12 October 2013

Everyday sexism - by women

I read the text and I was shocked. It was an open resignation letter by a primary school teacher (in Dutch). She complained that nowadays, the government tries to micro-manage school teachers, and stifles the children in its way. Read it (if you understand Dutch); the author says it better then I could, and frankly, I know bugger all about the ins and outs of primary education in the Netherlands. So why was I shocked? 

Somewhere in the text she refers to a "collegaatje" of hers; a "little colleague". She means a female colleague; that's a common thing in the Netherlands. I never liked the word in this meaning, but I think the fact it hit me straight in the face had something to do with having lived abroad for the past six years. A diminutive to indicate a female! And I trust the woman who wrote this is not a misogynist, and has just seen it used so much as to lose track of what it implies. But, or maybe therefore, I think it shows there's still a lot of everyday sexism around; so much many of us don't see it anymore. A man is a colleague, a woman is a little colleague.

Is this feminist drivel? No. When, as the Guardian put it recently (although I am afraid I didn't keep the cutting; I hope you'll all just believe me), it is "glaringly obvious that any woman who speaks out in public can expect a torrent of sexually explicit abuse hurled at her through social media" (approximate quote) it's clear something needs to change. When a man gets a lenient sentence for raping a 13 year old girl because she was "sexually predatory" (although this has been righted; I do assume, however, that the damage to the girl is done) clearly we have no equal rights. When a man winning Wimbledon, irrespective of his looks, is hailed as a sports hero, but a woman who does is probably forgotten (remember the "Murray first Brit in 77 years" debacle) or only hailed if she looks like a supermodel (remember the Marion Bartoli debacle). And I think using a diminutive to indicate a woman isn't helping. These little colleagues, they'd better know their place, and make sure they look good for the eyes of any male who happens to be within sight, and not pipe up! Leave that to the colleagues...

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