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  • Writer's pictureArchuleta A. Chisolm

How Sexism Exposes So Much More

In 2018, we are witnessing how the ugliness of patriarchy and misogyny are harming this nation. On Thursday, August 16, Gregory-Lincoln Middle School in Houston, Texas, decided to contribute to this culture and it’s completely inexcusable.

Above a long row of lockers, bigger than Texas itself, lay a quote: “The more you act like a lady, the more he’ll act like a gentleman.”

Not only does this quote perpetuate awful gender stereotypes but it shames the young girls walking the halls of that school. To suggest that women and girls should be held responsible for the actions of men and boys is absurd. Old. Tired. Ridiculous.

I had several questions after seeing this: How long had this quote been displayed? Who is responsible for putting it up? What did the teachers and staff think about it?

There was no information about how long the quote had been up or who decided it was a bright idea to put it there. However, a teacher who wished to remain anonymous, told KHOU11 news that she was uncomfortable with the quote and it didn’t at all represent her values as a mother. I can imagine that her sentiments represent a lot of the teachers at this school. However, we can also guess there may have been some fear of speaking out about it.

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) issued a formal statement of apology and removed the sign the very next day. It was replaced with a quote by Malala Yousafzai.

Women and girls have always been held responsible for the actions of men and boys. There is a greater tendency to blame women for the harassment and assault they endure than the perpetrators. Boys must be taught to not harass, assault and rape.

In a November 2017 interview, 92 year-old actress Angela Lansbury stated that women “must sometimes take blame” for sexual harassment because of the way they dress. Supporters on social media chalked her comment up to being from a different time. Sorry Lansbury, but you get no passes due to your age.

It’s despicable for that to even come forth out of her mouth. Over the course of Lansbury’s long life, you would think she would have a more evolved viewpoint of women and the issues we face. It’s just an ignorant response from someone who does know better, because she tried to clean it up through a statement the next day.

There is also a definitive offering from certain men who feel it is their responsibility to “educate” women how to “behave” to find, get, and keep a man.

Steve Harvey released his first book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man in 2009. Like a lot of women, I bought the book as soon as it hit the shelf. I loved Steve Harvey as a comedian, so what harm could it do? Unfortunately, a lot.

I learned after reading the book that Steve Harvey is not trying to help women as much as blame them for the things men say and do. He argues that men are a certain way for a reason and it’s up to women to change in order to make them do right by us. Then there was a second book to further push the burden on women of changing a man’s behavior.

Along with Steve Harvey, Hill Harper and Jimi Izrael have each published books dedicated to encouraging women to accept a washed-out definition of femininity. Not saying that their personal experiences are not valid but that doesn't give them space to push their narrative on us.

This generation of women are the most educated in the country. We are entrepreneurs, heads of major corporations, publishing books and creating media platforms. We are mothers, Olympic athletes, military soldiers, scientists, doctors, best-selling authors, accountants, lawyers, entertainers and serve our communities.

What we don’t deserve are sexist quotes dangling over our heads as we walk about in schools, or taking on the grave responsibility of being accountable for anyone other than ourselves. Men have to do their own work.

Somehow we have to create a culture that does not accept shaming, blaming and stereotyping women and girls.

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