I smiled as sweetly as I could at the doorman who ushered my high-heeled friends and me in before clicking the velvet rope back into place in front of the 200-deep line that had formed at the entrance of the Las Vegas club. As I looked back at the line of mostly men who were waiting to shell out close to $100 in cover charges alone, I started to feel kind of guilty. Was it hypocritical of me as a feminist, I wondered, to advocate equality on the one hand and yet take advantage of this sort of positive discrimination on the other?
The answer, I fear, is yes. And yet, given the amount of discrimination and harassment that I’m subject to on a daily basis, I somehow feel like I should be entitled to take the perks where they come without feeling too guilty about it. And anyway, my taking a stance on minutiae like this would do nothing to advance the feminist movement as a whole, and the only real result of insisting on paying my way into this club would be that I’d be out 100 bucks. Right?
No one (save an angelic few, who I swear must be carrying out their sins in secret) manages to live fully in accordance with his or her philosophical beliefs. But can I really be happy with myself if I take advantage of sexism when it favors me while and protest it when it favors others? If I truly believed that individuals who are sometimes discriminated against should be permitted to benefit from the occasional positive discrimination, then I shouldn’t be outraged when I see men taking the upper hand that society often deals them. So maybe I can’t afford to pay 100 bucks to get into a club, but if I can’t “afford” to be treated equally should I not be boycotting the clubs with sexist policies altogether? Should not we all be doing that?
This sort of issue comes up time and time again; a first date always offers to pay for dinner, I never have to carry anything heavy upstairs if I don’t want to, we got first place in the Titanic’s lifeboats … This ambivalent look at sexism has been undertaken by sociologists in order to better understand how gender-based prejudice works in sometimes hostile, and other times benevolent, ways. But I would give up having the door held for me in a heartbeat if it meant my opportunities were no longer stunted because people couldn’t see me as a human being.
Of course, we could just attack the major sexist policies in society and, until sexism itself is abolished, continue living our lives with all the advantages that are offered to us, however unfair they may be. Unfortunately, there are very few boldly stated sexist policies; sexism is far more subtle and pervasive than that. And it is our sanctioning of these individually sexist stances that is keeping sexism in society. When it comes down to it, if we want to demand equality, then we have to demand it at all times, not just when it benefits us. It’s a struggle, and those sacrificing their comfort today may never see its reward. However, as Percy Shelley pointed out back in 1819, some of us need to be “heroes of unwritten stories” if we ever hope to see society rewritten.
I mean think about it: if we all paid our fair share to get into the clubs in Vegas, then eventually they would drop cover to 50 dollars! Right?
Naomi Rea swears she’ll start the revolution next time she’s in Vegas … but right now this guy’s buying drinks so…