It seems impossible that the notion of sexism still exists in today’s world. The 2008 elections marked the first time a woman was a serious candidate for president, while another came could have easily become our nation’s first female vice president. From these women, it could be assumed that the world is progressing toward an era of greater equality between the sexes.
But an April 26 Washington Post column by author and University of Texas professor of sociology Mark Regnerus, entitled “Say Yes — What Are You Waiting For?” seems to prove otherwise.
In the column, Regnerus writes a rambling tome about the joys of marrying at a younger age. I have nothing against Regnerus’s opinion that society should accept couples who choose to marry at a young age, rather than scoff at their choice.
My problem lies with his reasoning, that a woman’s “‘market value’ declines with age.” Plainly, Regnerus argues that if women do not accept the diamond when ripe in their 20s, they can kiss happiness goodbye. After all, what man is going to marry an aging, infertile shrew when they can pop out a few babies with a barely legal wife instead?
Regnerus believes that women are causing their own unhappiness by waiting to get married until after college is over and the career begins. This is contrary to men, whose “value” increases with their expanding resources, such as money and maturity. Specifically, he cites that “women’s fertility is more or less fixed, yet they largely suppress it during their 20s — their most fertile years — only to have to beg, pray, borrow and pay to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s.”
Men too, Regnerus explains, run the risk of decreased fertility after 40, so women should jump at saving their chance to start a family while they still can. Regnerus wrongly assumes that women are just concerned with building a family and seems to be pushing women to revert back to a time when this was considered true.
Unfortunately, subtle sexism like this is not limited to newspaper columns.
The Dell computer company recently launched a new website called Della, and has been facing backlash ever since. Della is aimed exclusively toward women, and features fashionable netbooks, a smaller, more affordable version of a laptop.
The idea itself is cute; the sentiment is not.
Whether intentional or not — and Dell has vehemently said not — the website belittles women, assuming that we will have no interest in buying a computer unless it comes with a floral motif and a matching Kate Spade carrying case.
Della seems to be ignoring the actual computer and instead projecting an image of the line that they believe women will buy into — one punctuated by a flowered background and the script “Expand Your Life with Technology,” complete with a picture of a savvy 20something typing away on her netbook. Shouldn’t she be married already?
Furious comments on the feedback sections of Della’s website serve as proof that women are appalled at the company’s assumption that females cannot work on a normal computer. A section of the website called “Seven Unexpected Ways a Netbook Can Change Your Life” gave helpful uses for the device, such as finding recipes online, scheduling breaks into the day and finding workout tips for the gym. In response to these tips, one comment pointedly said: “I found these tips extremely helpful. I’m going to buy a Mac.”
Just when it seems that the world had evolved a little when it comes to sexism, here is another company trying to market to the idealized version of myself, and another presumptuous “expert” attempting to condemn my growth.
In reality, it does not take much to reverse these sexist ideals. Companies like Dell need to realize that there is no need to create a separate market for women when the product is something so many are already buying. It adds insult to injury to assert that not only are women unable to be consumers in the same market as men, but that the market in which they can participate must be bubblegum pink and filled with flowers. As consumers, women need to stop buying into this industry.
The same goes for Regnerus. As a public, we must cease to let sexist ideals remain the norm. It is time to forge our own paths, and let marriage (or the purchase of fashionable computers) come at its own pace.
So while sexism has been somewhat downplayed because of the success of many remarkable women, it’s apparent that it still exists. All it takes is an ignorant individual to get the conversation started again. And I, for one, will not fall victim to it.