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?

AskBasilAboutCranberrySauce Thu 12-Dec-13 21:56:19

Oops sorry that cross posted with about 6 other posts, was responding to Pepperandhotmilk.

Norudeshit, if I don't write the kids' names on the cards, it's because I don't remember them. Have just got a card with the names of three kids and I can't work out what one of them is called (haven't seen her since her second one was born) so I'm going to have to write it exactly the way she did and hope my bluff works. grin

MJxJones Thu 12-Dec-13 21:56:39

The idea that racism didnt exist before slavery makes me laugh. That euro centric view of world history is ridiculous. Also the idea that its not acceptable to use a term of address that reminds people of the prejudice wrecked upon them. Do you understand why so many black people have traditionaly English sounding surnames ? Do you understand why so many polynesian people have surnames which are from the Bible Do you understand why asking why being addressed by your husbands surname isnt as bad as racism is offensive to women who have suffered racism. I agree that all types of prejudice are offensive but the example you are using is hilarious

TheXxed Thu 12-Dec-13 21:58:46

EVERYTHING About this post screams white privilege.

I am going to walk away before I lose my temper.

Norudeshitrequired Thu 12-Dec-13 21:59:49

Where did anyone say that racism didn't exist before slavery? Slavery is one huge incident of terrible racism that will be remembered forever, but that doesn't mean that people don't realise that racism existed before that. Likewise, the holocaust and apartheid are significant events, but not the start of racism confused

Norudeshitrequired Thu 12-Dec-13 22:03:45

See basil society is childrenist, people just can't even remember the poor little children. Forget sexism and racism, I'm now overly concerned about all these little children being the victims of a childrenist society wink.
BTW - I am claiming full copyright over the new phrase 'childrenist'

AskBasilAboutCranberrySauce Thu 12-Dec-13 22:16:14

The racism as we know it, didn't exist.

There has always been xenophobia. There has always been hostility to the "other" and fear of the outsider. But there was not the concept of one group of people being biologically, essentially inferior to white people. That came with the growth of Capitalism and the establishment of the trans-atlantic slave trade. Africans were not considered automatically inferior before that. Given that racism on the basis of skin colour (which is what I'm presuming we're discussing) was a European concept, invented by Europeans in order to justify their exploitation of Africa and later Asia, of course it's Euro-centric. I don't know about any forms of racism based on skin colour which didn't originate in Europe, if people want to discuss that, of course I'm happy to learn. smile

FloraFox Thu 12-Dec-13 22:23:01

I agree with Basil that it's about the fact that men are also affected by racism whereas only women are affected by sexism. Even without looking into how long racism has been an issue, it is quite clear to me that this is the case today, not just among traditional people but also (or even more) among "lefties".

Norudeshitrequired Thu 12-Dec-13 22:27:54

Basil - I think that racism as we know it today did indeed begin with capitalism and the transatlantic slave trade, but the true origins of racism go beyond that. Before capitalism and the African slave trade people were ousted from tribes due to not being of the same appearance of the other tribe members. Part of the reason that there was a lot of inbreeding was to create members of clans that were similar in appearance.
Even today we often (not we as in you and I, but the wider sense) think of racism as being about people of different colours having ideas of superiority, but there is much racism within cultures, similar to that seen before the slave trade.
Different shades of black = a reason to have ideas about superiority / inferiority.

AskBasilAboutCranberrySauce Thu 12-Dec-13 22:32:15

I realise a big gap in my argument (among others I'm sure) is the existence of anti-Semitism and the hatred of gypsies in Europe. (And yes, still being Euro-centric.)

But I don't think anti-Semitism was based on racial hatred, it was based on religious fanaticism and the hostility to Jewish people keeping a distinct, different culture and religion in the face of extreme hostility.

With gypsies, I don't know whether the hatred was based on race or again, the fact that they lived in a different way to the majority populations.

