On Modern Sexism

 Modern sexism is subtle. It exists in the passing comments and rolling eyes of those who believe we’ve already achieved equality. It manifests itself in the belief that the battle is won; that modern feminists are just whining now; or, more cynically, the belief that feminism is now attempting to gain an unfair advantage or prove women’s superiority over men.
This form of denial, which occurs throughout the gender spectrum, ignores the evil genius of sexism, racism, and all other oppressive ism’s; that is – participation is not necessary to reap the benefits of privilege. The status quo has not shifted; women may have gained the right to vote but power inequities remain firmly institutionalized through class, economics, social roles, media and so on.  
One way to understand this is to examine a human right which is taken to be obvious. In North America, we are all afforded freedom of speech. It is written into the fundamental moral codes of our countries – there are even explicit efforts to protect the rights of those who have been historically oppressed. But this oppression is not merely historical, it exists in the present. The problem is that it exists in the systems which inform us – and in order to function in our society, we are required to accept what it teaches: to place value on the beliefs of some, while dismissing others, to see only one kind of beauty, wisdom, and success. Upon reflection, it becomes clear that all speech is not free.
Consider the fact that women make up less than 20% of the world’s parliamentary seats. It requires a great deal of hard work and privilege to reach that position, and even their voices are not always heard.  I may be able to publish my thoughts for the internet to read, but this opportunity, too, comes as a result of my own privilege. Without understanding your place in the power-structure which is our society, there is no way to recognize the persons who are afforded even less space to speak, or exist, in safety.
Some speech threatens the status quo and is unfairly burdened to prove the truth of their experiences or to teach those who have always been afforded this authority over their own lives. Some speech has been (falsely) predetermined as invalid or fallacious based on the identity of the speaker.  Some speech has been silenced; from those whose words do not fit into the linear historical narrative which describes the history of a certain class of white people (through a male perspective) to the girl who has internalized the notion that she is to be seen, not heard – the girl who sits silently in class despite having much to say. Modern sexism, and other ism’s, may not always be as explicit (although they often still are), but to claim equality now is to forget the forgotten. 

Modern sexism is different from traditional sexism in that it can only come into appearance when we reflect on ourselves and what has been presented to us as the norm, the justified, the progress, the now. It can only be seen, and therefore changed, when we reflect on the authority of the voices that inform the status quo, when we reflect on who hears us when we speak, and who we ought to start listening to. 



  1. less than 20% of women make up the parliament because less women want to be in the parliament, is my guess, i wouldn't assume that was an exmaple of modern sexism when women don't usually go for fields such as math, science, government and leadership positions.

    1. That isn't really warranted, though. Women don't go into math, science, government and leadership as much as a result of being told that they are innately worse at those fields (which is not proven by the way), and because sexism exists in the institutions which do not make room for voices which challenge the status quo....so basically everything I just said above.

    2. Haha, wow, there is so much research refuting that women "don't usually go for" leadership or technical studies out of a sense of free choice. They "don't go for" them because little girls are not given the chance. Watch any kids TV show - the boys DO things, the girls care about what things LOOK like. The girl I take care of literally asked me one why "girls aren't allowed to play sports" - this kids is THREE and somehow figured out that she never sees female athletes on any television or in any books. That's how choice gets taken from us. AND ALSO there are so many female scientists and inventors and we just aren't shown them because of the MALE NARRATIVE of history. Do some research please, this is a complete fallacy.

    3. That makes perfect sense. women also are the only ones who give birth because men have been told they're not good at it. But one day, men who haven't been tainted by the inherent reverse modern sexism of our society will finally free themselves of the shackles of matriarchy, give birth, become nurses and become prostitutes en masse. Why is birth choice taken from men?!?

      It's all because of the FEMALE NARRATIVE of birth!

  2. THIS THIS THIS. I help run my Uni's Feminist Society and I have been so encouraged by people joining up and really making a difference (we had an engineering professor officially reprimanded for being a sexist ass basically, and exposed the Christian Union's policy of not allowing women speakers) and I'm taking badass Gender theory unit this semester, which I love. But it is so frustrating to come up against the idea that modern sexism doesn't exist, so I just sent an article off myself, to one of my Uni's newspapers. I'm gonna paste it below because I doubt it will get published, and I'd like somebody to see it.

    I am a feminist – yep, I said it. I am that girl. The question is, why aren’t you? (You too gents.)
    Last time I checked it was the year 2013, and yet the word feminist still has the power to illicit gasps of horror, or pointed eye-rolls from even some of my good friends, who no doubt picture the classic stereotype of The Angry Feminist. Butch and unshaven (and probably a lesbian too, amirite?), this woman will creep into your home, seduce your girlfriend, swap all your jeans for skirts and probably chop off your cock for good measure.
    This utterly utterly fictional character is called the Straw Feminist – and she is a pain in feminism’s collective arse. Now, this isn’t to say that women of varying gender expressions, sexual orientation and degrees of hairiness aren’t perfectly wonderful campaigners for gender equality - it’s just that equating all feminists with the ‘angry lesbian’ figure is about as productive as assuming all Germans are like Hitler, or that all Muslims are living, breathing daguerreotypes of Bin Laden. I admit that these are extreme examples (I can’t find an equivalently bloodthirsty female figure, but do feel free to correct me) but you get my point. Penis chopping isn’t gender equality, it’s just bonkers, and I promise you I don’t know any feminists who want to make all men wear skirts. Can’t promise anything about not seducing your girlfriend though…

