Why is racism worse that sexism?

(116 Posts)
BuffytheElfSquisher Thu 12-Dec-13 13:23:53

Just that really. Prompted by the first of what I imagine will be several Christmas cards addressed to Mr & Mrs DH initial surname.

It would be unacceptable to use a "traditional" form of address that reminded a non-white person of their historical status as lesser, wouldn't it? So why is this still OK?

ellipsis Thu 12-Dec-13 13:27:21

I don't know, but I got my first of the year yesterday. I don't even have DH's surname. Harrumph.

Ullapull Thu 12-Dec-13 13:34:12

Why is racism worse than sexism is such a white person's question. Let's not play discrimination olympics eh.

Keepithidden Thu 12-Dec-13 14:07:50

Any discrimination should be viewed as abhorent and incompatible with a civilised world, so in that sense neither are worse.

However, sexism does seem to be more culturally and socially acceptable than racisim. I suppose there's also the overarching sexism element. That is, it occurs globally and in parallel to racism.

PenguinsDontEatStollen Thu 12-Dec-13 14:26:26

I don't think racism is worse than sexism. Or vice versa. I also think that white people (myself included) are probably repeatedly guilty of the thing often complained about on here about men and sexism- not seeing the continuing problems and thinking that racism is mostly something from the past.

I do think that neither should be culturally acceptable and it should be equally valid to challenge either and not get brushed off with 'it's just traditional'.

ellipsis Thu 12-Dec-13 14:37:41

OP isn't saying racism is worse than sexism. She is using the question to highlight the ludicrous 'tradition' of dismissing a woman's identity in formal address, by proposing an equivalent for a different group of people.

Nobody is suggesting that racism is a thing of the past, just pointing out the insidious nature of a particular form of sexism. And there are many insidious aspects of racism as well, but this is about the question of 'Mr and Mrs DH initial surname'.

BuffytheElfSquisher Thu 12-Dec-13 14:43:16

No attempt to play discrimination olympics here. It's possible that my perception that racism is more socially unacceptable than sexism is due to the fact that I am a white women. That's why I wanted to discuss it.

using the question to highlight the ludicrous 'tradition' of dismissing a woman's identity in formal address

I know I have white privilege and try to be aware of it (recognising that I can't and won't recognise every instance of it's manifestation but being keen to listen and learn).

I am simply wondering whether a form of address that would remind a non-white person of their historical status as lesser (as chattel) would be dismissed with "calm down dear, it's just tradition".

Maybe it would? If so Ullapull please enlighten me.

BasilCranberrySauceEater Thu 12-Dec-13 14:43:41

"Oppression Olympics" is a silencing term.

My take is that the reason racism is considered worse than sexism, is because it attacks men, not "just the women".

I think it's long and complex and I'm busy trying to clean my house, but my take is that sexism is a much older hatred than racism and has been around more or less since the invention of property. Whereas racism has shallower roots - it was invented in order to justify the cruellest slave system in all of recorded history (there is simply no record of it existing before then, it's well known that Africans had commanding positions in Roman armies and lived as noblemen in Roman Britain etc. Even during the crusades, there was no concept of Arabs etc, being somehow inferior to Europeans - the Chanson de Roland, Willehalm etc., show Muslim Arabs as being equal foes with the same honour codes etc. as the Christians). Seeing as how the capitalist system no longer has that form of slavery as an intrinsic part of its functioning, it no longer needs the ideology that underpinned and justified it. So racism can be dumped, at least theoretically (of course it hasn't been dumped in practice).

Whereas sexism was invented long before capitalism, feudalism etc. and will probably endure long after it, simply because to some extent nearly every single socio-economic system has depended on women being considered lesser beings than men, as an intrinsic, essential part of the system and women's free or cheap labour is essential to keep the system going. So sexism still serves a useful purpose in keeping our social, political and economic system going. Sorry off to do vacuuming. smile

PenguinsDontEatStollen Thu 12-Dec-13 14:50:53

Buffy, I am not sure about forms of address. But the point I was trying to make (possibly rather badly as it seems to have been misunderstood by the following post, unless we cross posted) is that there probably are lots of points in life where, as a white person I don't 'see' an issue, but someone of another race would perceive one because of their deeper perspective on the issue.

