OUT OF THE CLASSROOM SERIES

A guest blog post by Maya Sailland about « Sexism »

Maya is a grade 10 student from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, who loves creative writing, music and designing things. Writing is like an escape to her, where she can express exactly how she is feeling to the world. She is so excited that all of you will get to share that with her! For her first Mind Growth Education article, she chose to talk about « sexism ». She would like for you to please keep in mind as you are reading this that she is learning and does not know all perspectives. More interesting facts about Maya is available towards the end of the blog article. Take it away Maya!

1 – What is sexism to you?
I think that sexism is when someone is discriminated against based on their gender identity, this can mean women, men, trans people, and many more. I am still learning about all the forms of sexism and there are way too many to list here.

2 – Have you ever been a victim of sexism?
I think in some way, shape or form with or without knowing it we have all been victims of sexism. Me personally being a Tomboy and a girl who plays sports at a high level. People have always told me that girls shouldn’t be on the sports field and that we were never going to be as good as the boys. Well I’d like to say that I’ve proven them wrong, I stuck with it and have gotten to a higher level then the ones who brought me down. I still experience sexism every single day. The comments, the little things are still there, I still hear stories of girls from my school being sexually assaulted, I still hear people trying to instill in me that my worth is defined by my body, I still get told that sports aren’t for girls. But I just keep proving them wrong.

3 – Is it always women who suffer from sexism or can men suffer too?
Everyone and anyone can suffer from sexism, just as any other “ism” there is. It affects different people in different ways. Because it’s systematic it is generally seen against women, but men suffer from it too. Sexism is an adapting being and we are starting to see more and more of it against men as well. Toxic masculinity is a big one. It means the way that we as a society have told men they need to be. Some examples would be boys cannot cry or else it makes them weak, boys cannot wear dresses, boys cannot be gay and also be an athlete. Basically just stereotypes that have been following men around for centuries. But we didn’t seem to notice. Sexism also affects many others, like trans people, it was found that many trans women  (transitioned from male to female) lose almost one third of their salary, lose their “dominance”, and get harassed more often after transitioning. Whereas some trans men (transitioned from female to male) gain dominance and salary. This is not to say that trans men don’t experience sexism. Almost every person in the world experiences sexims in a different way.

4 – Is it possible for sexism to completely disappear?
Honestly, I don’t know. In an ideal world, yes! But we are reminded everyday that this is not an ideal world, but it’s ours and it’s our responsibility to make it not perfect but better. Sexism will never be fully gone, just like the ramifications of past wars will never be forgotten, just like the horrible multigenerational trauma caused by residential schools will never go away. It will get better though, we can help it heal. Sexism has been under-represented for a very long time. I think that for sexism to heal, for it to be a problem that only comes up every so often and is not so common, we need to educate the people around us and of course ourselves. If people understand the problem then they can better treat it. So, how do we better understand it? Well here’s how I see it…

  • Listen to all points of view and really LISTEN, be open to others experiences, they are all valid.
  • Look at it in history and look at it very closely to notice the similarities and differences.
  • Take a second, think critically, pick it apart, question it, step back, look at a different angle.
  • Once you’ve created this understanding then take action. What can you do to help?
  • Always be curious, a new version of sexism pops up everyday, notice it, identify it and LISTEN.

5 – What would you do if you heard someone in the street making very sexist comments?
I am a 14 year old girl so if i’m being completely truthful than probably nothing. Standing up for yourself and others is hard. It’s a risk, it’s putting yourself in danger and hoping you make it out ok. It really depends on the situation specifically. If I could I would definitely say something. For example in my class, I tell people when they’ve crossed the line in their “jokes”, but I might not be as brave or feel as safe to say something in front of complete strangers who I know nothing about.

6 – Do you think sexism happens even when a country’s leader is a woman?
I think that although the government might enforce policies that could help limit sexism, I honestly think that many countries would be more sexist. They would use the fact that a woman was their leader to try and hide the sexism that would still be taking place. Just like if your leader is a person of colour, it doesn’t erase the fact that there is racism. It might help the governmental policies change, but there’s a lot that still needs to be worked on no matter the gender or ethnicity of your leader.

