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Casual sexism ties us to family violence

A couple of months ago I ordered a bookcase, but recently we decided we would cancel the order and go for a cheaper, more appropriate option. So I called the store. The conversation went like this:

“Good morning, I would like to cancel an order I made a couple of months ago.”
“Okay, let me look your order up, can I ask why you’re cancelling?”
“Oh, we just decided it wasn’t the best bookcase for us.”
“Okay, looks like we may not be able to refund the deposit. Are you sure you want to go ahead with the cancellation?”
“Well, your invoice states a full money back guarantee. Is there a reason I can’t get a full refund?”
“Let me have my manager call you back sometime today. Goodbye.”

How annoying. I know my rights, it’s written there in black and white. Grrr, I tell my husband to call them to see what they say to him instead. He gets the same customer service officer. The conversation went like this:

“Good morning, I would like to cancel an order I made a couple of months ago.”
“Sure, let me just confirm the invoice number and grab your card details for a full refund.”
Hmmmmm, so what just happened there? Take a guess.

Pulling the “feminist card” (as I am often accused of doing) is a fascinating concept; being berated for pulling someone up for not extending fair and equal treatment really is, well, frankly stupid. Casual sexism, like casual racism, is a scourge we need to rid ourselves of, but most of us don’t even know we’re doing it.

But what does casual sexism have to do with family violence I hear you ask? Well, really it has everything to do with it: these casual attitudes and opinions underpin everything a man does to gain control over his spouse.

As Ken Lay pointed out in his riveting, shocking and wholly amazing speech in November on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: “These men were supported by indulgent and unaccountable cultures. These men were supported by a society that encourages its female victims to blame themselves and stay quiet in shame. These men were supported by our complacency, by our lack of courage to examine our lifelong attitudes.”

Yes! Yes! And a thousand times Yes!

Our attitudes, the way we speak to each other, to women, men and our children, is so deeply entrenched I am not sure we even see the effects anymore. Be enlightened, think about what you’re saying, think about what sort of effect it would have on the recipient. I promise you once you discover casual sexism and its implications, you won’t be able to un-see it, and once you get over the overwhelming sense of anger that we’ve “let it slide” over the years, decades and centuries, you won’t be able to stop yourself pulling people up. And pull them up, you must! Societal change doesn’t happen at a governmental or policy level. It starts with us, you, me and our community.

If you hear something, say something.

I asked a group of friends if they had ever been on the receiving end of casual sexism. These were the examples they gave me:

“And will your husband want to see the car/house before you buy it?”
“Simmer down, lady.”
“You women need to lighten up, it’s just a joke.”
“You’re being a girl, when addressing a man.”
“Well, we can all see who wears the pants in that relationship.”
“Is your husband babysitting tonight?”
“What’s a girl like you doing driving a car like that?”
And a classic to end with: “Is anyone’s husband an electrician?” Because no ladies can be tradies ever, can they? When we decide a profession is only for men we subconsciously prevent girls from even considering that profession as an option.

Again I can hear you say, what does this have to do with family violence? I’ll leave you with this. When our general attitudes support a woman being seen as a second-class citizen or something less than a man, when we continue to let men speak about women in a derogatory or offensive way, when we let these opinions remain unfettered and unchecked, we, as a community, are allowing entitlement to occur. Part of this entitlement is the idea that women are objects, to be owned and controlled and that is how casual sexism is related to family violence.

Women dead in November: 3
Women dead in December: 1
Women dead in 2015: 79

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