Just as a man would often just perceive the surface irritation of someone continually getting your name wrong, not the inherent sexism in that.

I am not sure I can think of an easy equivalent to this type of sexism to compare how much more or less socially acceptable it would be. The only naff thing I can come up with was that recent thread where lots of people defended golly toys because they were just a harmless tradition and had nothing to do with black people.

BuffytheElfSquisher Thu 12-Dec-13 15:46:37

Sorry Penguins I sort of ignored you fblush. I read your post and agreed with it, but was keen to respond to the accusation of oppression olympics.

PenguinsDontEatStollen Thu 12-Dec-13 15:49:20

Sorry Buffy, I didn't mean you'd misunderstood me. I meant the immediate next post after mine. or we might just have cross posted with similar language. Am never sure when I just making my point really badlygrin

PenguinsDontEatStollen Thu 12-Dec-13 16:04:21

I have been thinking about this on the school run. I think one of the issues with sexism is that so much of it is to do with our most intimate relationships and the choice we make about how we live our lives.

So with sexism you get a lot of people who are in a very 'traditional' set up who defend that arrangement as working for them and don't see that what is being attacked is the assumptions and the cultural pressures and not the arrangement. In this situation, for example, any discussion on names always has some people popping up saying "well I like being Mrs Smith". Missing the point that it isn't about whether someone has chosen to change their name or not, but respecting their choice. (I'm actually Mrs Stollen, or Ms Stollen, not Ms Maidenname, in the interests of full disclosure).

This tends to side track discussions on issues of 'minor' sexism (as opposed to systemic stuff like equal pay) into discussions about choice and personal freedom. That means that there is far less of a coherent voice from women saying "This is not ok" than there is from certain racial groups on racism.

That cuts both ways. I have heard Muslim friends furious about the fact that the press expects 'the Muslim community' to comment on something as if they were a homogenous group with one set of views.

Am I making any sense at all, that's all a bit half formed....

JoTheHot Thu 12-Dec-13 18:13:16

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

grimbletart Thu 12-Dec-13 18:38:40

Mr & Mrs DH initial surname is not a form of address that reminds women of their historical status as lesser

OK Jo. So what is it then? And why is not Mrs and Mr DW initial surname?

I say that as someone who personally couldn't give a flying wotsit how I am addressed by the way - but I am interested in why we do what we do.

Backonthefence Thu 12-Dec-13 19:18:58

Probably because the gap between men and women both historically and now has not been a straight divide in comparison to racism.

AskBasil Thu 12-Dec-13 19:30:12

Arf. If you want me to explain things to you JoTheHot, you only need to ask.

grin

AskBasil Thu 12-Dec-13 19:31:47

You didn't actually understand my answer did you?

To be clear, I was making the point that it attacks men as well as women. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

BuffytheElfSquisher Thu 12-Dec-13 19:39:31

Mr & Mrs DH initial surname is not a form of address that reminds women of their historical status as lessors.

Is that so? Because you say so?

Pepperandhotmilk Thu 12-Dec-13 21:14:21

Basil is right. Racism affects men and that is one important reason why it is a bigger deal.

Men do not want to give up their privilege, therefore many of them minimalise sexism, often to the extent of protesting that THEY indeed have it worse and are the TRUE victims of sexism (arf). And because men hold much of the power, they often succeed in convincing people.

My DF always sends cards to Mr & Mrs Husband's first name and surname.
I have told him repeatedly that I am Ms Sunshine SuperNova and he ignores it every time. He has a 'traditional' view of marriage, i.e. whereby I would ditch my name and take my husband's.

