Before 2016, how easy had it been to point out the sexist/racist remarks without making the commenter defensive or downright offensive?
“It’s just locker-room talk.”
“He doesn’t mean it.”
“Not too bad.”
These are familiar responses, which purposes are to 1) discount the severity of the issue and 2) silence the receiver of the comments. They even sometimes come from the receiver’s allies.
We had been tolerant of sexist/racist narratives because they were normalized. If society is patriarchal, the standard narratives are created by men (publicly cisgender and straight), who are entitled to the power to do so. Such sexist/racist stories had been ingrained in our minds for centuries after centuries, and we are still in the process of undoing the conventional narratives to achieve common grounds for all humans – or at least that’s where humanity seems to wish to aim.
I was born in the late ’70s in a highly patriarchal society in the developed countries’ standards. If it were in the early noughties and if the man on the bus was my boss who had the power to change my employment status overnight, I too could have laughed at his comments when he boasted about getting away with sexual assault. I then would have gone to the office kitchen and complained to my colleagues, who would commiserate with me.
Even after years of fighting, reading, discussing, and therapy sessions, in 2020, it still requires immense courage and effort to challenge the patriarchal narratives uttered by people around me. Each time, I meet with defense, chastening, disdain, sneer, aggression, tease, and non-apologetic apology. Like D, they may call themselves feminists. They are rarely intentionally sexist/racist, but the prejudiced way of thinking is so deeply ingrained that they are unaware.
But the most arduous work was my unlearning of patriarchal narratives I had absorbed for years.