The ‘S’ Word

Why do we still struggle to get past ‘naming the problem’, and is it important that we do?

Picture the scene: friend A updates her Facebook status to describe a horrible (but sadly not uncommon) incident – a man blocks her path as she walks alone, and makes unwanted sexual comments to her. She feels angry and frustrated that this has just happened to her. She felt like she couldn’t shout back at the time. She expresses indignation that women have to put up with this sh*t, all the time.

Friend B expresses sympathy in the form of a #sadface, and tentatively suggests (or if I’m being honest, confidently asserts…) that this is everyday sexism.

Friend C comments, ‘can you really say that this happened to you because you’re a woman?’ ‘Things like this happen to men too you know’. ‘I wouldn’t call that sexism’.

Friend B chips in again, probably unnecessarily, because she can’t resist getting involved! And because she’s outraged that friend C is outraged at the use of the word sexism, and not what happened to friend A, which really is the only outrageous thing to have happened here.

A long debate over semantics ensues. It almost seems inevitable.

Friend C declares that we all just need to chill the f*ck out.

We all agree sexism happens to all genders, and that other forms of discrimination may be at play too.

But…. we agree to disagree that sexual harassment is a form of sexism.

This, to me, is only the start of the debate, and not a very good start at that! If we can’t even agree that sexual harassment is sexism, where does that leave us?

(Friend B, heck let’s call her Lizzy, isn’t quite over it, so writes a blog about it instead. Ahhh, cathartic.)

Can you solve any problem, when you can’t even agree on what to name the problem?



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