Sexism is real. I hate to be the one to break it to you. It sucks and I wish it didn’t exist. But it’s here, in the world around us. There have been a lot of famous studies to support that. Jane is less likely to be hired than John; around 40% of women face discrimination in the workplace; the gender pay gap is at 9.4% in New Zealand.
And yet, a lot of men remain unconvinced. Either they somehow haven’t seen these studies, or they are consciously ignoring them. When women speak out about their experiences, these men demand proof of sexism. They want statistics. Since they personally have not witnessed (or noticed) sexism in their workplace, they assume that no woman has ever been discriminated against in a workplace. Or felt unsafe in a bar.
There are various ways that men request this evidence from women. Sometimes they are aggressive demands from obvious misogynists. Sometimes they are well-intentioned requests for information from men who are feminists. However they are intended, those requests are wrong.
They’re wrong because they put the burden of finding that information onto women. The very people who sexism disadvantages are asked to research and explain it in a way men will agree with. Sexism is obvious to women. We write about it, talk about it, and feel it every day. To get the facts on sexism, all men have to do is google a few short words. Why should women have to do that work for men?
Sexism is so pervasive, so built into our way of life, that men develop privilege bias. They benefit from a system that disadvantages women. But because they benefit, they assume that women are in the same position. Men don’t notice the advantages of sexism because they assume that everyone has them. When you’re playing a game on the winning side, you’re likely to think that the playing field is even. That plays a role in the male reluctance to admit that sexism exists. And it means that men should work to become conscious of their privileges.
If you’re a man, and you care about sexism, do more than just listening to women. Read and research the systemic impacts of sexism. Educate yourself, instead of expecting women to educate you. If you want to read about life from a female perspective, there are thousands of female, feminist authors who can give you an insight. All you have to do is put in a bit of effort.
Understanding why women don’t have to explain sexism is recognising that discrimination on the basis of gender is a systemic, rather than individual, problem. There are wider implications and patterns than those that an individual can personally witness. The evidence is out there, it’s easy to find, and putting the labour of finding the hyperlinks onto a woman is compounding the effects of that system. If you want to support women, don’t ask women to do the work for you.
A note on this article: replace sexism with racism, or transphobia, or any other form of discrimination. Whatever the group, the point stands. Disadvantaged groups don’t need to prove that they are oppressed, regardless of the context in which they are asked to do so.Support Villainesse