You can’t escape casual sexism at the Institute

Photo by Blake Israel

If there is one thing women at a STEM-focused school like Tech experience, it is sexism. This is not your run of the mill, “women don’t deserve rights!” type of sexism, but the most dangerous type: internalized sexism.

Internalized sexism is when the misogynist structure of society is so ingrained in the minds of individuals, it seeps into their actions and mindsets without them even realizing it. This phenomenon runs rampant on our campus, even among individuals who might identify as more progressive in their beliefs.

The testosterone-fueled desire to put down women for comedic effect is dated and overused, yet exceedingly common.

This is the most frequent demonstration of this issue in everyday life.

Whether it be jokes about how women are “all the same,” or how women are shallow for preferring a certain height, many men try to find ways to paint women in a negative light.

Through using dehumanizing terms like “females,” or reducing women to their parts or appearances, women often find themselves as the butt of these jokes.

These comments are part of a harmful rhetoric, found in most households and most friend groups, but rarely condemned.

The phrases “they don’t really mean it” or “they are just joking around” build a safety net around these damaging statements.

Allowing this type of commentary to continue perpetuates stereotypes about women and allows for “locker room talk” to prevail; women are still valuable and human even if they are not present in the room.

If an individual did not have these beliefs, even subconsciously, they would not make such comments at all.

Of course, at a school like Tech, the issues of academic, workplace and classroom sexism are extremely prevalent on our campus.

Even from childhood, women are almost trained to see themselves as weaker, branded early with the phrase, “Can you have some boys come to help me carry these chairs into the other room?”

Susan, the chairs are barely five pounds; any of us could carry them into the room.

Yet, these micro-level separations and the creation of gender roles at such a formative age have effects to this day.

Women have begun to internalize these ideas and allow themselves to be talked over or put down for fear of being branded in a negative manner. Speaking up, being opinionated or being strong-minded are not qualities associated with femininity, which is usually coupled with daintiness, frailty and timidity. In fact, studies show that while 66% of women receive feedback for “being abrasive” in the workplace, only about 1% of men receive that same feedback. In classes, women often cite struggles in groups with all men, stating that they are repeatedly talked over and interrupted or assigned “feminine” tasks like creative writing or post-making. Aside from the obvious invalidity of branding academic tasks as feminine or masculine, there is no reason for women to be treated differently in academic settings. We all go to the same school, take the same classes and get the same grades, so what is so different about women that they are only deemed worthy of certain assignments? These expectations are not only limited to school- work, but to hobbies as well.

My friend and I have shared that we enjoy going to the gym, and received a shocked baritone, “women go to the gym?” in return more than once.

Surprise! Hobbies are not gender-specific! These stereotypes have widespread effects and often settle into expectations.

Women are just as capable and intelligent as men and should be treated as such; false social expectations and enforced gender roles should not force us into a box.

This all stems from that same internalized misogyny. While people do not always explicitly think of women as inferior, this ideology has been branded into our minds constantly, through media, music, literature and innate societal structure.

It is not enough to see women as equal; it is important to stand up against any sort of negative rhetoric towards women as a whole.

The only way to dismantle this oppressive structure is to speak out against the normalization of internalized misogyny and push our peers to see the true implications of their words and actions.

Of course, this does not even begin to peel into the intricacies of women’s oppression, or the roles that toxic masculinity, transphobia, homophobia, race and other numerous factors play on the issues at hand. However, I can’t help but hope that one day, women will truly be equal in the eyes of all. Though, in recent times, it feels more like we’re regressing into “The Handmaid’s Tale,” American edition.