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Institutionalized Sexism – The Conversation Has Been Started!

I love the quilting community!
Recently there has been a discussion started about men in the world of quilting. (see links below post)

I wanted to let it be, but I can’t. I need to speak up, because sexism affects all of us and it is rampant in our society. So much so, that we all fall victim to ingrained sexist thinking and reacting. Read on if you like… but today there are no pretty pictures.

I’m not here to point fingers. I have many male friends, some even in the quilting world. With that in mind, I want to share my personal take on the institutionalized sexism of our society as a whole. This post is only meant to bash gender rules, not people. Communication is the way to start making changes. It’s hard to talk about, and feelings can easily get hurt, but we gotta start somewhere.

My personal experience with sexism is lifelong. I’m going to share a few experiences for the sake of showing just how much this affects the lives of women. (… and I can’t even begin to know what it would be like as a woman of color, or disabled, or transgendered – but I know it would be even harder)

Raised in a religious household where women were basically owned by their husbands/fathers, college was never a thought for me because I was just supposed to be a good wife. I was taught: cooking, cleaning, and sewing. When I turned 13, I was no longer allowed to play with boys without adult supervision, as my father said: “you don’t want to turn into a little slut, like some other girls”.  My mother was always concerned about what ‘everyone else thought’ and raised me to have utmost respect for my father and all other men of our congregation (regardless of their abusiveness).

I was raised with the thought that rape victims “asked for it”. So… when I was date-raped as a teenager, I told no one because I knew I would be blamed for being promiscuous, as others in my congregation were… and I didn’t want to bring ‘shame’ upon my family.  I had immense guilt for years, like it was my fault. This guilty feeling only attracted more terrible boys/men into my life and I felt like I ‘deserved what I got’ as more terrible things happened to me.

This is how I ended up in an abusive relationship. People always wonder how anyone could ever allow themselves to end up in a relationship like that, and I’ll tell you right now – it’s all about self esteem… and I had none. I thought it was my fault, and I wasn’t ‘good enough’. It’s what most religions teach. Luckily I had strong women friends who physically moved me from my abusive home and kept me from going back, and taught me I was someone, even without a man.

I’ve been homeless too, and I can’t tell you how many times I heard things like: “why don’t you go use what the good lord gave ya” in regards to getting a stripping gig…  or “beggars can’t be choosers” as someone is trying to force their dick in my face. Yeah, homeless men have it bad too, don’t get me wrong… but the level of degradation is one step lower for women.

As a single mom, (because the sperm donor decided HE didn’t have to do anything to help) – I took out a loan and went to vocational school to be an auto-mechanic. While some people like to think it’s the same thing as a man going into quilting – I wholeheartedly disagree! I did not have men fawning over me, like everything I did was genius… no, no, no. When I did well, I was humiliated with butt/breast grabs in front of the class. I was called slut (and much worse) because… why else would I want to be in a room full of men??? I certainly was never respected for the skills I learned and was never awarded a great internship for it. At best, some men were nice to me because it was ‘cute to see a girl in overalls’, but no one ever wanted to be my partner. In fact I couldn’t even finish due to the harassment involved.

When I was getting off welfare and working as a single parent as a waitress and bartender – I can tell you a thousand more stories about groping, and men thinking they have a right to your body just because they feel like it. Once I was assaulted and reported it to my manager, and the manager tells me to chill out, “he’s harmless”… then docked my hours. Frustrated, I complained and was promptly fired. Another time I was bartending someplace for years, then the male manager gives my job to the 21 year old guy right out of bartending school, with more pay… because “people respect men behind the bar more – you should be a cocktail waitress, I bet you could make good money with that rack”

I had a printing job once where I printed, scored, folded, assembled, and shipped custom wedding cards for $9/hr and quit because I thought I deserved more… when I found out they rehired, it was a man, and for more than double what I was making.

Or… how about going to the doctor? Doctors are trained to somehow not ever listen to us. I don’t know how many times I’ve been frustrated by a doctor NOT LISTENING and prescribing drugs for anti-depression no matter what it is I’m in for… and if you protest, you are reactive and obviously in need of said drugs.

