Gender stereotypes leave me powerless even in my own home

Oppression, a photo by isabellaquintana, <a href="">Licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication</a>
Oppression, a work by isabellaquintana, Licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

This morning Chris and I decided to call a technician to look at our furnace. I never knew this decision would expose so many other problems.

The vibration of the furnace grew with intensity over the past week, and so had our annoyance with the noise. I felt so relieved when the company could send someone right away. An hour later, the technician diagnosed the problem, and identified the part to be replaced. He explained the cost to me and asked, “Does your husband want to go ahead with the repair?”

I was standing there talking to the technician. My husband never met or spoke to him. But, in that moment, my husband automatically had more power than I did.

I know what some of you are thinking, “Who does that?!

Honestly, the answer is worse than you think:

Nearly everyone.

While we might not outright say it, but in our thoughts and actions, subconsciously, we automatically give men more power. And it’s not only men who act and think this way. Women do too. We are socialized in the same patriarchal society. Women may just recognize it more than men, as it directly affects us. But there again, we also have gotten good at repressing the oppression. It’s complicated.

Whether or not we speak up about it is complicated too.  It puts us in complicated situations – further discomfort, further stereotypes, and further minimization and dismissal. This shows up in perceptions of assertive women as “bitches” or “bossy” and comments that we’re making a “big deal” out of nothing.

I also have to say this is additionally complicated for people with additional identities. For some, their speaking up may marginalize them more. People are perceived differently based upon their identities and the stereotypes that affect them.

Just because we don’t say anything doesn’t mean we don’t mind. It just may be less marginalizing and traumatizing to remain silent.

For more reading, read this UN publication about Gender Stereotypes and the Socialization Process.

For a broader view on gender and women, read some of the content at UN Women.

For some good books and intro into feminism, see Feminist Frequency’s resources.

Let’s talk about blackface

It’s that time of year again: the time where people will choose costumes that are not racist and those that are. Ok, some of you reading this are thinking: “WHOA! Costumes are not racist!” You, my dear friend, need to read this.

Always like clockwork, someone shows up on the Internet or at a party wearing blackface. Sadly, it seems to happen a little more frequently in the region where I am. I get it, maybe no one has broken it down enough for you to understand and the Internet says: “No, just no, not ever!” but you are a person who will do something unless you know precisely why. This is your come to Jesus party, my friend. I am writing this to break it down into something that might make sense for you.

Some people are still confused about why and how blackface is offensive. Let me put this simply:

What is it that drew you to your Halloween costume?

Let’s take Beyonce, because, really, who wouldn’t want to channel Queen Bey for a night!?

What do you like about Beyonce? Her amazing talent? Her incredible dance moves? That she’s a strong woman? That she grew up kicking stereotypes in their teeth?

How could you dress like Beyonce? A wicked body suit with jewels? Some fishnets or shimmery stockings? A fiercely sexy yet empowered outfit? Or if you’re funny, a tiara and a bee costume.

You can dress up in any of these outfits and be an amazing Beyonce!

Are you thinking, “But, wait! No one will know who I am!” Is what makes Beyonce ‘Beyonce’ her skin color? It’s part of her identity, but not her single identity, and that part of her identity you should not imitate. It is hers. You cannot borrow it. This is the part where the Internet said, “No, just no, not ever!”

Blackface has a history in the theater. It was used to wrongfully imitate and demean a group of people, not a particular person in most instances. This meant perpetuating stereotypes while wearing burnt cork, dark paint, or shoe polish to darken the wearer’s skin, as if their racism was not evident enough. This practice only has once place: in history. Please do not continue to perpetuate these stereotypes. And, yes, my friend, stereotypes are racist.

By wearing blackface, it sends the message that all you see about people with skin different than yours is their skin color. You only see and care about the caricature you imagine of them. People are human beings, and their culture and identity are not for sale. Let me also bring up that history piece. Stereotypes are harmful. Maybe history wasn’t your thing in school, but it is important. Do some soul searching with Google and Wikipedia. They can help.

This year, and forevermore, just say no to blackface. Really, would you want to insult your pal Bey in that way? I sure hope not.

Now that you know why you say no to blackface, it’s your job to go inform others. You might see someone wearing blackface at a Halloween party or in costume around the neighborhood. Take them into the bathroom, wash their face, and give them a much needed lesson on history and racism. Some people need an education and sadly had no one in their lives challenged their beliefs. Be that amazing person for them. It’s a tough conversation, but a necessary one.

Now go have a safe, and smart, Halloween!

Book Review: We Should All Be Feminists

Reading for pleasure is a cherished pastime for the Ph.D. student, so I have taken to consuming short works and collections of essays. These I can read in the coveted hour I might find each week or easily pick back up if my read is interrupted.


My latest book I read was We Should All Be FeministsChimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes from her experiences in Nigeria as a woman in a culture that does not view women as capable or equal to men. Her insight into typical social situations in which sexism rears its ugly head provides affirmation for those who might be feeling the same frustrations as well as awareness for those who might not yet see the inequalities in such interactions.

The author calls to all people regardless of gender to be feminists as feminism is not just for the rights of one gender, but rather equal rights. She also points out why human rights is not a appropriate term for feminism.

Beyond being a strong supporter of equal rights, she is a brilliant writer. Check out her other works as well, which very likely might be at your local library.