Casual sexism is regularly overlooked. You cannot even buy a pint of milk from the corner shop without being bombarded with advertisements featuring images of over-sexualised women or chocolate bars marketing themselves as ‘not for birds’. Sexism has been trivialised and labelled as frivolous, as just a bit of harmless fun; we have become immune to it. Yet every once in a while I find myself gasping at more overt instances of evident patriarchy.
Take The Sunday Times‘ Style magazine column, ‘The Trouble with Women’. I have a deep-rooted love for this sophisticated lifestyle and fashion supplement, but when I first saw this title, I thought there must be some kind of a joke going on. It couldn’t be what it says on the tin. Could it?Yes, it could. I found that it was a column that allowed men to vent their frustration at (misunderstanding) women’s behaviour, making The Sunday Times an avenue to proliferate their conservative ideologies and coach women on how to a good wife.
It intrigued me though. I wanted to know what the ‘trouble’ with my kind is from a male perspective. I wanted to know whether men are from Mars and women from Venus. I felt that I might learn something that would make a better partner. However, after reading it I realised it was just pandering to stereotypes.
Come on men. This was your chance to reveal the ‘real’ problem with women, to highlight why marriages fall apart. It could have been groundbreaking. It could have slashed divorce rates in half. But no: it merely exposed men’s lack of understanding when it comes to female behaviour.
So what were the ‘big’ problems that men have when it comes to women?
1) ‘Women roll over too easily.’ By which this, gentlemen, means that women don’t control themselves enough when it comes to dating men, and have sex too early in the relationship. Robert, 36, an entrepreneur writes that “men want to fight for the love of women, but most girls only put up a vague defence and then roll over too easily.” He continues by chastising women who sleep with men on the third date. What Robert fails to acknowledge is that when a couple decides to have sex, it (hopefully) involves the consent of both parties. Therefore, his complaint that women roll over too easily should be reworded thus: both men and women roll over too easily and take the romance out of dating. It takes two to tango, and both parties are responsible for when and why they have sex.
2) ‘They give us chores’ was another popular one. Lecturer Jeremy, 31, grumbles that his wife asks him to do chores around the house on his day off. These chores include things like taking the rubbish out, vacuuming and washing. Jeremy laments that the “particularly irritating [thing] is that I wouldn’t dream of asking her to do anything on her day off.” Of course you wouldn’t, Jeremy, because you do not care about whether the housework gets done, or whether the kids are taken to school. And not forgetting that women love housework so doing the chores would be her ideal way to spend her Saturday afternoon while you are at the pub with your mates.
3) My favourite problem was that women sulk too much. Because men never sulk. Alas Nick, 30, a banker who is tired of ‘grumpy girlfriends’, may have a point. Women do sulk. I’ve even noticed myself giving the silent treatment and repeatedly denying that something is wrong. Nick explains where women are going wrong: “Guys like to be direct. They know that if you discuss the issue and resolve it, everybody can get back to normal.” Sorted. We’ll just be more direct in future. But other ‘troubles with women’ include the fact that we always want to talk, and that is before we even get into the male reaction when women try to confront an issue. Oh Nick, do you not realise that the direct approach isn’t always the correct approach?
So I guess what I am trying to say is that sexism comes in all shapes and forms. Sometimes it is so ubiquitous that we do not even notice it. At other times, it is more blatant, verging on misogynistic. However, until we break the gender binary stereotype, patriarchal mindsets of women as ‘Other’ will continue to thrive, and the relationship between the sexes will suffer.