Every Xmas I grind my teeth a little. Because it reminds me that, as far as people like my dad are concerned, I am owned by my husband, and that he occupies a higher status than I do socially. Otherwise, why change my name and not his?

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Thu 12-Dec-13 21:41:32

"Mr & Mrs DH initial surname is not a form of address that reminds women of their historical status as lessors."
What an absurd statement. Of course it is. What other meaning could it possibly have?
I think it is pretty clear that sexism has a level of social acceptability that racism now thankfully does not. Look at the rape "jokes" told by mainstream comedians - we do not hear equivalent attempts at humour in relation to violent acts carried out against ethnic minorities. or look at the way the mainstream media rushes to embrace stories about dubious research which supposedly proves neurological/intellectual differences between men and women - they would run a mile from supportive remarks about studies that purported to establish such differences between racial groups (though such studies do exist).

SconeRhymesWithGone Thu 12-Dec-13 21:45:10

Because it reminds me that, as far as people like my dad are concerned, I am owned by my husband

Yes, indeed. The societal expectation that a woman will change her name is a vestige of the common law doctrine of coverture, whereby a woman's legal existence was entirely subsumed in her husband's when she married. I support women making their own choices in this regard, but for me that particular fact makes the symbolism pretty powerful. It also makes me correct people (DH's family mostly) who do not honor my wishes, in spite of the fact that we have been married for 30 years and I have never used his name.

Norudeshitrequired Thu 12-Dec-13 21:47:35

If you don't want the cards addressed to mr and mrs surname then surely you shouldn't take your husbands name when you get married - he had the name first so he comes first on the card.
Children usually come last on the card because they came along last; the order is usually husband (had name first) wife (had name next) children (had name last).
When my friends (not mutual friends) send Xmas cards they usually write them : no rude shit, no rude shits husband and family. Nothing sexist about Xmas card rules, just common sense ordering.

Racism on the other hand is more significant due to slavery, the holocaust, apartheid etc etc.

Norudeshitrequired Thu 12-Dec-13 21:52:12

On another point though - do the majority of people still write mr and mrs surname on Xmas cards?
My friends tend to write first names; my friends write me, husband and family, husband friends write husband, me and family.
Poor children don't even get a mention by name quite often.
Perhaps society is childrenist rather than sexist grin, please give the children a name.

AskBasilAboutCranberrySauce Thu 12-Dec-13 21:52:54

Yes, they can see black men as human beings and be outraged on their behalf when they experience discrimination.

And importantly, they would never consciously, deliberately, actively discriminate against black men (or black women) themselves. They believe it to be morally wrong, unethical, low-level scum behaviour. Because to discriminate against someone on the basis of their race is not only immoral, it's stupid too, the idea that there is something essentially, biologically different about people with black skin and people with white skin (as they used to claim), is well and truly finished among sane people.

Whereas sexism is something for which even scientists still try and desperately find justification. Note the continuing neuro-sexism that distorts research into the brain because of the biases introduced by sexist assumptions; note the eager seizing by journalists on another bit of dodgy "proof" that male and female brains are different and therefore that means naycher and it's OK that the glass ceiling's still there, not immoral like only mad feminists tell us it is.

In their personal lives, (work life is different) most reasonable decent men, don't have a motive to draw upon the privilege that being white gives them, against black men and women. But they have a massive motive to delve into the privilege that being a man gives them against women. They can come back home and if they do 30% of the housework they'll be estimated to do 40% of it and be considered a pretty good husband, they can do 25% of the childcare and be deemed an outstandingly fantastic father while she is only a bog standard mother when she does 75% of it, when Christmas comes along he can play mine host while she does most of the work, and he'll receive the same amount of praise and credit that she will, etc. It's hard to give up that level of comfort. Especially when society is telling you that there's no reason why you should, because you're entitled to it, because naycher.

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