I'm just throwing ideas out here, I'm not saying this is the way it is, so if I'm pissing you off with Eurocentric ideas and lack of historical knowledge, I apologise, I just think it's worth exploring this topic and would welcome being put right by anyone who has better knowledge of this than me.

EBearhug Thu 12-Dec-13 22:33:02

do the majority of people still write mr and mrs surname on Xmas cards?

I usually put "Smith family" or "J & S Smith" And in one case, "Dr & Dr Smith"*. I rarely use titles, as I don't want to use one myself. I just want post that comes to E Bearhug, not Miss/Mrs/Ms Bearhug.

* Not actually Smith.

AskBasilAboutCranberrySauce Thu 12-Dec-13 22:42:38

LOL and yes at childrenist.

I feel really bad not being able to remember the children's names, but sometimes people actually put on their cards "from xxx, yyy and kids" which is highly unhelpful. The least they could do is tell me what the kids are called, dammit.

I saw this great meme on FB today which said "Honey, when you grow up I want you to be assertive, independent and strong willed. But while you're a child, I want you to be pliable, obedient and passive." Or something like that. grin

BuffytheElfSquisher Fri 13-Dec-13 08:58:16

MJxJones and TheXxed if I've offended you I apologise. Clearly I have, so I do apologise smile

Rather than trying to come up with some kind of global scale for different forms of oppression (which would be pointless and offensive) I was interested in discussing what, in my realm of experience as a white European, seems true: that it's regarded as monstrously socially unacceptable to be even a tiny bit racist, whereas symbols that are really very sexist when you think only a little bit about what they mean are broadly OK.

I know there are worse things in the world than a form of address. But that's what I wanted to discuss: the different symbolisms and their acceptability in the society and culture in which I live. This was a personal musing.

I am however aware of the issues with representation and white, male, Euro-centric understandings of race etc. Because the academics that studied and published on these issues were white, Christian, European men. I do understand the scale and gravity of this problem in epistemological terms: what we know about the social world is mostly racist and sexist and homophobic. Some argue. I think they've got a point.

But again, I'm just talking about me. How these issues affect me and women like me. That should be OK to discuss.

BuffytheElfSquisher Fri 13-Dec-13 09:02:08

Just to be clear, I'm not dismissing the fact that many black women feel that feminism as it stands is a white middle class movement. This is a big problem. Just explaining that this thread, which I started in rather a temper because DH rolled his eyes when I suggested he tell his sister that I hate being addressed this way, has no ambition to change the world, merely to discuss a small issue.

BuffytheElfSquisher Fri 13-Dec-13 09:14:01

OTOH (and following some coffee) maybe I'm being a twat. blush

DoctorTwoTurtleDoves Fri 13-Dec-13 09:49:00

OTOH (and following some coffee) maybe I'm being a twat.

Sorry Buffy, but grin grin grin

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 13-Dec-13 10:18:49

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

I didn't. They still do.

-he had the name first so he comes first on the card.

Who has "the name" first when DH and I form a family?

angry

ChunkyPickle Fri 13-Dec-13 10:35:18

Uptoapoint - I've never heard of this time-based rule for naming cards - I think that's a retro-fit explanation that makes no sense when you actually think about it.

I can't imagine how it would work - especially since if I got married and took DP's name I'd be the last in the family to do so so I should be last on the envelope. Luckily all my friends are far too lazy to send cards, and our families just use our names rather than titles.

Buffy - I don't think you're being a twat, but you have just been possibly silenced by someone being angry because their problems are bigger than yours (and after it was you being accused of oppression olympics).

I think it does need to be talked about that racist bullying in a school is stamped on, but sexist isn't (boys will be boys after all, the girls just have to learn to deal with it). I do think that it matters that women are consistently downgraded once they're married.

I don't think that isms are mutually exclusive, and that just because you're of a privileged group for one ism that means you can't be disadvantaged by another ism.

PenguinsDontEatStollen Fri 13-Dec-13 10:38:31

I agree, the 'had the name first' thing makes no sense.

