Consumerist posted a great little list of reasons people get into credit card debt the other day, and I was going to link to it, but then I started reading the comments. And the very first comment was such a great example of sexism that I knew I would have to dedicate an entire post to it.
Not just because sexism is pretty rampant on Consumerist, but because I think it’s a great example of how ingrained it is in our culture. People don’t even think about it, they just toss off things which are really prejudicial and offensive, and people generally respond with comments which suggest that they think it’s funny, and they agree. Thereby tacitly reinforcing the sexism, and perpetuating the cycle.
And I wouldn’t recommend being the person who draws the issue to the attention of the people in the conversation/comment thread, because if you dare to highlight these sorts of things, people will penalize you. “It’s all in good fun,” they say. “You’re too sensitive.” “Stop being so PC.” “It’s just one comment, it’s not that big a deal.” But, the thing is, it is a big deal, because it reflects widespread beliefs in our society, and the way that people think about each other.
Do I think that the person who made the comment is an evil, terrible person? No, I don’t. He’s probably a perfectly nice guy, and I might like him just fine if I met him in person. But he’s also very steeped in our culture, and like so many of us, he doesn’t think before he types. If someone politely, casually, and privately mentioned that his comment was a bit sexist, he might well review it and agree. Ignorance is the most common reason for people to say stupid/hateful things, sadly.
The original list is very true, very funny, and also gender neutral. It has things like “I deserve a treat,” “I can claim it as a business expense on my taxes,” and “it’s only a widdle bit of money.” At the end of the list, readers are invited to add their two cents, and the first comment is:
11. (men) OMG! Electronics!
11. (women… or at least my wife) OMG! Shoes!
Now, there are several things that bother me about this. It stereotypes both men and women, suggesting that men can’t control themselves around electronics, and that they will justify the purchase of any new toy, and that women are helpless in the face of shoes. Both are rather unpleasant, if you ask me, because they perpetuate certain ideas about masculine and feminine behavior. They also suggest that women are immune to the temptation of electronics, and that men aren’t interested in shoes, which simply isn’t true.
More importantly, the comment brought a gender dichotomy into a list which had previously applied to everyone. It set the standard, and only a few comments down, the sentiment is reiterated: