On Sexism and Racism

Now that the initial introductions are out of the way, why beat around the bush? Lets get right down to the nitty gritty. I’ll start off with a current hot-topic viewpoint in my life, one that I’ve most recently begun to examine and to formulate my opinion on. Here we go:

It is my personal opinion, that I’ve formed through many research studies, personal experience, learning, and other various examples, that sexism is a deeper-seated issue, has been around longer, and will take longer to solve than racism.

Please don’t misunderstand my words. I am not insinuating that sexism is worse than racism. Neither one of them is “worse” than the other, and both are “worse” than each other. Comparing them in this way is like comparing death by fire versus death by drowning. Neither are desirable, neither are warranted, and both are destructive. So I repeat: I do not believe that sexism is worse than racism, nor do I believe that racism is worse than sexism. This is the part that my husband seems to have the most difficulty understanding when we discuss this. They are both “worse” than each other, and neither is “worse” than the other.

Now that we’re all clear, let’s continue.

Since many different definitions for these terms exist, it wouldn’t be a fair argument to continue without properly defining them. So for the sake of this argument, and this argument only, when I say racism, I am referring to the mindset (and the subsequent actions associated with this mindset) of an individual to believe that they are superior to another individual for no reason other than their race/ancestry. The textbook definition of racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” (Mirriam-Webster). For clarity’s sake, for this definition, I am including the idea that black people can be racist, since this particular post/argument does not involve systemic racism (of which is impossible for a minority race to be). When I say sexism, I am referring to the attitude/mindset of men who believe that that women are inherently “lesser” than men, and the stereotypes and actions associated with this mindset. The textbook definition of sexism is the “behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex,” (Mirriam-Webster).

Racism exists. There aren’t many level-headed individuals who will say otherwise. Sexism also exists, except it exists differently. Sexism is quieter than racism. Sexism is, today, more acceptable than racism. Sexism is embedded within every aspect of our society, both consciously and unconsciously. Sexism has existed long before racism. I can say this with confidence through thinking critically about the origins of civilization. Men and women of the same “race” co-existed first, since they grew and evolved in the same geographic location, they looked the same. Men and women of the same “race” were dealing with each other long before coming into contact with individuals from another race. Let me back up a little and give you a mini-biology lesson first.

Every living thing on our planet shares an indisputable purpose: to survive. The survival of your species is an innate instinct that evolves at the very basic level of consciousness; single-celled organisms, amoebas, etc. This is every living creature’s goal, as exemplified through nature. As mammals, our sole purpose remains to survive and to reproduce, as reproduction ensures the survival of a species. Taking into consideration the human body, a woman’s biological purpose is to carry and birth offspring. We can see this through examining her monthly cycle, a fact of life that she can not control, which occurs in every woman regardless of race/religion/creed/location. Her cycle occurs literally like clockwork, which is her body creating a “pre-womb” for a potential baby, dropping an egg, and when the egg isn’t fertilized, the “womb” collapses and exits the body through her period. A painful and debilitating punishment for not fertilizing her eggs. The fact that she can not control it, can not stop it (without chemicals, implants, etc.), and the way it controls her mood, appetite, and body is evidence for her biological purpose: as a creator and host for offspring. Additionally, her breasts sole purpose (another scientific fact, regardless of popular opinion) is to feed and nourish her child. A man’s biological purpose, on the other hand, is to implant his seed into a woman. “Men think with their d*cks,” a common phrase used to describe the male human’s seemingly predisposed obsession with sex, might not be far off the mark. Just a woman has no control over her menstrual cycle, it can also be said that a man has no control over his sexual urges/desires. [Side-note, this is not to say he has no control over his actions regarding the urges and how he handles them, what I am arguing here that he has no control over the presence of them] In fact, it has even been studied and found that there an increased risk for certain cancers associated with not ejaculating enough. According to a Harvard Medical study, it was found that “high ejaculation frequency seemed to protect against prostate cancer,” (Garnick). This provides evidence for the assumption that a man’s biological purpose is to spread his seed, similar to how an oak tree spreads its acorns.

At this point, we should agree that biologically, our bodies have evolved in such a way that promote the most efficient way to survive and reproduce. Since a woman is the holder and creator of life, it was of utmost importance during the primitive years of our species to protect her and to provide for her; since her purpose is more precious and time and resource-consuming than his. Realizing this, part of his purpose becomes to provide for her and his offspring by hunting, providing shelter (cue the idea of property rights), protecting his property from predators, etc. This protector-mentality has been carried over through the millennia and still persists today. It is his duty to protect his property, including his woman. From the very inception of society, and due to the very nature of the process of reproduction, a woman’s place was under the man. It was his responsibility to protect and provide for her, which meant that she was his.

As time moved on, eventually tribes met other tribes, humans found other humans who look similar, yet different. Many may have gotten along perfectly, and many may have fought wars we’ll never learn about. Some may have been more advanced, less advanced, spoke different languages, made different tools, etc. Maybe they worked together and shared knowledge, maybe they feared each other and wiped each other out; we don’t really know exactly what the beginning of modern society looked like. What we do know, however, is that somewhere along the line, someone decided it would be a good idea to enslave a group of people for prosperity purposes. The enslavement of one race of people by another race of people has happened time and time again, and is one of the only persisting aspects of society that we can still see today. As we have seen through history (e.g. ancient Egypt, colonial America, the USSR and the Nazi regime during WW2), viewing from a purely financial aspect, having slaves is possibly the most efficient way for an empire to flourish and to complete their goals. The slaves on the other hand, were faces with a much less desirable outcome. Regardless if the average citizen agrees or disagrees with the enslavement initially, it eventually becomes “normal” to the empire, and people get used to it. In getting used to it, they grow to believe that they are superior to the enslaved race, otherwise they wouldn’t be enslaved.

It goes without saying that slavery is an abhorrent practice than every partaking society should be ashamed of, but in looking at it through an objective lens, it is easy to see how a benefitting empire would use any reasoning they could to try to justify the enslavement. Racism, then, became the obvious choice. “They’re savages,” or “they’re uncultured” becomes the common rhetoric, and people start to believe it. When I was a teenager, I remember learning about the history of slavery in the United States in high school. Growing up in the North-East, I wasn’t faced with these types of issues in my day-to-day life, and in my white sub-urban bubble, it wasn’t necessary to think about these things. But one day I wondered to myself, why is it that so many people from the deep-South, living in squalor below the poverty line, while collecting welfare, are so undeniably racist. Regardless of the history of slavery, why was it that now, hundreds of years after slavery was abolished, people are still clinging on to that Confederate mindset of white supremacy? Then I realized, if there were no slaves brought over to America, then those same people, the un-educated farmers in the deep-South, would be considered “bottom of the barrel” or the lowest rung on the ladder of America. Since they had their slaves, however, no matter that they did or said or thought, nothing would put them at the bottom (in their heads), because the African slaves were below them. This is the same mindset that holds true today. In a racist’s mind, nothing they do or say will put them “beneath” a member of the race that they see as inferior to their own.

Racism then, with its roots in slavery, became the biggest issue in society’s mind, as it should be. Human beings were hung, burned alive, forced to work against their will without compensation for 200+ years, but this isn’t a history lesson on slavery. Since racism was more in-your-face and more undeniable than the widely-accepted sexism that has existed since the dawn of self-awareness, it was chosen first. We can see this exemplified in the legalization of black men to vote in America in 1870 with the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, while women didn’t get their right to vote until 1920 with the 19th Amendment.

Although neither racism nor sexism are going to be solved anytime soon, there has been markedly more strides in racial equality over the last 100 years than sexual equality, and the trend will continue.

 

References:

The Constitution. 15th and 19th Amendments.

Garnick, Mark, M.D. 24 Feb 2011. “Does Frequent Ejaculation Help Ward Off Prostate Cancer?” Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved from harvardprostateknowledge.org/does-frequent-ejaculation-help-ward-off-prostate-cancer

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“The Journey Is The Reward”

Piggybacking off of the last immediate post, I think it is also important to stress one of the biggest realizations of my life: that regardless of the end goal, or wherever you end up in life, the journey itself is the reward. Of course, people say these types of things all the time; motivational quotes and inspirational sayings are all the rage on various social media sites. But this particular one…this one I was able to feel.

My husband and I were just friends for the beginning of our relationship. We met while we were both serving overseas and it wasn’t until about a year after we met that we started dating. In the beginning of our romantic relationship, he bought me a simple necklace that said “The Journey Is The Reward” on it. Like the relationship, the phrase had no meaning to me at the time, and I [genuinely] accidentally left it in a cabinet in my office, where it stayed until I returned stateside. I didn’t regret forgetting it until years later, when the meaning behind the phrase presented itself to me. About four years later, after a rough and rocky beginning, it felt like we finally made it past the toughest part, and as we looked back at our tough beginning and at how much work we’d put into our relationship, it was mind-numbingly clear to me how the journey was the reward. We’ll be celebrating six years this July, and although we still have a long way to go, we’ve certainly come further than we’d ever expected. Together, we have grown so much, we’ve become a unit. The journey will never end.

Sitting here at my desk in my personal office (husband has his own–no kids), in my own home, looking back on the past few years, thinking about how far we’ve come is a bittersweet feeling for me. While I get to revel at where I am now, it’s almost intoxicating to think about how enjoyable any given point of my life was. Certain songs or certain smells work like magic in this way, which can be directly tied to specific feelings in your brain, and can immediately draw you right back to the feeling and the memory you associated it with. Remembering where I was, even just one year ago, compared to where I am now enables me to truly understand where I’ve come from, how far I’ve come, how important the journey is, and how insignificant the end-goal is. Thinking back on old memories is all we have at the end of the day. In this sense, the journey truly is the reward.

I’ve always had an air of confidence regarding myself and my choices. I’ve never stressed too hard about making decisions, as if I’ve always innately understood, even before conscious acknowledgment, that no matter what, everything will work out. Everything will be as it should, when it should, and how it should. Even when things don’t go my way, I’ve always felt secure in knowing that whatever bad thing happens, happens for a reason. Looking back, it’s easy to see how every door that closed provided for an even better door to open. In fact, in most cases the bad event directly caused the good event, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Being able to think critically about bad (and good) situations enables you to learn something. You forgot to screw that lug nut in all the way and the tire fell off? Shitty, but now you know that that will never happen again because you learned, and you will take extra caution in the future. As long as knowledge is gained and a lesson is learned, how is any experience a bad one? Perspective shapes reality. Perspective is shaped by your journey. Your journey is your reward.

I think about that necklace a lot, and how I wish I was wearing it around my neck. I regret losing that necklace, because, like my marriage, it means more to me now than it ever did. However, I don’t regret the lessons learned along the way, because without them, I would have the same golf-ball sized consciousness that I had 7 years ago.

Lyssa’s Corner

Hello, world. My name is Lyssa, and this is my little corner of the internet. This is my first blog post here, so I figured I’d start with a little introduction and my goals for this blog. For starters, it’s important to understand that while I do not like to label myself with any socialized identifying titles, for introductions sake, and to get the basics, I’ll start by getting those out of the way. I’m mid-to-late twenty-something millennial, and [most of] the stereotypes that come with it. I’m a U.S. Army veteran with 4 years of active duty service under my belt. I’m currently in my senior year of college, completing a dual Bachelor’s degree program. I am “bisexual” in that sex/gender is not a deciding factor for romantic relationships for me, however, I tend to lean far more closer to the “lesbian” side of the sexuality spectrum. Like most my age, sexuality is something I’m still, admittedly, trying to figure out.

One of the only “acceptable” labels I’ll admit to is that I am a New Yorker, through and through. Even though I’ve lived all over the world, my attitude and perspectives were formatively shaped by a strict Italian-American upbringing in a stereotypical Jersey Shore-esque environment. The heavy accent that my mother still holds, although it makes an appearance if I allow my anger to control my actions, was lost on me somewhere between Philadelphia and Seattle. North Philadelphia and South Seattle have both, later on in life, had a strong influence on me and my outlook.

I am married to a black man. He is about 6 years older than me, and we have an…interesting relationship, to say the least. Certainly different, by popular standards. Firstly, we are of different races, black and white, which has caused a lot of initial discomfort for us, but as we grew and learned, we gained some terrific insight and understanding. Besides this, I am, by society’s standards, bisexual. I sexually desire women. He understands this, and allowed me to act on these urges. Since he was allowing me to, essentially explore my sexuality without any qualms, I found it only fair if I allow him to do the same. So here we are, in a technically “open relationship,” to where we both have sexual relations with other women. Lucky for him, I have no desire to be sexually intimate with men (other than him from time to time). Ideally, my personal end goal with this arrangement is to find the woman with whom I fall in love with, with whom she falls in love with me as well, and to have a long-term relationship/marriage with both her and my husband. I realize that this may be a pip-dream, but it’s not like I’m not having fun in the mean time.

When it comes to politics, I identify as an “Independent.” When I first got into politics, I was a staunch, bleeding heart Liberal, and proud. As I aged, and grew, and learned, and read, and as my understandings changes, my opinions and perspectives started to change as well. Politically, of course, I lean left. Every political position quiz I take I always end up with “Green Party,” (which, side-note, I don’t disagree with whatsoever), but as I continue to learn and gain wisdom, I learn that things are not so black and white; there isn’t a one-solution cures all that I used to think I could come up with. Now, and I’m sure the current political landscape of the United States has propagated, I’m noticing a widening disconnect, a clear divide, between the two major parties. I’ve only been alive for five Presidencies, politically conscious for three, but it’s a fair assumption to think that we are more divided on issues that affect all of us than ever before.

There was a time in my life where I was preparing to go to law school to become an attorney and attempt to facilitate some real change, to make positive changes and help usher in this inevitable new age we’ve already embarked on. But then something happened. It happened slowly, so I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but something happened to damped my spirits. I felt less and less motivated to even care, let alone to work hard enough to make a change. So here I am, starting a blog.

One of the most important things, in my opinion, that should be focused on right now, but isn’t, is a common ground between Democrats and Republicans, Millennials and Baby Boomers, whites and blacks, women and men. There’s far too many reasons why we should disagree, when the only way we can come together for real change is by seeing reasons why we should agree. I don’t want my blog to be another political blog, but rather a personal snapshot of a politically-minded person showcasing not only my opinions, but also the reasoning behind the opinions and the socio-economic environment behind them as well.

I think it’s time we started understanding not only each other, but ourselves as well. Every day I grow and learn something new, and every experience I have shapes my opinions. Life is a journey, and in and of itself is the reward.