Sexism: Perpetuating inequality!

Have you heard the record from European based group Aqua? It is called “I am a Barbie Girl”, it goes like this: “Life in plastic, it’s fantastic”. The music continues, it is an upbeat catchy tune. A deep male husky voice sings [it’s supposed to be Ken]: “Come on Barbie, let’s go party, uh huh huh yeah”. Ken and Barbie – just in case you did not know – are two glamorous male and female dolls, a multi million dollar industry, doll role models, that more and more of our society copies.

The definition of what is “hot” to look at and to look like – both males and female standards – is very exact in our society and it is getting worse. This last weekend, during a business trip, I watched TV in my hotel room, something that I do not do at home. I was shocked and appalled to see just how bad sexism really is in our culture. I watched a program where girls and boys were considered by themselves and others to be “geeks” (to quote the program) until they changed their complete appearance to one which is very plastic, very “Barbie and Ken” but without the finesse. The clothes that they wore also had a specific look, only provocative, and the personalities, the voices, and the humor were all scaled down to an empty headed basic level, especially from the girls. It was even more horrifying to see how the young people in the audience were relating to these shallow hollow role models so very seriously. The same evening I watched two other programs, which were along the same track.

Who do we blame? Did it all start with the eternal party girl Betty Boop or were there others before that?

On the positive side we could say that there is always Bill Gates, the computer giant, who was a billionaire in his thirties and who does not look like the “hot” Ken image that society dictates. Still this has a down side: how many parents now are stuck with this role model allowing their children to be in front of the computer for endless hours in the hope that they too have a future Bill Gates. What happened to individuality? What happened to honor and respect for women? Not just the pseudo-Christian one that dictates that all women should dress down and act like “mommies” to earn this respect and to feel safe, but the real kind that comes from the heart. Have we all truly become so cynical? I don’t think so. What about all those women in positions of power who are still exploiting their sisters by playing those tired old macho games with the men, reinforcing the situation, just happy not to be the ones taking their clothes off, having breast implants to get some kind of reaction and attention, not to mention good hard cash?

In 1998 these are not the only ways for women to be valued, but you might be very surprised at how many women believe that it is. What is it going to take to change this sad basic and primitive state of things? The answer is an easy one: Men and women, step out of your roles! It is not smart to be sexist. Speak out and speak up! When you see sexism, stand alone if you have to, and refuse to take part in it.

Be conscious, and make a difference, and together we can create the future that we all dream of, where we all are equal. No one needs to feel great standing on the head of another. This is only fear based. It is time to remember that valuing others and ourselves is about more than the physical look of body parts and status. We will not reach for the stars, create heaven on earth or create endless universes while we still perpetuate the misery and the filth. It is time to move on, to clean up. We are all involved just by seeing and doing nothing. Yet, we are each here to make a difference.

By the way, many years ago, I too realized that I had a choice in the world, as it stands today to use either my body or mind to express myself, be noticed and make a difference. I chose the mind. But I still think that it’s sad and limiting that even in the year 2000 many women feel that they still have few real choices.

May 1998

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