If that was the case, why do people routinely address a card to, for example Mr Smith & Ms Jones if the couple aren't married? Men come first because, well because men come first. That is the convention, and it dates back to a time when a woman was a man's possession.

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 13-Dec-13 10:48:15

I have not read very widely about racism (being non-white and non-European hmm) but have seen it operate here there and everywhere. I agree that in general, at least in the UK, it is unacceptable. In some other countries it is a fact of daily life. You are defined by your race first - you are entitled to certain things if you are of a certain race, you are deemed to have certain characteristics because you are of a certain race. It does your head in.

A bit like sexism, really.

John Stuart Mill (my favourite philosopher the only philosopher I have ever read) said it's hard to eradicate sexism because every man has a wife he wants to lord over. wink

BuffytheElfSquisher Fri 13-Dec-13 10:58:47

I am a silenced twat then grin

I really didn't intend to set up sexism and racism in competition, I wanted to discuss the relative social acceptability of symbols of sexism and racism in my own culture. My perspective as a white European woman is that symbols of a racist past in the UK = big no no, symbols of a sexist past = it's just tradition, init.

Two exceptions to this that I know of are probably Whiteladies Rd and Black Boy Hill in Bristol. Both named during the slave trade. While I'd support these names being changed if people felt they were an offensive reminder of a racist past, I suspect many would object on the grounds that they're just names now. There are probably many more, and so I am probably wrong in my assumptions thus far.

So perhaps I've disproven my own point and highlighted in myself the privilege of not worrying about racist naming conventions that have become 'just tradition'. Always happy to indulge in some self-reflection and admit fallibility fsmile

Mrs DH initial surname still gives me the collywobbles though

PenguinsDontEatStollen Fri 13-Dec-13 11:05:20

Do you have links to Bristol then Buffy? I'm from there (don't live there now) and remember being shock when the penny dropped what the names meant. I suspect a lot of people would say that they are just names, but even as a white european I find them offensive. I am always amazed how many businesses operate from those roads. If I was a business sending a letter to, I don't know, somewhere the other end of the country, Hull let's say, I would be embarrassed because it must slap you in the face when you haven't grown up with those names as background noise.

I'd be interested if others can think of examples like that, where racism has just passed into being 'ok' and 'tradition', because from my background I suspect I just don't spot them.

Metebelis3 Fri 13-Dec-13 11:13:11

Racism isn't worse than sexism. But it's regarded societally as worse, because it happens to men. And sexism doesn't.

AngelaDaviesHair Fri 13-Dec-13 11:17:04

But there was not the concept of one group of people being biologically, essentially inferior to white people. That came with the growth of Capitalism and the establishment of the trans-atlantic slave trade. Africans were not considered automatically inferior before that.

I disagree. There is a statute of Elizabeth I, for example, requiring repatriation of black Africans because there are too many in London for her liking. The language of the preamble is very unpleasant. Shakespeare is derogatory about the 'tawny Ethiope'. The ideology underpinning the transatlantic slave trade is building on matters that went before.

I would not care about Whiteladies Road and Black Boy Hill. Not that I like them, especially, but I am not in favour of airbrushing history. The reminder of what went before, and of what the wealth of Bristol was built on, is far more important that a momentary unease or annoyance at the names.

Metebelis3 Fri 13-Dec-13 11:25:12

We have a blackboy road where I live now. sad And I grew up fairly near Gypsy Hill (I have Gypsy heritage). And there are numbers references in today's culture to 'tinkers'. sad Of course in this very thread, the assumption that racism is something only experienced by non white non European people is incredibly hmm

My heritage is one which it is still societally acceptable to be racist about, in the UK and in much of Europe. But I still think it's valid to discuss why sexism is more accepted than racism - because it just is, in many many (although obviously not all) areas of life in the UK now.

Metebelis3 Fri 13-Dec-13 11:26:37

numerous not numbers. I'd like to blame autocorrect but it might have been my shoddy typing skills.

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