Sexism, carnivorous plants, and cycling

I sometimes have problems spotting the more subtle forms of sexism. I’m not sure if this is because I’m a woman and I just don’t notice, or if it’s for some other reason. Fortunately I’m married to a feminist so I’m unlikely to be taken advantage of for being so naive about this.

What constitutes sexism? There are some obvious examples like paying women less for equal work, employing a man over a woman simply because he’s a man, assuming inferior intellect in a woman because of her sex. But there are other more subtle examples like complimenting a woman on the way she looks; is this sexist? What if it’s an insult rather than a compliment? And if this is sexist, is it equally sexist to compliment or insult a man on his appearance? I’m not suggesting it’s a good thing to make disparaging remarks about someone’s appearance, but does it constitute sexism?

If it is acceptable to make complimentary remarks about someone’s appearance, and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be told they’re attractive, then where is the line drawn? I used to run in the early evenings in Auckland when it was still light, and sometimes men in cars would drive past and call out. I believe this is called cat calling and I’ve heard it said that this is sexist. Why is it sexist? I couldn’t usually hear what they were saying as I listen to music when I run, but I never viewed it as sexist. They might have been calling out “Hey ugly fat arse” for all I know. There was just one occasion when it bothered me. On this occasion, the car had four young men in it all hanging out of windows and calling out. That was ok except that the same car drove past a second time. I got a bit worried then about what might happen but fortunately nothing did. So for this reason alone, I can see that cat calling is not such a good idea if it makes someone feel nervous and vulnerable and this is regardless of their sex. But is it still sexist? If it is, then when is it ok to find someone of the opposite sex attractive? Is this something we should only tell our partners once they have become our partners? It all seems rather complicated.

On other matters, I bought Daniel a Venus Fly Trap as I’m a keen gardener and I want the kids to have an interest in plants as well. They got a plant each and Daniel chose the carnivorous one. Typical. But I’m at a loss as to how to feed the thing. Apparently it only likes living creatures and each time we try to catch a fly to feed to it the fly inadvertently dies first. We tried instead to feed it a worm we found in the backyard but the worm crawled out of its jaws at a snail’s pace and nothing happened. Talk about a fussy eater! The plant is worse than the kids.

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I’ve also made some progress on the hills with Busby and my heavy load of two children. We don’t plan to buy a car here so Busby is our SUV. Lots of cars slowed down to gawp. No, they weren’t looking at me (unless they were worried I was near to cardiac arrest as it was very exhausting, let me tell you), they were looking at my bicycle which must be one of a kind for Aberdeen. A man drove past on his motorcycle at one point and spent so long looking back at the bike that I thought he might careen off into a parked car. Fortunately he didn’t πŸ™‚