Sexism At It's Core: A Recollection

Whack. I thrusted my weight from one foot to another, swinging my arms as hard as I could. Maybe the ball would have actually made it over the net, if my eyes hadn't been shut so tight. “Alright ladies, rotate!” The tennis coach yelled, trying to emphasize his voice over the chattering girls. I adjusted my mask, and walked to the back of the line. “This is torture”, I thought to myself, sweaty and out of breath. My sister Charlotte and I joined a 4 week tennis course with our friend Marley, and her band members. There were 6 of us in total, plus the tennis coach. John. We all started off awkwardly fumbling with our rackets, trying to match the positions John instructed us to do. Some of the girls quickly exceeded, swiftly clacking each green fuzzy sphere out of the court. I on the other hand, managed to hit not one, not two, but ZERO balls during the entirety of our lessons. And yet, there I was. Circling in and out of the court, (not) hitting ball after ball, wishing I were anywhere else. And then, something weird happened. Samantha, the drummer in Marleys band, stepped up to swing. John liked to throw a little small talk at us in between hits, to keep things interesting. “So, your a drummer huh?”, he questioned. “Yeah! Ive been practicing for about 3 years now.” Samantha replied. He laughed lightly. “Drummers always gets all the boys”, he said. I caught my breath, and actually started paying attention. What did he just say? “I remember going to concerts, watching the drummer sneak backstage with all the boys”, he was chuckling now. Painfully oblivious to the uncomfortable silence around him. He gave Samantha a look, something mysterious and hidden. Something gross. He kept talking. We rotated. Obviously there was something off about this one sided conversation. But what? John was a good teacher, but that one interaction rubbed me the wrong way. As our society grows and evolves, we begin to inspect undesirable circumstances more carefully. Whether that be a major social injustice, or a simple conversation. Like this one. What made this conversation so unsavory? What about it made me question whether I should say something or not? Then, I had an epiphany. The deep rooted oppression that has held 1000s of women under a mans thumb for centuries started with a simple conversation. When John, a 50-something-year-old man was let on to Samanthas interest, her passion, his first reaction was to sexualize it. And what does this mean, even? What does “Getting all the boys” mean to a 15 year old? At a time, this may have been an instinct. To survive, you need a man to hunt. To get a man, you must be desirable. Attractive. Your personality, your interests, your passions, must be cut and sewed to fit his needs like a glove. But surly by now, we have set that heterosexual rulebook aside. We are independent, we are strong, we choose our interests and passions to fulfill ourselves, not others. And even when we have walked every grueling mile, crawled towards the finish line on our hands and knees, bleeding, dirty, barely sane, we get comments like this. Our orientation is assumed, our passion is sexualized, our discomfort is ignored. And I know that many people could read this and say “Your out of your mind. Comments with no harmful intent are barley the root of oppression”. To some extent, I agree. I don't dislike John. He has a good sense of humor, and I cant say I haven't learned a thing or two about tennis. But you see, The assumptions people make about us grow bigger. They start to sting. The sexualization of our minds and body inflicts upon our ability to function. We start to assume things about ourselves. The ignorance towards our feelings becomes dire, suddenly I'm screaming at him to stop and yet my bra still comes undone. Do you see? Do you see a little bit? Do you understand why my simple, everyday conversations are so important? Because a mistake without re-direction becomes a habit. A bad habit becomes something deep rooted, dangerous, impossible to ignore. So now when I scream at you to listen, beg you to understand, do not assume. Do not sexualize. Do not ignore. Watch me cross the finish line, bleeding and barley sane. Understand my pain. Empathize with all of us, listen to our stories, hear us cry, watch us grow. And if all of that is to straining, then all I ask of you is to have a simple conversation. Without assuming my identity, Without sexualizing my personhood, Without ignoring my discomfort. Can you do that?


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