The Ugly Reality of Sexism

There’s something about presidential campaigns—no matter who’s running—that causes me to want to stick my head in the sand, or to go to a faraway place (which I have done—in 2004 and 2008), just so I don’t have to witness it, or be a part of it. This year, it feels even more dreadful. I am especially troubled at the blatant, and not so blatant, sexism and misogyny directed at Hillary Clinton. Given that there are plenty of legitimate issues that can be lobbed at her (even as a Democrat, I’ll admit she’s not the perfect candidate—though, then again, who is?), gender should not be one of them.

For a little proof regarding the vileness of sexism and misogyny on display at a Trump rally:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/deplorable-anti-clinton-merch-at-trump-rallies_us_572836e1e4b016f378936c22

And, for a bit more on Trump’s sexism, and the sexism that is swirling around him, is here:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-and-priebuss-sexism-show-the-challenges-clinton-will-face–even-if-she-wins/2016/09/08/c561c82c-7603-11e6-b786-19d0cb1ed06c_story.html?utm_term=.6a4f57d2f9cf

For someone living in Maine, the mix of politicians and sexism is not news. Maine’s governor, in addition to homophobic and racist remarks, has also made a few sexist remarks. While there’s been some complaining, there’s been no substantive response—no censure, no impeachment.

Sexism, it seems, is just part of the landscape, something that we must live with, deal with, tolerate. As Samantha Bee on Full Frontal has observed, Mr. Trump’s sexism (and racism) is acknowledged by many of this supporters, yet it appears not to be a “deal-breaker.” How can this be? Is sexism seeping back into our common lives?

Recently, I experienced an unexpected and strange bit of sexism myself, in the role that I hold in the Mission Council (Board of Directors) of the Maine Conference United Church of Christ. In a recent conversation with Council colleagues, regarding the progression of leadership in the Council, I brought up the name of a relatively new person on the Council who’s showing strong gifts for leadership—someone who happens to be a man. I suggested that we consider how to engage his gifts more fully. The reaction to this was not only enthusiastic, among the men with whom I was speaking, but these men went so far as to suggest that asking this particular man to be the next chair of the Council (leap-frogging over the current vice chair) sounded like a great idea.

I was taken aback. I’m the current Vice Chair. And have been for two years. When I finally found my voice, and stated that I expected to be the next chair, and that the man about whom we were speaking would make a good vice chair, there was a quiet nodding of heads, and a reluctant sounding, “Oh, okay.”

In a Christian denomination that has had women in leadership positions for a long time (including ordination), I’ve grown accustomed to living with, at most, minimal examples of sexist behavior. My recent experience may only be an isolated one, but I can’t help but wonder about the seepage of sexism—even into places where it’s generally not seen or experienced. Is sexism becoming more acceptable?

What’s even more frustrating is that sexism is something that I feel should already be on the “endangered species” list for human behavior in the United States. We’ve been at this for a while. And, there are so many other important issues that deserve, and demand, our attention—poverty, homelessness, hunger, the refugee crisis, violence, racial issues, just to name a few.

Yet, sexism continues to be a problem, and seemingly more so than it was—although perhaps it’s just that it had been better hidden. And now it’s more in the open—not a deal-breaker. Sure, my own experience was just one small example. I cannot help feeling, though, with the national political landscape seeming more fraught with sexist notions that seem not only acceptable, but worthy of mass distribution, that sexism is beginning to infiltrate other aspects of our life in these United States.

A recent Hillary Clinton ad shows a series of teenage girls, looking at themselves in the mirror, while Donald Trump’s sexist statements are playing in the background. The ad asks, “Is this the kind of president we want for our daughters?” My fear is, though this is a profoundly important question, it may not be the sort of question that resonates—if sexism is not a “deal-breaker,” but instead accepted as part of the landscape of our lives.

There’s a part of me that’s eager to go and hide, bury my head in the sand, try to ignore it all. But, I won’t. It’s too important. On the small stage like the Mission Council of the Maine Conference as well as on the big stage of national politics, sexism must be taken seriously. It should be a deal-breaker—for everyone.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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One Response to The Ugly Reality of Sexism

  1. Brenda Smith says:

    Unfortunately, sexism is alive and well. You are correct that it should be extinct. It’s not and it’s not going to be. There is progress, not enough. I have come to expect it, and do my usual maneuvering to ‘make do’. Not right, not fair. The recent pictures of the covers of issues of ‘Boys Life’ and ‘Girls Life’ displayed on social media pretty much says it all.

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