By Holly Russel, Regular ContributorAugust 16, 2015
Last week I caught the last few minutes of an interview with Meryl Streep on TV and almost spat out my coffee when I heard the interview ask her if she was bad at parallel parking.
Bemused, I took to Facebook to express my frustration that one of the most celebrated actors of all time had to answer such a stupid, sexist question.
But just as I hovered over the post button, I stopped. Was it too much? Would people be annoyed at what I had to say? Would I come off as some hard-nosed, self-righteous feminist? Had I tempered my frustration with enough humor so as not to alienate anyone?
image via theguardian.com
Here’s what I posted. I figured maybe it would make some people uncomfortable, but I was speaking my truth:
So Gayle King is interviewing Meryl Streep on CBS This Morning and what does she ask the woman who has more Academy Award nominations than any actor or actress in history, whose alma maters include Vassar, Dartmouth, and Yale? She asks her if she can parallel park. Gee Gayle, why don't you just ask her if she's bad at math and what her favorite kind of sandwich to make her husband is.
Then a funny thing happened: people started liking the post and commenting in agreement. Well, at least my female friends did. My male friends – and only my male friends – wrote things like this:
Who really cares as long as the sandwich comes with a beer?
What's all this about sandwiches now?
I like a good turkey with mayo.
To be fair, what does her acting and education say about her driving abilities?
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was honestly kind of dumbfounded. Is this really where we are? Still? I told myself they’re “joking.” I should lighten up. Maybe they’re being ironic??? But I couldn’t shake the gnawing disappointment that only the guys were making sexist commentary, while the women I am friends with largely identified with my frustration.
I know these men, and I know that they are genuinely good people who treat their wives, daughters, and female friends with respect. If asked whether they think women are just as intelligent and competent as men, I am pretty sure every last one of them would say yes. So why couldn’t they resist the urge to jump on my post and dump on it? Why not respond with words of solidarity?
I don’t have the answers, but I find it incredibly disheartening that a woman standing up and speaking out about sexism can still be eviscerated with a simple “joke.”
See, you can’t get offended at a joke – jokes are funny. They don’t really mean it. Except……the end result is still the same. They’ve reduced a woman’s value to a sandwich maker. They’ve ridiculed a friend for speaking her mind. They’re perpetuating an incredibly damaging gender dynamic – all for the sake of a joke. Can someone please tell me why I should be laughing?
Have you ever experienced something like this on Facebook? Do the men in your life still joke about feminism? How can we discourage this? Tell us below!
Holly Russel has a BA in Journalism from New York University. She’s a Senior Marketing Copywriter for a pet health company and counts dogs among her favorite things on the planet – along with tacos, books, social media, and the City of New York. When she makes it out from behind the computer screen, Holly spends her time practicing yoga, kayaking, and indoor cycling. She lives and writes in Wilmington, NC.
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