In one of my classes the other day, we played “Prisoner’s Dilemma.” This game required two teams and specific players on each team to act as negotiators with the same actors from the opposite team. This is a game of strategy and I had actually never played it before. While males in the class may have been more familiar with it, there were still females who understood the concepts of the game. During one match of negotiation, a male from my team saw that the three negotiators from the opposing team were all women. At the sight of this, he made some derogatory comments about their lack of ability to play the game competitively. Despite comments from myself and other males on my team that he was being sexist, his comments against these females continued throughout the remainder of the game. Every time this team of women came up against the other team, he made sarcastic comments like “Here comes their ‘star’ team.” He didn’t seem to notice the damaging effects of his comments. He also didn’t seem to notice how wrong he was. I stewed over this incident for days afterwards.
I recently read an article about women joining the ranks of the Fijian Police Force and the issues there with discrimination towards women. The article discussed the stereotypical attitudes towards women and the “deeply entrenched beliefs that they are weaker than men and cannot perform the same duties as men.” How is the young man’s attitude toward and treatment of women in my class…. in the United States, different from the attitudes toward and treatment of Fijian women in the police force? Such discriminatory treatment stunts women’s progression. Despite the laws on equality and societal views of those in the United States, I realize there is much work to be done here as well to implement changes in the way women are treated. These changes don’t begin with the passage of equal rights legislation. These changes begin in the minds of each individual. It begins when women aren’t abused verbally with demeaning words from men. It also begins when women realize their strength and have confidence in their abilities to equal that of men. The former Director of Training in the Fijian Police force was interviewed in the article and stated that women themselves could be a “major obstacle to gender equality.” Women feel pressure to live up to society’s expectations by appearing to be what is acceptable, especially to males. This includes the mindset that women have to act defenseless, submissive, or any other specific way, especially in the workplace or other unfamiliar areas where it’s “accepted” that men know more.
I think the attitude of the young man in my class is too common. Perhaps instead of labeling him as “sexist,” (although I feel it was incredibly appropriate), I and my fellow male teammates could have explained to him how damaging his demeaning remarks are. I wish the women he was referring to would have defended themselves. It doesn’t matter that they weren’t as familiar with the game as he was, perhaps they didn’t have it explained to them very well. I also wish the teacher would have pointed out the error with the young man’s remarks.
I’m grateful for experiences like the one in my class because it helps me see specifically where I can help change misled viewpoints.