The Sexism Bubble

I’m not sure how many of my female colleagues (under 30) have experienced the sexism that is pretty prevalent in our society. Specifically, being passed up for a male of equal or lesser qualifications and much less experience. I see it in science (among faculty) and I hear about it all the time from some of my older female acquaintances, but rarely, if ever, among my undergraduate and graduate friends. At many universities, women undergraduates outnumber male undergraduates so it can be hard to appreciate the reality of our cultural sexism.

I hope my female peers will not have to experience sexism in their lives, but sadly I think many of them will. Why is this relevant? This CBS poll (via Corrente) says a lot:

More voters admit their unwillingness to vote for a woman. Nearly one in five voters says that all things being equal, they would rather vote for a man. Fewer than half say that most people they know would vote for a woman for president, although this response may now be intertwined with whether or not people think their acquaintances would vote for Hillary Clinton. Still, 59 percent say America is ready for a woman president.

This is in no way a reason for anyone to vote for Hillary Clinton. But the question I always ask people about this election is this: If Hillary and Obama were to submit resumes without names before applying for president, who do you think would come out on top? I hear from many Obama supporters–haven’t asked all of them, obviously–that of course Hillary would come out on top but that doesn’t matter. A progressive activist friend of mine stated bluntly, when asked explicitly, that hard work and understanding of the issues didn’t really matter to him this time. (Yeah, he was harping on the importance of those qualities before this election.)

I don’t know the answer to this, but if Hillary Clinton were a man, would she be having such a difficult time? Is the cavalier and callous dismissal of Hillary’s accomplishments part of the rampant sexism we see? Are young women on college campuses living in a sexism bubble? Will they be less willing to call Hillary a “monster” (and some have) when the get to experience sexism first hand?

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4 Responses to The Sexism Bubble

  1. Gilbert

    I have an 18 year old daughter who is pretty savvy on many levels (including about politics) and in her first year at a UC, but I know she has not experienced the sexism stuff in any way shape or form that her mom has — not yet — and I hope that she won’t. But I think on many levels watching this election play out the way it has that we still have a long way to go.

  2. Mark says:

    Unfortunately, this time around, in my humble opinion, sexism trumps racism for how much of an obstacle it raises for Senator Clinton to overcome compared to the obstacles for Senator Obama.

    In my other writings, I have cited what I think is the most significant and generally untalked about variable — the fact that both men and women overestimate the intelligence of a man. Newsweek did a big piece on this at He’s Not as Smart as he Thinks.

    I have had people respond to me about this well-established fact by saying “has anyone proven that this variable affects elections?” Uh, well, yes, unless people don’t vote. If a significant variable affects people in their judgments of others with respect to intelligence, it affects ALL judgments, not just non-election judgments…. I feel like Critical Thinking 101 needs to be taught each year in high school…

    At any rate, is sexism down as Pamela is noting with respect to the experiences of her daughter? Maybe her daughter has not experienced overt sexism, but, IMHO, sexism is way, way up. It has morphed from the stay at home mom image to something else and the most deletarious engine that drives sexism is MARKETING…

    I won’t go down that road of thought right now, but I will be writing more about it in the future. Sexism has morphed, so now it is more difficult to identify its new forms based on what we experienced as its old forms.

    For instance, rape and, especially, date rape are still rampant. In our very over-sexualized society (I blame marketing, NOT hormones…), we are setting up men and women to see each other as sex objects much more than for the other important characteristics of a person. A materialistic and appearance oriented culture in and of itself is into “objectifying people.” The basis of sexism is objectification.

    When we are programmed to see other people as a means for getting our “needs” fulfilled, well, we are going down a road that is the opposite of mutual respect.

    I digress a bit. One other poll done early in the season is at Electing a Woman President (October 2007, Pew Research).

    It found that, among Americans 65 and older, 31% of women and 26% of men thought it would be good to have a woman president. That gender gap widened further as age groups got younger. The gender gap for the 18-29 crowd was 50% of women and 24% of men thought it would be good to have a woman president.

    So, according to this study the gender gap among younger men has widened (more sexist). It is only one snapshot, but I think it is a likely trend. I think institutional sexism is down, but personal sexism is up. I think that institutional racism is down and personal racism is down.

  3. Janis says:

    Is sexism to blame for Hillary’s rough ride?

    I don’t know, was there a Tuesday last week?

    I always say I ran into it early, going into the hardest possible hard science young and being effing good in it. (My math professor still uses the “most brilliant student I’ve ever had” line, and the older I get the less likely I am to softpedal that comment.) I never got to wallow in that “we’re all equal now!” fairyland, and being dumb enough to think that because boys adn then men wanted to screw me that that meant they liked me or even acknowledged my existence.

    Sexism is so engrained that, like those old rip-snorting second-weavers said, it’s actually impossible to see. It’s like explaining water to a fish. And the payment for opening your eyes and seeing it for what it is is recognizing that you are NEVER gonna be equal, no matter what you do, until the day you die. It’s easy to WANT to stay in denial. Not smart, but easy.

    and I think that Ferraro was right when she said that Obama’s race has worked to his advantage in this contest, because of the weird and unpredictable and tangled ways that sexism and racism interact. I still think, and always will think, that Obama’s race gives woman-hating white men a heaven-sent opportunity to retain their membership in the Progressive Club while still throwing the words c*nt, whore, and slut around like croutons on a word salad. They are beside themselves with a golden opportunity to play at being liberal while still hating p*ssies.

    It’s not black people or black men I’m pointing the finger at — and I don’t think that’s what Ferraro was doing. She just said it out loud — WHITE MEN are playing this game. It’s the racism and sexism of WHITE MEN that she was calling out. Same with me.

    That was one of the reasons why I was so shocked and still am at the military and working-class men I’m seeing supporting Hillary. I grew up with those men in my life. I was surrounded by working-class old-school men. I know what those men are like — they will close ranks with a man over ANY woman no matter her color, because I’ve seen it happen up close. I know what working-class white men are like. They will pick ANY man over ANY woman for a position of authority and power, because I’ve seen it. And a lot of them are anxious to prove how liberal they are while still getting the opportunity to crap on women.

    Not all, though. It’s still amazing to me.

  4. Janis says:

    Pamela, kids like your daughter are why I get so angry about this election when I think about it. I see a lot of younger women (and I’m barely middle-aged at 42) who haven’t run into sexism in a serious, in-your-face way yet — or at least, not that they realize. How anyone can watch VH1 for seven seconds adn not be smashed in the face with sexism escapes me.

    Anyhow, I have no illusions as to what awaits women should Hillary lose the nomination. And those young girls will be catching it right in the face, frmo a coterie of young men in their 20s who, as Mark obseved, as truly appalling and often genuinely gynocidal in their opinions about women. A large part of my own massive distrust of men stems not only from my academic experiences, but from the fact that, being in graduate school, I was surrounded by young men in their 20s who all thought they were terribly brilliant and who hated the living hell out of any woman who was both 1) f*ckable and 2) smarter than they were. That left an indelible impression on me that will never be lost.

    Those men and the older men they will grow into, who won’t learn better, will be over the moon with joy if Hillary loses. And they will not hesitate to grind the faces of every young woman — especially young women your daughter’s age — into the fact that SHE LOST BITCH GET ON YOUR KNEES. What awaits those girls (and women my age, who are just moving into the same age cohort as Clinton) should Hillary lose scares the hell out of me.