Generally, when we think of sexism, we think of the pay gap, cat-calling, the social differences regarding topics such as sex and parenthood, victim shaming and the list goes on. What is concerning is the common misconception surrounding the word. A misconception that leads us to believe that sexism is purely a woman’s issue, and that it does not apply to, or affect other genders. To believe that sexism affects only one gender is, in itself, sexist.
Every day, men and women across the globe face gender-based discrimination. Women are not the only ones who face workplace discrimination based on their gender. Female-dominant workplaces such as child care facilities, hairdressing, retail and administration positions are all breeding grounds for male gender discrimination. Acceptable and normalised behaviour is to make remarks such as “he’s a hairdresser? When did he come out of the closet?” or “what does a man want with a child care job? He obviously has ulterior motives”.
Women and men alike are quick to express their concern over the issue of male gender discrimination in the workplace. Nafe Robinson claims he was denied a job in retail due to his gender. Similarly, Jarrad Lapsuks explained how he too had experienced a similar situation, and added that he faced discrimination in his line of work. He told us of an incident he was involved in at work in a local bottle shop, where a woman was clearly hostile towards him, yet more than civil towards his female co-worker. The woman in the shop deliberately refused to go to the counter until Jarrad’s female co-worker was available to serve her, and when she asked the woman why she had waited, she responded, “you understand me better”. Jarrad said, “She went on with her rant about how males just aren't meant to be in the service industries because they can't comprehend empathy properly. [My co-worker] then stopped her and said, "you know he's a psych student right?" She then replied, “well not a good one if he couldn't comprehend that I wanted him to leave me alone”.'
"Domestic violence is another issue that society often views as female exclusive, but one in three victims of domestic violence are male."
Sara Nicholas is a student teacher who had a discussion with a class of students in the eighth grade about gender identity and expressed her concern over what she discovered. “My year 8 students and I were discussing traditional gender roles that fit into the gender stereotype, after which we discussed the different roles men and women can play in society, like a female mechanic and a male hairdresser,” she said. “At first they couldn't grasp the concept, because the typical roles that certain genders are supposed to fit into are so ingrained into society. Eventually after much discussion, they understood my point that whatever you want to do, you can. It doesn't matter about typical roles and the designations society has placed upon us.”
Another issue we far too often overlook is that gender is much broader than simply male and female. Cisgender is described as being born with a gender that matches the sex assigned at birth. This is where our basic understand of “boy” and “girl” stops. Other genders also face gender discrimination, although it is commonly mistaken for homophobia. A person can be bigender, cisgender, genderless, genderqueer, intersex, third gender, agender or transgender, although transgender is often used as a general term to describe any of the genders outside of traditional male and female genders.
Those who identify as transgender have faced copious amounts of gender discrimination. While the Australian government has implemented the inclusion of transgender discrimination in anti-discrimination laws, it is yet to legally recognise transgender as a preferred gender unless it is included on an amended birth certificate. To do this, a transgendered person must be over the age of 18, have had gender reassignment surgery and not be in a current married relationship. This means that those who are under 18, those who cannot afford gender reassignment surgery (a male to female reassignment could cost up to $30,000) or do not wish to undergo the surgery and anyone who is already married before choosing to transition are not classified as “recognised transgender”. Trans persons are at risk of violence, homelessness, depression, suicide, employment discrimination, sexual violence and bullying. It is important to understand that transphobia is not synonymous with homophobia and that being transgendered does not define sexual preferences any more than being cis-gendered does.
As with all the issues we hear about from a female perspective, sexual assault and rape culture also effect men. While the statistics show that females appear to be the majority of sexual assault victims (3,503 sexual assaults and 4,226 indecent assaults, acts of indecency and other sexual offences), the amount of men who have suffered sexual assault is still significant (644 sexual assaults and 971 indecent assaults, acts of indecency and other sexual offences). Men who are sexually assaulted may suffer many traumatic symptoms as a result, including fears for their sexuality, feeling that their masculinity is challenged, as well as an array of other symptoms commonly found in any gender of victim.
Despite all this, it is clear that sexual assault victims are seen as predominately women and as a result, sexual assault services are aimed at and often exclusive to women. One can only imagine how this would affect a male who is already feeling as if his masculinity is being challenged – and the only available help is labelled as “women’s” services.
Domestic violence is another issue that society often views as female exclusive, but one in three victims of domestic violence are male. However, most services are female exclusive to avoid triggering any traumatic response in female victims of domestic violence. This makes accessing services for domestic violence much harder for men. We spoke to Mitch, who shared his experiences seeking help as a victim of domestic violence.. While Mitch said he felt there was no difference in the way domestic violence affects different genders, he has also identified some difficulties faced as a male victim. “It took me quite a few years to learn that everyone isn’t judging me. I always felt under the microscope due to the behaviour I received and always assumed that everyone else thought I was a nothing. It affected me hugely, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel though.” Mitch felt as though he was taken seriously by those around him, however police were not an option at that time. He expressed his lack of control contributing to the problem and said, “I ended up being depressed and angry about my situation and frustrated not knowing what I could do to change things. I was treated right, ended up being a family friend who introduced me to a really nice bloke from the local PCYC who I was able to talk to about anything.”
When it comes to gender equality in parenting, in some ways, society is making a slow but noticeable difference. Dad and Partner Pay is now being implemented by the government and paid parental leave being more balanced. However, as fathers, men are still viewed as less important in the role of child rearing than a mother and are often faced with many challenges pertaining to their parenthood. In 2003, 22% of children were in families were they only lived with one parent. Of those children, 87.4% were separated from their fathers.
The examples and personal stories are endless. The reality is that true equality cannot be reached if both sides do not come to the party. This means that all genders need to understand, accept, appreciate and attempt to change or eradicate the issues the others face. How can we expect men to understand and allow the changes we want to see in society when we shun their issues in the same breath? If equality is truly going to be achieved, we need to stop shaming males for calling sexism. We need to stop the one-upmanship and spite
Sexism is an issue that affects us all – cis men, cis women, transgendered men, transgendered women, bigender, cisgender, genderless, genderqueer, intersex, third gender or agender. The time has come to change the warped perceptions on this matter we as a society have so deeply ingrained into our everyday interactions, beliefs and lifestyle.