With a daughter of my own, I see in every single ad just how much women are objectified and made to feel as they are just a man-hole. Every style in fashion is made to make a girl feel ‘sexy’. I hate that word. Girls should never WANT to feel sexy- why? Do we want to be considered a man-hole? Why not the word beautiful instead of sexy!

Women even call each other things like ‘whore’ and ‘slut’ to put others down, however – they are putting themselves down too with words and thinking like that.

We live in a world where religions are male dominated, our country is male-dominated, and our business world is male-dominated. How can a white male possibly ever consider himself a minority in America ever?

Geez… just walking into the bar as a woman and hear things like “looks like we have some vaginas out tonight” or walking down the street: “hey baby, give me a smile… why do you have to be like that… what, are you a lesbian?” or going to the bank for a loan “is your husband going to join us?” or going to the gym and hearing “c’mon, you can do it… think how great you’ll look in your swimsuit this summer”  or talking to a client, who upon hearing your daughter became a teenager says, “she’s pretty, better keep her locked up”.

In a time when pain as a rape victim is diminished because you were raped by “such a great comedian and family man” – and for coming forward you are humiliated and called a liar… we really need to start seeing the problem and stop blaming women for things men do. Another step forward would be to speak out for women when they are not around. When you hear “heh heh, I’d like to stick my dick in that” while you’re at the bar…  that would be a good time to talk to your friends and let them know just how fucked up they are for saying stuff like that. ESPECIALLY when it’s in “only in jest”!

Even at the football game the other night there was a player who gave the football to a girl earlier in the game and later the football was given to a boy. The announcer described the girl as a “little girl” while he used the term “young man” for the boy. It’s these subtle terminologies that infuriate me.

I think it’s the same type of terminology that is infuriating some women in the quilting world – and if you’ve had a past like mine, you would be highly aware of every single sexist word said.

I haven’t read all of the posts, but what I’m getting from it all is that there are other women besides me, that are a little sick of hearing disrespect in these subtle, yet very important ways.

So if you are a male quilter reading my post, the main point is this: Enjoy quilting! Feel free to market your quilting! Quilt with me!
… but please be aware that I’m not the only one with a story like this – so many of us are trying to heal, and women have used quilting as a way of healing, and connecting with others for so long.  If someone says you’re being sexist about something, just listen – put yourself in a woman’s perspective before speaking about the difficulties of being a man in a woman’s world.

Using ‘male-minority’ status in quilting only elevates men, there is absolutely no detriment to having a penis while quilting. However, all other minorities are devalued in everything they do. There is a huge difference.

There is also the topic of hiring experienced women quilters to do sewing, and quilting work for men. While the men pay for this work to be done, I don’t think they should get credit for ‘making’ those quilts. I firmly believe they should credit the piecing and quilting work of the women crafting for them. This is a common practice in the male-dominated art world, but I really don’t like seeing it in the quilt world where crafting skills are important to the title “Quilter”.  This is a much larger topic and spans sexism, but there are other things about it that are questionable to me, and I look forward to reading more about it soon.

So… let the quilting rest on it’s own merits, give credit where credit is due, and let’s all learn and quilt together!

I’m open to comments – only if they are non-threatening. I’ve read some comments on these pages, and no one deserves death and rape threats for speaking up. (yeah guys… this is another thing I’m sure you are clueless to – when you make an opinion public, most people give you accolades for being strong and standing up for yourself, while women get threatened to a scary degree)

Recent blog posts about men in quilting:

2 thoughts on “Institutionalized Sexism – The Conversation Has Been Started!”

  1. Thank you Gail for adding such a calm, clear and rational discussion to the conversation. It really resonates with me as a reader. I don’t think you mean to imply, but do understand that many men (white or otherwise) do use quilting to heal, and connect with others as well. 🙂 That being said, I think men complaining about being collectively called “Ladies” in a group setting such as a a guild meeting is nothing short of ridiculous. Women tolerate (endure?) sexist commentary far greater than this all the time in all aspects of life, so your reminder to us is heard–at least by me.

    1. Thanks Molli! You are right – men do use quilting to heal too … and we all can use a little healing, IMHO! Thanks for sharing on this matter, your point of view is helpful to me. I want to be more inclusive in everything I do.

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