I’ve just returned, weakened, disheveled, and unlaundered, from a weekend of house-hunting in San Francisco. I always forget what a God-forsaken process this is until I’m in the midst of it, sleeping in one-star, $45-a-night hotels, stuffing remnants of various free continental breakfasts into my bag, trying to pretend that my toenails aren’t in desperate need of a clipping as I’m dropping off resumes to potential employers, and otherwise losing my dignity on a regular basis. Amanda and I were even convinced that we’d crafted The Definitive List of Apartment-Searching Tips, but in hindsight it turned out to be only a hugely depressing manifestation of our despair (Rule #1: Stalk the Owners, Rule #2: Lower Your Standards).
We’re now back home, waiting for someone, anyone, to deem us worthy enough to pay them money every month. How many emails to renters expounding upon my superior quality of humanship are too many? I seem determined to find out. At least we get to bask in my dad’s unlikely fusion of tough love and reason-based encouragement. Anyone who’s spent longer than 4.7 seconds with me knows that my father is the greatest all-time resource in times of panic and irrational fear. But because the subject of my own homelessness x joblessness makes me want to crawl in a hole and projectile vomit, I’m promptly and gracelessly switching gears to introduce a subject that’s incredibly important to me yet heretofore unexplored on my blog.
The following is an updated version of an article I sent into my college newspaper a few years back,
not because I’m recycling content, but because I do still believe it to be highly relevant:
Consider the state of sexism in our current society. Tragically, too many believe gender prejudice and women’s issues to be a finished project, a concern solved in the ‘60s thanks to LSD-altered hippies. I urge you to look again. Sexism is not dead; conversely, it is so prevalent that its presence is rarely even recognized. We need look no further than our own microcosms of life for daily examples. Endlessly, I hear stereotyped, gender-charged language expressing archaic ideas about gender and gender roles from both friends and strangers. I once had a university professor ask the class if anyone had “a dad who is a police officer or fireman”. As much as I appreciate the 1950s nostalgia trip, I wish we could step into the 21st century and recognize the constrictive nature of statements as seemingly small as that. In another wince-inducing experience, a friend asked me to help identify the colors of an array of envelopes so that she could know which to give to girls and which to boys. If we live in a world in which giving a purple envelope to a male is too radical a move, then we clearly have a lot of work to do.
Where do these antiquated ideas and actions stem from? Certainly our upbringings play a substantial role, along with religious influences, but I think we will also find an unsettling, though not unfamiliar, enemy in advertising and popular media. Is there any collective that perpetuates and forces gender stereotypes more than advertisements? These companies love, and benefit immensely from, a society of standardized consumers who will all react predictably to a product, so they depict illustrations of harried mothers caring for their children alone and singing the praises of a new household product that saved time and stress, or the lovable but foolish husband who couldn’t possibly manage to get his children to school or use a paper towel correctly. Fortunately, the wife sweeps in to correct things, because the kitchen, household, and children are her domain, and the husband marches off to the barbecue or the tool shed. These portrayals are hopelessly and embarrassingly old-fashioned and still I see them in some variation everywhere. This is beneficial to neither sex. My father is a male who is both fully capable of and well-versed in the actions of sweeping a floor or putting jam on toast. During my elementary school years, he is the one who rearranged his work schedule to brush and braid my hair in the morning, provide me with breakfast, and get me to school. He also did most of the cooking in our household and much of the cleaning. More importantly, though, he resists the expectations placed on him in terms of emotion and action. Both he and I are insulted by what we see.
The purpose of this article is not to denounce mothers caring for children or allege that all gender issues originate from advertising. On the contrary, I have outlined only a narrow sliver of the subject, but one that we as individuals can most easily do something about. My urge, then, would be to encourage thoughtfulness in language as a starting point. Resist succumbing to the pressures of such unworthy influences as commercialism and advertising. I truly admire the passion that our nation has for righting social injustices. It would be healthy to turn some of that outrage inward and take action to create a more inclusive and unified reality.
*Separately, I haven’t the foggiest idea what this photo is, but it feels good and I wished I’d come up with it: