also affect his boys. He never mentions that he explained to his boys what he does and that these unachievable standards of impossibly proportioned, unblemished beauties are not what they should expect in the girls and women around them.
And yet those images must affect male expectations, or businesses wouldn’t waste the time and money to achieve it.
I’m also willing to bet Mr. Cui’s retouching wand has help create unachievable standards of impossibly muscled, hyper masculine images of sports players and celebrities that along with the “I can, so I will” and don’t get in my way or I’ll mow you down attitude of aggression, would negatively affect the self-image and self-confidence of his two boys. Has he explain those distorts to his boys?
And did he warn his daughter about these manly falsehoods also, so she wouldn’t have unreasonable expectations of the boys and men around her and feel the need to become the mythological hyper-sexualized compliant female mate that is worthy of the mythological hyper-sexualized aggressive male…
Sexism is a two-sided coin. And so it spins — male, female, male, female…
What coins of sexism do you see spinning?
I couldn’t agree more, Linda!
Fabulous. I so appreciate your thought process here. I, too, watched Mr. Cui’s video and your point that he did not discuss these distortions with his sons is spot on. They need to understand these unreasonable expectations and hyper-perfected images just as much as girls do. I also agree that the way to empower women is not to insult or demean men. Selling ‘women are great and men are sludge’ benefits no one. It creates more hostility and in my view, is designed to backfire. Such a campaign seems written by the very people who call feminists “femi-Nazis.” No one needs to succeed by trying to keep someone else down. That is the very thing we are trying to get away from in pursuing the empowerment of women. Great post, Linda
Thanks Anita! Great points. While it maybe motivated by frustration and anger, the in your face provocativeness is pretty much designed to backfire, I agree. And it doesn’t make us look like leaders either.
I am so enjoying your writing! This is an excellent article and a refreshing blast of balance and truth in looking at the issues of sexism. I am so tired of having women portrayed as weak and in need of special care, that somehow men and boys don’t also need. Unrealistic expectations, unfair representations – they hurt us all. Men are not the enemy – they are our friends, neighbors, partners, brothers, husbands, sons. False images – however well-intentioned – are the enemy.
Well said! I loved this article!
Thank you so much, Kat!