7 – Which “ism” is worse, sexism or racism, in your opinion?
Being someone who has directly experienced sexism would make my immediate answer be sexism. But two seconds later I will change my mind because “How do I know, when I’m not living it.” When I see police brutality being reported, I feel sad, I feel hopeless, I feel angry, but I do not feel scared for myself of being killed in the street for getting into my car. Because of my human experience, sexism would be worse in my life because I am a target of it. Depending on your human experience that could be reversed, you could experience both or none (if you’re lucky) or you could experience something completely different and think that what I’m saying is crap. But no matter what each of these issues are valid and real and we all experience them in different ways so I would say that neither is worse, neither is better. Neither is good. But they are all part of our human experience and they are all something that we need to fight together.

8 – Does making little girls wear dresses and like the colour pink create sexism?
I don’t think that this is a HUGE issue but I do think that it does contribute especially if they are forced to wear dresses or pink just because they are girls, for me when I was younger I loved dresses, the color pink, princesses and barbies, the stereotypical girl stuff. But now I couldn’t be any more different, I loathe dresses because they never fit right and pink is ok but I’d much rather wear blue. I think that everyone has a different experience but clothing is a way of expressing ourselves and it shouldn’t have gender.

9 – Which countries do you think have made great progress in addressing sexism?
I would say that many first world countries like Canada, U.S, etc., are working on it in some way but it is still very widely spread across the world and we have to keep in mind that sexism is discrimination against gender, not girls, gender. While many countries may be taking leaps in the women’s rights department, countries have been ignoring other types of sexism for a very long time. Transphobia, toxic masculinity, and so many more. This is only in first world countries, in some countries women still can’t go to school, being trans is illegal and anything but tough and masculine is frowned upon. I think that we still have a long way to go in terms of addressing sexism in governments and in countries around the world.

10 – Should the problems surrounding sexism be addressed at an early age in schools?
I think yes. Knowledge is power, the more you know the better you can help others; therefore, the better you can understand the world around you. If sexism was addressed early on then I think that many people would be less sexist and less transphobic, kids would know that everyone has rights. If the kids that had told me that girls couldn’t play sports had been educated, who knows maybe they would have supported me, on their teams. I’m not saying that this is the solution to all of our problems but it could help. If we teach kids at an early age that if you’re a girl you have to look and dress this way and that if you’re a boy you have to look and dress another way, sexism will never be stopped. We need kids to know that they are people and that they have the right to be whoever they want.

11 – How would the world be different without sexism?
The world would be free. How you were born wouldn’t affect what you could do in life. Men could wear dresses freely without being thought of as weird or wrong. Trans people would be treated like they had always been the gender they are now. Women wouldn’t have to carry their keys between their knuckles and worry about being raped. The world would be more peaceful and serene. We would constantly have to be fighting for rights that should have been there in the first place. The world would be more united, gender wouldn’t matter, teams would be based on skill, and genders wouldn’t come into play when applying for a job. We would of course still have problems because the world would be nothing without something to solve, but we would be able to tackle them more wholeheartedly because we would have checked one off the list.

More interesting facts about Maya:

What is your favourite academic subject? P.E. I love exercising and playing sports, as well as minor games. I think for me it’s just a way to forget about everything and focus on the game. Fitness is a big part of my identity.

What is your dream career? I’m really not sure right now but I love creative writing so maybe an author, I also love music and desingning things. I want to do something meaningful for sure and to make sure that I’m passionate about what I’m doing.

What is your favourite book? Picking a favorite book is so hard because I love so many… It would probably be “Salt to the sea” By Ruta Sepetys. I really recommend reading it. It’s phenomenal.

What is your favorite hobby? I have so many hobbies. Like I said I really enjoy sports, music, and writing. One of my favourite things is just to dance alone in my room, get lost in the music and laugh at how bad I am at it. In the summer I love swimming and spending my days at the beach. Reading a good book or watching Netflix is really fun too. My family and I go on lots of hikes as well. I’m very much a people person so I love hanging out with my friends and family.

What are some of your favourite places to visit? I love visiting the sunshine coast and hiking the trails there. I also enjoy visiting my family in Quebec. One of my big goals in life is to travel the world, there are so many places I want to see!

What is your favourite quote? You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I’m a basketball player, what can I say!

About our « Out Of The Classroom » series: Here at Mind Growth Education, we are committed to providing all children/teens with the opportunity to learn locally but think globally in many different ways. We are giving the opportunity for middle and secondary school students to show what they’re thinking about and learning by writing blog articles which will be published on our platform. Want to be a part of the « Out Of The Classroom » team, please email Isabelle at info@mindgrowtheducation.com to find out more about this opportunity. This is for students from ages 10-18 years and a parental consent form will need to be completed.