Here we go again—another middle-aged man pontificating on something that supposedly should only be considered by women. Apparently I am not qualified to discuss, much less write, about the seedy pervasiveness of sexism in American culture due to my chromosome, which created an appendage, which therefore skews all manner of my thought and perspective. But saying that a man shall not comment on sexism (definition later) because only those who are typically on the receiving end are qualified, is like saying men should keep quiet about child-rearing since we didn't give birth. Yet, like studies that show what's most effective in raising a child, it's also best both men and women have a say about this -ism.
First, let's state the obvious: it's no longer remotely tolerable for a man to shout to a woman passerby, "You got some fries with that shake?" In fact, the list of non-creative invitations by those who have overly large foreheads is long (has this tactic worked for any man? Ever?). We should be far beyond the overt, socially acceptable, male-dominated behavior that treats women as pieces, not peers. Not that any of this was ever OK, but for most of human history, options dictated tolerance. Women have often depended on men. Lack of education and rigid roles kept women in their proper place, and thus the apron industry funded.
Fortunately, financial independence, brought on by the expansion of education for women, has forced men to retreat from the Andrew Dice Clay impersonations. Objectification and harassment is still pervasive, of course (hello, Roger Ailes!). Yes, I know, the street runs both ways at times, but that's like comparing I-64 to a bike path. Regardless, no man in 2017 should be able to claim ignorance. Or get away with it.
But the 21st century definition of sexism goes well beyond the boorish behavior of men or an evening at Hooters. The modern feminist definition of sexism now includes screeds about the "power structure" of society, which propagates rape culture and suppresses women from cradle to grave. This hyperbolic indictment of every swinging you-know-what has produced a mountain range of accusations of misogyny. According to Scientific American, complimenting a woman on her cooking reinforces gender stereotypes and is a form of “benevolent sexism.” One researcher told Time that ads that showed women eating salads were sexist because they reaffirmed the stereotype that only women eat salads. Actress Helen Mirren takes great umbrage with men putting their arms around their girlfriends because, "it shows ownership." I can only imagine the histrionics of the current feminist thought leaders if a woman tattoos a man's name on her. "They're branding us like cattle!"
Admittedly, a lot of dumb things are said by people who say they represent a group or movement. I'm in the Republican Party in 2017. I should know. But, when evergreen topics such as equal pay, the glass ceiling, and the percentage of women in certain fields, e.g., politics, are used as proof of chronic male domination, there are basic points that never get made. Numerous studies have been done on the myth that women are paid 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. First, it's closer to 92 cents, and the number doesn't reflect life choices: having children, dropping out of the workforce, working part-time, flex scheduling, type of work, etc. Those things then contribute to the glass ceiling and gender percentages in politics. I don't have the answer for how women are supposed to balance being pregnant and often being the primary caregiver, while at the same time trying to compete with men on the career track, especially since most families can't afford nannies with whom their husbands can then have affairs. In most instances, the answer will likely be choice, as in the choices we make that often involve priorities and sacrifice.
Yes, I know those sacrifices are often made by women, and there's a song called "It's a man's world." It's true that for most of human history men have been the drivers in war, business, politics and culture. This is not because men are brighter or more talented. Often to the contrary. It is mostly due to the innate human instinct to procreate, and men are not the ones with the uterus.
Let's hone in on that word "choice" and what that means for sexism. As a conservative, my focus is on the freedom of the individual to make as many choices as possible that dictate a person's life. Therefore, if a woman makes the choice to pursue a particular interest, the success of that choice should only be judged by the merits of her work. It should not be colored by numbers in bra or dress sizes. The often-insatiable drive of men to pursue and bed women should never be a toll that women should have to pay to achieve success. The feeding of a man's ego through words or action should never come from expectation, privilege or at a woman's expense. The primacy clause here is that men are no more deserving than women beyond the fruits of their labor. Which is why women should be the first to hold the baby (sorry, couldn't resist).
Our culture, fortunately, has evolved considerably through the eons, barring reality TV. But I believe tension (read: problems) will continue for the rest of the eons. There are generalized traits we can attribute separately to men and women. You know, the whole Mars and Venus thing. Yet, part of evolution is the awareness of things that were previously hidden. Women have always been men's equals but only recently have been given the chance to be so. Fun fact: that chance will grow as some men finally die. Meanwhile, women are owed nothing beyond equal access and the recognition of their efforts. With that comes the responsibility to understand that not every intention of man is one of domination. Therefore, us men will continue to build tall phallic-like buildings and put our arms around you. Unless you're Helen Mirren. Or eat salads.