Dec 19, 1996 09:16 AM
by Thoa Tran
In all honesty and taking the Triaists lead, I will have to give another
twist to sexism. It is still sexism, and I think it is unfortunate that
this is the way the real world is.
All the way until I graduated from high school, I was very skinny, thin
boned and lanky, and wearing awful dark-framed coke-bottle military
glasses. My parents had to support 4 children on a small income. Mom
would buy a whole bolt of cloth on sale and make clothes for all of us.
There's this funny picture that I call The Plaid Family. My mom had made
red plaid shirts for my stepdad and brother, plaid dresses for my sisters
and herself. We were all standing in front of the pineapple field in
Hawaii. If my clothes weren't home made by an earnest mother (who's no
couturier, I think that's why I learned to sew couture quality clothes),
then it was purchased from a thrift shop. Every few months, the children
would line up for their homemade haircut by that all-purpose person, mom.
Needless to say, I was no stylish beauty queen. Boys would call me "ugly",
or pick on me because I was shy. I did not date until I was in college. I
did not go to my high school prom. To compensate, I was a total bookworm
and intellectual. I did not go to the lunchroom because it was painful to
sit alone in the cafeteria, or to have to ask someone you don't know
whether you can sit next to them. I lived in the library and joined a
contest on who read the most library books. I filled the form front and
back of all the books I've read at the library. Surprisingly, I didn't
win. There's another soul more unfortunate than I.
When I entered college, I replaced the glasses with contact lenses. My
lanky form began to fill out. What formerly was emaciation turned into
feminine lean gracefulness. I started getting hoots and hollers. My
chemistry professor became very personally concerned when I accidentally
cut my finger on a broken glass. Instead of calling me ugly or ignoring
me, men started opening doors for me with a wide grin. Strange men would
volunteer to carry heavy packages for me. To support myself through
school, I had to work at various jobs. The moment I showed up for an
interview, the male interviewer would have this silly grin and long
conversations with me, then I would instantly receive a call the next day
saying that I was definitely hired. Luckily, my intellectual background
helped me to see all this with a sense of humor. I responded to any
untoward advances with a humorous dismissal that hurts no one's feeling and
everyone's ego remains intact. For the really tough cases, a sentence,
composing of 3 syllable words and throwing a few philosopher's names in, is
enough to scare anyone away. The only scary untoward advances were during
subway rides in the city. For those, I do the hear, see nothing, and run
away as fast as I could.
It is unfortunate that women are judged more on the basis of their looks
more than men. If a woman is plain looking, a man will note at how plain
she is and dismiss her. If a woman is beautiful, a man will undermine her
intellectual abilities. Comments are often made about whether a woman is
well-groomed enough, whether she's gained any weight (look at anorexia
among women), or how old she is. With the exception of Goldie Hawn, an
aging female movie star has few options left except to play someone's
mother. The aging male movie star can still play a romantic lead up until
his late 60's.
It is not only men who are sexist, but women also. I closely worked in
Human Resources with a woman manager who has no children. She grew to rely
and trust my opinions. During a hiring process for an Administrative
Assistant position, she asked me whether any of the women have children.
She was afraid that women with children will be unable to work long hours,
and will have too many emergencies with children. On single unwed mothers,
she wonders about their morality. With growing households headed by women,
this type of thinking has an extreme negative effect on women's economics.
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