I Am Not A Babe: Sexism, Women & Careers

“See you later, babe!”

I was recently in a situation where I was frequently interacting with journalists, and, in all seriousness, a man said this to me as he departed the room.

I actually felt shocked. Calling a woman “babe” seems reminiscent of 1950s greyscale detectives smoking cigars, not modern-day 2013. Although the journalist probably meant no harm,  it just made me feel like I was being patronized. Using “babe’ as a nickname might seem innocent, but it just detracts from my identity as an individual. “Babe” often connotes images of infants or children. This just helps perpetuate the stereotype women should be  dependent upon men.

I know this might seem strange, but it has been a while since I have experienced such a blatant form of sexism. I read about it frequently in the news. I  studied it in depth in university. I’ve sometimes felt my opinions weren’t respected in mostly-male working environments.

Yet sometimes I honestly forget that I am a women, in the sense that I  am often perceived as different. Inferior. Less intelligent. Less capable. Too emotional. The list goes on.

The experience made me think about my future career, and how this archaic view towards women might hinder it. Although our North American society has greatly improved, gender gaps in salaries unfortunately still do exist. According to recent Statistics Canada data, a woman, on average, earn 72 cents for every dollar a man earns.

It has been argued that this is because women don’t know how to negotiate for their wages. Yet often when women ask for something like a raise, they are seen as too demanding.  Or that these statistics don’t account for the fact that women apparently often choose to work in lower-paying fields.

However, starting salaries also often have a major discrepancy between wages. As well, even in the same job position, sometimes women still make less money.

I feel comforted slightly since women absolutely dominate my current chosen field, public relations. Selfish, I know.  I can’t imagine one good excuse for this gap, which should be completely unacceptable in 2013. Whether it be with women, visible minorities or other groups, we should be past a time where people are discriminating in their hiring practices.

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No More Normal: Gun Control, Mental Health & Stigma

The NRA’s solution to reducing gun violence? The USA should consider a national database for the mentally ill!

Last Friday, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said, in the response to the Newtown shootings:

“How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?”

In his speech, LaPierre stresses that without a national database, our society won’t know about all the potentially killers hiding in the shadows.

With the latest highly-publicized shooting happening only a few days ago in Rochester, gun control has become a hot topic within our current public discourse.

Putting my personal feelings towards stricter gun control aside,  I want to discuss instead how problematic a “national database of the mentally ill” would be.

LaPierre’s words are disgusting and appalling. His statement treats people suffering from mental illnesses as an “other”. They are framed as a large, homogenous group that “normal” people need to monitor. Reading his words, I honestly feel as if LaPierre sees people with mental illnesses as a lower class of human or even a separate species.

LaPierre is clearly out of touch with reality.

A database would only serve to further stigmatize mental illness in our society. We need to support those living with mental illnesses, not shut them out.

Currently, our society often treats people with mental illnesses as weak, inferior or even like “monsters“.  If the American government imposed a national database, people with mental illnesses might fear judgment or public humiliation. Mental health stigma often results in inequality when seeking employment, housing or educational opportunities.

The database would only serve to inhibit those who have problems from seeking help or getting adequate treatment.

I do feel that background checks are certainly necessary for when purchasing guns. However, not everyone with a mental illness should be considered dangerous.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, only 4 to 5 percent of violent crimes are committed by people with mental illnesses.

Mental illness is extremely common, encompassing a diverse range of disorders. Looking closer to home, approximately one fifth of Canadians suffer from some form of mental illness.

What does pointing out the commonality of mental illness prove? That there is no “normal”.

Most of you probably have multiple family members and friends who suffer from some form of mental illness. They are not monsters. They are regular people, who, with help and support, are able to function and often make significant contributions to society.

Please, let us not disrespect ourselves, our family, our friends and our neighbours, in thinking otherwise.