The insidious nature of reverse sexism

My wife and I traveled with another couple to Amish Country in Pennsylvania.  It was during that trip that an instance of reverse sexism occurred.

The other couple was a white male and an Asian female.  The Asian female, having been raised in China to be pleasing and understanding to her man, appeared outwardly to be submissive.  The man appeared outwardly to be dominant.  At one point they were taking pictures of each other in front of an Amish buggy.  They had only taken three or four pictures when a tall white woman strode up behind the man, tapped him on the shoulder, and said, in a rather nasty and condescending tone, “Excuse me, we’d like to take some photographs if you don’t mind.”

My friend, who was raised to yield to others (having been the youngest in his family), stepped aside and allowed the woman and her husband to take photographs.  Only later, when we were all sitting having lunch, did he realize how angry he was at the woman who interrupted him.  “Why was she being so pushy and nasty?” he wondered.  “Why couldn’t she just wait her turn?”

I agreed and told him that I had noticed her and her husband watching.  “She seemed angry even before she interrupted you, as if she was offended by you.”

“I don’t know why she would be offended,” he replied.  “All we were doing was taking pictures of each other.  She acted like we were taking pictures forever, but we had only been doing it for two minutes.”

“You weren’t just taking pictures.  You were a politically incorrect couple taking pictures and acting very happy and in love with each other, and that was what was offensive.”

I went on to explain my psychoanalytic take on the proceedings.  Many people today have a particular conception of how a relationship between a man and woman should be.  The man and woman have to demonstrate their version of equality.  Many people today immediately view a white male who marries a submissive Asian woman as a sexist.  They are offended by such a relationship and judge such men as wanting to control a woman and manipulate her and exploit her.  They make a prejudgment about such couples.  It is a kind of prejudice.

On top of the prejudice or reverse sexism in this case was discrimination and persecution.  The woman acted out her prejudice by persecuting (punishing) the male by snapping at him and bullying him, thus belittling him in front of his wife and in front of us.

The woman knew nothing about my friends.  They in fact had a very equalitarian relationship insofar as they engaged in constructive communication, shared their thoughts and feelings honestly with one another, had equal and mutual respect, and made decisions and compromises together.  Neither tried to control the other, and both were devoted to making the other happy.  He was not sexist in his behavior toward her, and she was not toward him.

This is the essence of equality: mutual caring, empathy and respect.  It is about men respecting women and women respecting men.  Equality is not about who has the most money or power or rights.  That’s not equality, that’s competition.  One of the reasons I admired my friends was that they weren’t concerned about who did this or who did that.  They were concerned about listening, sharing, being self-objective, and doing whatever it took to make their relationship work.

Hence, the woman’s judgment and action toward them had nothing to do with my friends and only to do with appearance and how she interpreted appearance.  This is an insidious kind of reverse sexism because, first of all, it goes on without being noticed.  Over the last century men have been demanded to look at their sexism.  Women have not.  Few women writers have written about female sexism.  Nor have many men written about it.  It is as though it doesn’t exist.

The above instance is but one of a multitude of small and large renditions of reverse sexism.  It happens in families all the time, as when a woman judges a man through some preconceived notion of what a man is or should be, or raises her boys differently than her girls because of some preconceived notion of what boys are or how they should be.

One comes across reverse sexism whenever women make generalizations about men, such as “men are cheaters,” “men only want one thing from women,” or “men just don’t get it.”  All such generalizations represent stereotypical and prejudiced thinking, but today it appears to be okay for women to make such generalizations about men, but very not okay for men to make them about women.

Perhaps it is time for women to examine their own sexism and how it may be harmful to men, to children and to our culture.

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