Politics & Policy

Student’s Op-Ed Explains How Her Whole Day Is Ruined by Sexist Oppression

After all, isn't it everywhere?

In a piece titled “The struggle to be taken seriously in the age of subtle sexism,” University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill student Blake Dodge chronicled an entire day of the sexist “routine occurrences” that she claims make her “feel less human.”

“Less human”? Whoa. That sounds serious. I wonder, just what are these horrific “occurrences”? Thankfully, she spends nearly 800 words in the News & Observer explaining them:  

First, she has to put on spandex to run even though she knows it will allow her “legs to chafe” because she doesn’t “have a thigh gap like most of the distance runners” on her team.

Then, she eats an “easily-digestible carb” for breakfast and makes “note of the calorie count.”

(The unreasonable body-image standards set by the patriarchy clearly forced her to eat breakfast this way. She probably wanted a bagel instead, but it is not her fault that she could not eat one. It’s institutional sexism’s.)

When she’s getting dressed, she has to be “careful not to wear too much ‘Carolina gear’” to class. If she does, she worries, her “professors and peers” might “discount” her.

(This is because she is a woman, and not because anyone decked out head to toe in college gear looks ridiculous. I definitely never mocked of any of the football players at my school who wore nothing but college hats and college shorts and college shirts that had footballs and “Go Win Fight Blood Thirst Victory Sweat” on them.)

When she gets to class, she notices that the co-director of her student government group, a person who “identifies as male,” has sent out an e-mail about the meeting agenda without consulting her — a clear indication that he does not respect her opinion just because she is female. When she participates in class, some kid tells her she “can’t be pretty and smart.”

After, she tells her dad she’s “starting a nonprofit that redistributes collegiate athletic shoes,” and he dares to respond by saying “Isn’t that a bit much?”

(He says this, clearly, not because starting a nonprofit is objectively difficult, but because he believes women cannot do things. Ouch!)

#share#At the gym, she feels like everyone is staring at her. After she’s done studying at the student union, she has to “walk home with a friend who identifies as male because it’s dark out,” and he teases her.

As if all of this isn’t bad enough, once she’s finally home she has to deal with looking at her body critically in the shower.

She concludes the piece:

I fight others every single day to be taken seriously . . . I have the utmost empathy for my male peers. But for every “pretty and smart” comment I get (and for the ones that aren’t even that flattering), for every patronizing inflection and for every inadvertent power grab at my expense, you add a grain of sand to the increasingly heavy load we women carry. You perpetuate sexism in environments where it absolutely cannot belong. I’m sorry if I’m wrong.

Hey, Blake, here’s an idea: Maybe the reason people aren’t taking you seriously is because you seem weak, whiny, paranoid, and unable to handle anything without taking it so personally that you become too upset to function.

#related#Most of the “sexist” events that she claims make her “feel less human” could easily be explained another way: Perhaps people were looking at her at the gym because sometimes people look at other people. Perhaps the co-director of her group didn’t consult her first about the agenda because he was too concerned he might somehow offend her, which seems like a pretty easy thing to do. Perhaps she’s insecure about her naked body because actually everyone kind of is, whether they’re willing admit it or not.

All joking aside, it’s definitely annoying to have people tell you that “you can’t be pretty and smart.” But is it that big of a deal? I’ve heard this before as well, and I’m still standing. It’s never really impacted my day, let alone made me “feel less human.”

Then again, I also eat bagels for breakfast when I want them — so perhaps I’m just too freakishly emotionally strong to ever relate to anyone.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review.        

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