I saw a story about South Korea which went something like this. The government has funded female-specific parking spaces, marked with a pink cartoon charicature, which are also wider than conventional spaces. I am sure they had their reasons. I lived in South Korea for a long time. They have practically no social net for the poor; no retirement plan for the elderly. They aren’t going to waste money on something unless they believe they need it. South Korea is more fiscally conservative than the USA; they test better and have a more stable economy. The money the government spends, save that which is caught up in corruption (yes every country has it), is going to be wisely spent. So it is logical to assume they had data backing up decisions. Accidents, scrapes, dents, opinion polls, and activism, what have you.
But that really isn’t the point here. Well it is and it isn’t. The point is that there are a fairly large number of women, to a lesser extent men, who will indiscriminately point their angry, shaking fingers at a given situation and scream the hallowed, shrew words: SEXISM! Fine, ok. I do not deny there exists a measure of sexism in any society. Both men and women are subject to a broken, biased and downright unfair social and law system. But to use the word in such a way is rather… depressing. To reserve a word, with such extreme social connotations, is quite important. Just as we selectively impose ‘racist’ for both intent and action, we do not reserve the same intelligence, it seems, for uttering ‘sexism’.
Are there some actions which are inherently sexist? Can the context be disregarded for a snap judgement? If a man wolf whistles at a girl, is that immediately sexist? What about if they are married, or friends prone to joking around. What about gender assignment labels – pink for girls, blue for boys? Is this sexist? What about if you live in a society where women will predominantly recognise pink as a gender assigned label, helping society run. Is it still sexist? Would it be easier if a random colour was chosen for signs? Or should we end all segregation of the sexes. Unified bathrooms, gyms, schools. No choice in the matter for both male and female – anything deemed inherently sexist just has to go. Isn’t disregarding the choices of males and females to suit your own agenda sexist?
It seems to me the situations where such judgements are made are often, but not always, in error. The degree to which this error exists depends on a number of factors for sure, but there is never a contrite person when confronted with counter evidence. At least, none I have met. So set in their ways, these people usually double down.
So what of the South Korean parking spaces? Well say they had data, which I am sure they do, that supports the creation of such parking spaces. Showing preference for one gender based on practical needs is, in my book, not inherently sexist at all. This covers the width, now what about the little pink woman? Ok so… What about her? She is a woman and the parking spaces are in fact, for women. Quite a bit more practical than adding bold letters in a small parking space that can be recognised from any angle. Why isn’t she blue then? Or green, grey. Why pink?
Oh dear. Society has assigned gender specific colours. And by society, I mean both males and females. And by assigned, I mean personally adopted over time – there is no Dr Evil style boardroom conjuring new ways to subjugate people in strange, masterful ways. They are just colours – objectively meaningless – which happen to be useful. All women will recognise the colour. Does this make them bad people? I really hope not… I myself am quick to link being male with Guinness and Lynx deodorant spray. There is nothing inherently sexist about products, colours, sounds or objects being associated with one gender or the other. Not only is it a fleeting product of contemporary society, often gone the next century, but it is also has absolutely no function other than to make life a bit easier.
I conclude with this. If there is a resounding vitriol inherent in people, it should not be toward abstract concepts or meaningless whimsy. To re-channel 10% of the empty, incoherent and fallacious anguish directed at socially constructed issues toward real issues; the world would be cured of famine, free of war and, most importantly, liberated from obstinate politics.