Why Are We More Offended By Racism Than Sexism?
As a culture we are more offended by racism than sexism – which is not to say that we’re more sexist than racist.
But sexist jokes are more easily traded. Nearly anyone at a U.S. University knows the punch line to, “What’s the difference between a slut and a bitch?” (I’ll answer that in a later blog post.) I attended a university in which jokes about women students prevailed. Typical “coed joke”: “What’s the difference between a coed and the trash? The trash gets taken out once a week.”
When Don Imus called Rutger’s women’s basketball team “nappy headed hos,” we were offended by the racism. But the sexism was mostly overlooked.
In fact, sitcoms rarely have mixed-race casts, possibly because they fear a racist joke cropping up, or a comment coming across as such. Meanwhile, I’ve watched a couple of seemingly feminist shows that used the word “bitch” (and not in a good way) in nearly every episode: Ugly Betty and Life Unexpected. Some TV shows’ raison d’etre seems to be spewing sexism. Family Guy and The Man Show come to mind.
Gangsta’ rap is full of sexism, but few complain. If a genre of music talked about people of color the way that women are labeled in rap we would be outraged.
During the last presidential election mainstream media took way more shots at Hillary than Barack, as with Tucker Carlson’s well known crack, “When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.”
There’s a reason for the difference in offense.
Basically, women put up with sexism more than ethnic groups put up with racism. But why?
First, ethnic groups are aware of times and places when whites haven’t ruled, from present-day Japan to pre-imperial Africa. People of color know that things can be, and have been, different. U.S. racism is glaring by comparison.
On the other hand, most women are unaware of cultures that have existed with gender equality. Knowing nothing else, the inequity they face can seem natural and normal to them.
Many women attend churches that teach that men should be in charge. These women don’t want to go against God. I’m not aware of any ethnic minority churches that preach God wants whites to rule.
Men are women’s lovers, husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers. They love them and want to keep relationship with them. They don’t want to offend them.
Meanwhile, our culture does much to make sexism seem sexy, from Eminem, Rihanna, and Megan Fox sexing up domestic violence to a Rolling Stones billboard depicting a woman sprawled on the floor, mouthing, “I’m black and blue and loving it,” to Justin Timberlake slapping Janet Jackson around and ripping her blouse in a so-called “wardrobe malfunction.” Yeah, right.
All of this leaves ethnic minorities unified in their offense against inequality, while attitudes among women are more mixed. I’ve heard women say that they don’t want to be equal to men, but I’ve never heard an ethnic minority say they don’t want to be equal to whites.
So racism is more difficult to spew, as it meets greater indignation.
As women become more aware of sexism, and come to understand that their silence sounds like acceptance, things will more quickly change.
See related post: Eminem Makes Sexism Seem Sexy – And That’s A Problem
Posted on July 28, 2010, in feminism, gender, race/ethnicity and tagged bitch, culture, feminism, gender, Life Interrupted, pop culture, race/ethnicity, racism, sexism, Ugly Betty. Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.