I'm part of the liberated female generation. Our mothers and grandmothers campaigned and worked and argued so that we could get ahead in the world of men. More of us are at university than men. We consistently get higher grades than them. We can, as both male and female commentators have put it, 'have it all'. So who cares if, as Molly McGreevy blogged this week, some men/boys make a few jokes at our expense? Surely our independence has made us strong enough to take it? Hell, we can't complain, we do it ourselves.
At this stage I must confess that I have a secret weapon when it comes to comparing my own views to those of a 20-year-old boy; I am, as the title of this blog suggests, a twin. Said twin, named Dom, is intelligent, athletic and sociable. We were raised by our mother in a house where Dom was surrounded by girls until we were 13. We do almost exactly the same degree at similar universities. Dom worries (a lot, I've picked up the frustrated phone calls) about his girlfriend walking home from nights out alone. He respects women and pointed out a strong example of cultural sexism; the stigma of male nurses, represented perfectly by Ben Stiller in Meet The Parents.
Yet Dom still makes jokes about 'destroying' celebrities he thinks are fit. More importantly, he raised the same question that Molly did in her article: "If women are happy living with it, or even unaware of it, is this sort of culture such a big deal?"
It is a big deal.
It's a big deal because boys like Dom don't hate women. It's a big deal because misogyny has become 'just a joke'. It's a big deal because while someone like Dom would never make a joke about lynching a black person, many wouldn't think twice about making a joke about rape. It's a big deal because the perception that women are now equal in the workplace has caused cultural misogyny to flourish. And for all those girls reading this and shaking their heads, think of the last time you disparagingly or jokingly said "I'm such a girl" - sexism is so normal we don't even realise we're participating in it.
It's the fact that misogyny in our generation is this normal that makes it so scary. All of our culture links to it in some way; from the porn industry making sexual gratification such a justifiable motivation for actions to the fashion and celebrity industries encouraging a currency of appearance. Both industries are run by men. Both industries use women as the tool for conveying their message. The reason so many young women participate in lad culture and thinks that it is 'just the way the world is'? The cultural messages they are presented with affirm the dominance of the male opinion almost from birth.
As a result of this, girls today seek validation from men. And this approval is available much more widely than it was before, where marriage was pretty much the only way of achieving it. From half naked pictures on Instagram to simply joining in the derogatory banter of the 'lads' around them, girls now appear to have little pride and even less self-confidence. The worst thing? They don't even know why. They're certainly not engaging in this behaviour as liberated and independent women though.
Scarier still is that this form of sexism is near universally unrecognised. I made the comparison between lynching and rape jokes - why is it that other groups that have suffered discrimination are now largely off limits to culturally oppressive tactics and yet the most universally oppressed group, women, are fair game? Our gendered culture does not just affect women either. Any man that does not conform to stereotype, whether it be a 'lad' for twenty-something men or the dominant male for older men, is equally subject to ridicule and criticism, like the guy who cooks dinner and when his girlfriend gets praised does not correct his guests. Sexism, in its most simple form, restricts our individual freedom to act how we want without interruption.
If you're unconvinced, I leave you with one last plea. Spend just five minutes looking through the everyday sexism project. Ask yourself why women who have children and a job 'have it all' when for men this is normal. Ask yourself why women are expected to wear make up in most work places. Ask yourself why 'being such a girl' is considered an insult. Ask yourself why a man who takes his kids out 'deserves a medal'. And then ask yourself whether you still think that sexism (and lad culture) isn't a 'big deal'.