MOXIE! In a World of Sexist Microaggressions
A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my recommended watchlist on Netflix, and I came across a new movie titled Moxie. A brief trailer revealed one girl’s journey from a shy bystander to a bold feminist who sought to reveal the sexist policies and behavior present in her high school. The story was impactful as it touched on themes like sexual violence, gender bias, and the effect that sexism can have on teenage girls.
I attend an all-girls private high school, and one thing that has always struck me during my time there is the fact that I still see instances of sexism, despite the lack of boys on campus. While watching the movie, I instantly resonated as the students fought with teachers and administration over their dress code policy and the double standard they perceive. At my school, leggings, tank tops, and other so-called “provocative” clothing are not allowed on casual dress days even though there aren’t any male students to be distracted by what we’re wearing. I have also noticed that while our girls cross country team is told to not remove their shirts when completing a difficult workout on warm days, it’s rare to see the team at our all-male counterpart school with shirts on.
Each of these instances of sexist treatment has come to remind me that no matter what environment women are placed in, sexist microaggressions are present at every turn—from sports to product advertising and various instances in between.
One of the most common examples is the way products are gendered and advertised in many stores. When you walk into a sporting goods store, you can find the standard equipment marketed towards boys and then the “girls” equipment. In stores like Target, the office supply section reveals a similar phenomenon with pens and in the hygiene section with razors and soaps. Many people would argue that marketing products towards a specific gender doesn’t pose an issue, but when you realize the “women's” or “girl’s” products are often sold for a higher price, the inequality becomes increasingly apparent. Of course, no one is telling women they must purchase the more feminine products, but oftentimes advertisements mask the fact that the products are the same by using trigger words and exaggerated product descriptions thus making women feel like they are missing out on a special feature by choosing the more masculine packaged one.
An article from The Guardian in 2016 reveals that these marked-up prices often result in women spending 37% more than men will on the same product. There is no reason women should be forced to spend more, and as pointed out by the article, when you combine this factor with the gender pay gap and the tampon tax, many women are put at a severe financial disadvantage. Even if you set the financial disparity aside, there are other ways in which advertising exemplifies sexism. While some products are marketed to either men or women, many feature a default or “regular” version, and then the “women’s” version. As aforementioned, these products are often the same minus a few cosmetic differences.
This tendency to make the male version of a product the standard is harmful to the way society views women in that it creates a clear sense of inequality. There are obvious differences between males and females, but the fact that being male is considered the default in the consumer world and women are considered “other” perpetuates this sense of inequality. A similar phenomenon can be seen in the sports world. In golf, the men play on the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) tour, while women play on the Ladies’ Professional Golfers Association (LPGA) tour. This subtle difference in wording creates a divide between a professional golfer, and a female professional golfer. You can see the same in soccer with the World Cup and the Women’s World Cup, and basketball with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
It goes beyond the unequal labeling though. There is a clear difference between the way these various leagues are treated in sports, and it came to light during the NCAA March Madness tournament this last March. A shocking post on Instagram revealed that while the Men’s team received a state of the art weight facility to train at while in the tournament bubble, the women received one single rack of handheld weights. Comparisons were even made between the food provided to the players of different genders, not to mention the difference in tv coverage.
Even when the argument is made that the women bring in less revenue, you have to ask whether they were ever given a chance to thrive and create a following for themselves. It’s hard for me to believe that the many young, female athletes, especially in the United States, have no desire to watch women play either professionally or at the college level. It truly comes back to advertising and how things are branded. Again, much of the gender-neutral branding in the Match Madness tournament refers to the men’s bracket, creating this illusion that there is only one tournament occurring, and successfully sweeping the women’s tournament under the rug.
What’s so frustrating about these instances of sexism is that they aren’t always obvious. Having a pink tee-ball set could be seen as more gender inclusive, encouraging and acknowledging that young girls play tee-ball. When you compare that tee-ball set to the standard version marketed towards boys though, you realize that it’s probably more expensive and perpetuates a gender stereotype that girls like pink. The same goes for sports leagues. The name LPGA or WNBA for a women’s sports league presents no obvious instance of sexism, but when you compare it to those of the men’s leagues, the difference comes to light.
This characteristic of seemingly meaningless or minute differences exemplifying the sexist tendencies of our current world is what helps to classify these actions as microaggressions. Once these microaggressions are recognized the question becomes “what can we do about it?”
It starts with education and not being afraid to call people out. In the case of the NCAA March Madness tournament, one woman made the comparison, and wasn’t afraid to share that with the world. Social media has become a powerful platform for activists and there are many resources and information available through apps like Instagram. Posts on social media apps help shine a light on these microaggressions and help to raise awareness and a sense of understanding.
That’s why movies like Moxie are so important and relevant for us today. When you see a movie addressing the same issues you witness every day, in a way it validates your experience and gives one a sense that they’re not alone. Microaggressions are challenging because they’re not always blatant, so it takes women coming together and sharing their stories to create an environment where these actions will be called out and then further fought to be addressed. Moxie depicts this experience powerfully, ultimately reminding all women that the fight for equal rights is not over--not in schools, sports, or stores, and if we come together, we have the power to do something about it.
The Guardian Sexist Surcharge Article:
NBC March Madness Article:
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