Racism and sexism are widely discussed, especially in the political times in which we live right now. The first defense of racism is to understand it and recognize it in everyday interactions and actions. The Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Anti-Racism Strategy best describes racism and prejudice thinking (I can't define it better than they did, so I quote them). “Racism can take many forms, such as jokes or comments that cause offense or hurt, sometimes unintentionally; name-calling or verbal abuse; harassment or intimidation, or commentary in the media or online that inflames hostility towards certain groups. At its most serious, racism can result in acts of physical abuse and violence. Racism can directly or indirectly exclude people from accessing services or participating in employment, education, sport and social activities. It can also occur at a systemic or institutional level through policies, conditions or practices that disadvantage certain groups. It often manifests through unconscious bias or prejudice. On a structural level, racism serves to perpetuate inequalities in access to power, resources and opportunities across racial and ethnic groups. The belief that a particular race or ethnicity is inferior or superior to others is sometimes used to justify such inequalities” ("Understanding Racism," n.d.).
Sexism is very similar to racism. It is the thinking and believing that one gender is better than another. It is most often expressed as men are the superior gender. This equates to less pay for the same work, missed opportunities based on gender, being stereotyped because of your gender, and leading to the belief that genders are not equal.
Tip 37. Heterosexism
In addition to sexism, there is also heterosexism. This the belief that a heterosexual person is more superior than a person who identifies as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. You will notice an intersectional link between racism, sexism, and heterosexism (and really all of the ISMs that I mention here). Each one thriving because a person or group of people believe they are superior.
Tip 38. Classism
Classism is related to privilege. We place the wealthy on tall pedestals and then label people who are not as fortunate as lazy and mooching off of society. In reality, because of their situation, they are not offered the same opportunities as others who are more fortunate (or part of a define superior class). We are all born into different circumstances. We do not all have equal access to education, food, health, or employment. With that, it makes it extremely difficult to change one’s opportunities. Recognizing and acknowledging this is similar to understanding your own privilege.
Tip 39. Ableism
Ableism is another form of discrimination. Many people who have a disability are categorized or viewed as not being able to perform the same tasks other people can perform. I understand that is true for some circumstances, but a person without a disability might not be able to do what a person with a disability can. I used to ride the commuter train to work when I lived in Salem, MA. It is there that I met Rob. He also commuted via the train, but he used an electric wheelchair. During the snowstorms, people would tell him what an inspiration he was for still going out each. His response, “I have to pay my bills!” Even though the comment was supposed to have been a compliment, it was actually discrimination because they thought he could only travel outside of his house when weather conditions were perfect. Ableism applies to both people with physical disabilities and with mental disabilities. This where empathy, as I mentioned the previous post, would help understand how Rob lives.
Tip 40. Sizeism
Sizeism is one that really hits home for me. I am a big girl. I always have been.
From personal experience, I am viewed in this society as lazy and one who can’t control her eating. When in reality, I am a very active person. I exercise 4-5 times per week, I hike and bike with my husband almost every weekend, I work full-time, I am writing this thesis and finishing up a Master’s degree, and I started a business on top of everything else. Even while writing this, I feel like I have to explain myself to people. But I don’t. Sizeism isn’t just for fat people (as yes, I am comfortable with the word fat). People who are thin or very thin have to deal with the same comments. My husband has been told that he needs to “put some meat” on his bones before he blows away. People not realizing that he lost a lot of weight and has struggled with what food means to him. Size comments, in general, are hurtful and harmful. I actually wrote an article about this for T.O.F.U. magazine that goes more in depth into how it is harmful to a person’s mental and physical health.
For all of the ISMs - we are all different. We are made up of different races, religions, abilities, sizes, backgrounds, and experiences. But we are all human, and each of us deserves to be respected for who we are as individuals and what we can contribute to this world.