    If you believe that men and women deserve equality (and that we haven’t quite got that yet) then trust me, you’re a feminist. I know, I know, it has the word ‘fem’ in it, therefore it must just be for the laydeez, but do a little research before you turn your nose up. Call yourself egalitarian all you like, but the concept of egalitarianism (equality for all, regardless of race, class, gender or sexuality) definitely includes feminism. Patriarchy hurts men AND women, though women do bear the brunt of the negative implications. We live in a society that has rigid expectations of both genders – and failure to live up to them has implications ranging from ridicule (‘Haha, Dave cried at Moulin Rouge, what a pussy!’), to judicial (I happen to be the exception that proves the rule – my father got sole custody of me when my parents split), to actual bodily harm – a study by the American CDC showed that women who identify as bisexual are three times as likely to be raped than their straight peers. [http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_SOfindings.pdf]
    Women still don’t feel safe to walk the streets at night, we make up less than 20% of the world’s politicians and jokes about rape are still considered totally fair game, despite the fact that there are between 60,000 to 95,000 instances of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault on women per year in the UK. (That’s 1 in 5 women by the way, so if you’re in the habit of making jokes about rape, however innocent your intentions may be, chances are you’ve done it in front of a sexual assault victim. Food for thought.)
    So, the question is, if you really do believe that we need gender equality, and fast, then why do you give a shit what it’s called? You’re a feminist, sorry love.

    I know, longest comment ever. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far .x

    1. WOW. You are a really beautiful writer. I loved this so much. No wonder you're helping to run your uni's feminist society! <3<3

  3. Good stuff. I also really enjoyed your Youtube video on this topic. I'm guessing you'll be looking at the french feminists and perhaps later on the embodied philosophy (Philosophy in the Flesh) of Lakoff and Johnson and the rest. Fun fun fun.

  4. "Consider the fact that women make up less than 20% of the world’s parliamentary seats."

    That women hold even one seat might be considered sexism against men. Or it might be sexism against women if women don't hold 100% of the seats. You are making many assumptions, such as the assumption that women should hold a certain percentage of parliamentary seats.

    1. And you are making the false assumption that you have any idea of what you are talking about.

  5. Just a warning don't be surprised if a really unpleasant group of men called MRA's show up to troll your blog. So far from the comments it doesn't look like it has happened yet just be on you're guard.

    Fortis fortuna Adiuvat

  6. I think your post is a great example of why people dislike Feminism. People have the notion that in the game of life the same rules should apply on everybody, and then it's up to them what you make of yourself. To most people this fits the definition of 'fair'.

    In the past, men and women had to abide by different rules, and Feminists called it sexism. Today, many people (including yourself) agree that the different-rules-for-different-genders thing was eliminated, but you complain that there's a certain status quo, and Feminists call that sexism too; the same word they used to describe the previous, severely more serious inequality! When most people hear Feminists use this word, what they think is that Feminists claim the world of today (with its same rules for all) is unjust in the same severity and in the same ways as the world of the past. In other words, Feminists inadvertently straw man themselves by using this terminology.

    Another point of opposition is that the word 'sexism' implies an active attempt to oppress, whereas the world of today is the way it is mostly due to historic inertia; it's a self feeding loop of people gravitating to behaviors they've seen in the past, and the perpetuation of such a system is passive- don't do anything and it'll continue to be the same way. When Feminists say that society is sexist, what regular people hear is "society is actively doing something to oppress women" and their response to this is "what the hell? I'm not doing anything. I don't even think about this issue, let alone do something about it."

    In short, Feminists should find better terminology. It's completely out of touch with how anyone outside of their clique understands it, and that makes it seriously counter productive.

  7. Keep strong. They don't know how wrong they are, but they might one day. Either way, you've done your best and you're inspiring heaps of people. Focus on those people who are positive and intelligent. Forget the rest. Also, keep making videos :) They're amazing. xxx

  8. Thank you so much for this post and youtube video. It's impressive how you concisely and accessable talk about a complex topic like modern sexism.

    I wanted to ask about the study that you talk about in the video. The one about men and women's participation in a class being equal, and then the men's perception of it being that it was way more towards the women. I'm putting together a syllabus on a course on feminism and masculinities, and I think this article would be valuable for it. Thanks!

  9. Celia, I disagree with one of your comments that women are told in that they are inferior to their male counterparts in the Sciences and other academic fields...
    In my opinion, media portrays accomplished females as either the hard-driven, sexy, alpha women who strive for a good part of their lives to be the top dog or conversely, as the seductive, sexy, easy, materialistic, trophy wife who marries rich and is a dumb bum. Everyone else(e.g a middle class working woman) is simply a failure, a soccer mum - either a bitter failure or a stereotypical warm 'maternal' figure, female teacher - bitter bitter bitter, EVERY FEMALE IS BITTER.
    There is no space for low income-earning, less-than-average-looking women in our society according to many of the media forms we are exposed to. What does that say about our society?

    BUT I LOVE THIS POST :) Feminism isn't 'feminists first' it's 'equality first'.
    Please check our my blog


  10. i look up to you so much because of how eloquently and clearly you are able to discuss feminism/sexism. i stumbled upon this blog post that an old college-mate wrote and i'm so appalled, i wish i had your knowledge and ease of speech to write her a rebuttal