Helvetica Stone

artsy soul in a scientific world

Helvetica Stone

Helvetica Stone
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Helvetica Stone wants art and science to hold hands and look up in wonder at the miracle of existence. See more on my website: http://www.helveticastone.com

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SEPTEMBER 11, 2011 2:06PM

Smart, Sensitive Sexists

Rate: 25 Flag

I am troubled right now about the predominance in my life of smart, sensitive men whose company I otherwise enjoy, but who suddenly spurt out sexist remarks in the middle of pleasant and entertaining conversation.

This happens, for the most part, at social and informal moments in my workplace or community settings, like with my husband and child, at birthday parties or other public outings.  It is worse when I am separated from my husband and child, when I am alone with a man, pulled away from the crowd in conversation, or in a business meeting or lunch. It doesn’t happen much in groups within the workplace, because I think such men are afraid of being caught and sued by behaving that way on the job.

We’ll be going along just fine, talking about photography or literature or gardening or politics or art or work plans, and I will say something about women, and then they will say something about men.  Perhaps this is the answer to my problem:  I must never open the topic of the relative difference or equality of men and women when speaking one-on-one with a man.  Somehow, I shouldn’t acknowledge gender at all.  Maybe it’s safer never to take a one-on-one meeting with a man in the first place. That seems like a terrible shame (and politically, socially, and professionally restrictive), but perhaps, it would make my life easier and make this stupid annoying distracting disillusion simply go away.    

I’m most startled to hear this kind of remark come out of a PhD or a respected artist or a local politician or businessperson.  I like to think that these men are above that, that they see me as an equal, not as an inferior, or worse.  But it’s happened more times than I would like to admit, including the amazingly blatant retort, “men are superior,” which I usually take as some kind of kidding or joke, or a challenge to say more.  Which I usually do, which then makes me only feel icky later, and I think, on occasion, has caused relationships to fail.  Guess I’ve got to learn to let that battle go.

When you’re a relatively educated woman who reads, you get exposed to feminist ideology.  You’ve read about oppressive and discriminatory things in theory.  You’ve considered the evolutionary reasons, and the sociological reasons, and the political reasons for them.  There is a lovely article on Salon right now about the problem of the female orgasm, which is another intellectualization of the battle of the sexes.  Still, it's a shock in this day and age to realize that you’re experiencing this battle in the company of educated, generally otherwise sensitive men. 

You expect this perhaps out of under-educated workers on the street, or men from certain cultures known to value patriarchy.  You don’t expect it from liberal, democratic, affluent (often married) men who should know better how to treat women.  But oddly, when I think of my interactions with stereotypical “macho” men, they have often been respectful.  Oh, maybe a look or a whistle here or there, but I’m insecure enough about my looks to actually appreciate that from time to time.  And then, there is my social-economic status to wedge a distance, too.

It’s when a male colleague or acquaintance whom you respect, whom you thought respected you, says something like, “men and women might be equal, but they should still be separate,” that your heart just sinks and you begin to question how to relate to that person in the future.  And worry if they’re right:  meaning it is hopeless to believe that men and women can ever really get along.  Or when another starts saying “I realize it must be hard for you, because you are a woman,” when you're chastized at work for being too aggressive or don’t get that promotion or you’re feeling excluded from a business decision.  That’s when you just wish you could escape all this gender nonsense and get on with the business of trying to do the right things in life.

But it will never completely go away, because my husband is also one of these men.  I can't just go away from him, I happen to love him.  At least with him, I have a long-term plan for convincing him that difference is good, that men and women and all people regardless of gender, ability, ethnicity, religion, deserve to be treated with respect, as well as rewarded according to their individual merits and efforts.  We are all equal, but we are not all the same.  It’s the inclusion argument that’s so darn hard to achieve in real life.  We all need each other, and we’re all in this together, with all our strengths and our weaknesses.  We don’t have to like each other.  But we do have to try to live together and let others be, as long as they are causing no direct harm to us.  I’m glad to report he’s coming along nicely in his progress.  And so am I — for I myself am far from negative-bias-free.

Anyway, we all have to do our little bit to build joy and contribute towards peace on earth.  None of us should make sexist or racist comments off handedly, even as a joke, or as a means to selfishly try to fit in.  And if we truly believe that these differences somehow make us fundamentally superior to others, we must work towards seeing through that belief.  It just doesn’t help towards the good.

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It's hard to be true and honest, even when we reflect at the words we would use ourselves. Many of the smart, educated women are also sexist- either seeing men as inferior or handicapped with their penises, or against other women who prefer traditional relationships to modern ones. To be feminist does not equal to be sexist, but many mistake the two, from any side of the discussion.
Genderism is not always the same (I had a post on this not too long ago), and like cultural identity, racial identity, religious identity, men and women do seek to have a positive affirmation within their gender group. If we want to see equality among people- men, women, straight, gay, bi, asexual, transgendered- we have to see that desire for positive affinity means also rejecting someone else's identity as better.
There seems to be very little motive (innate, emotional, social) to identify with any group without having the pull of believing it is innately superior. Anyone who joins a men's group that excludes women would be labeled sexist, but anyone who would join a group that excludes men would be seen as building positive social bonds based on commonality- which may include oppression by men based on gender, or may include dislike of men based on experience. Which one is acceptable? They are both sexist.
My impression is that the younger men are less likely to make sexist comments than older men. But until women earn equal pay for equal work, sexist bigotry remains a serious problem.
Oryoki: "we have to see that desire for positive affinity means also rejecting someone else's identity as better. " I think we have to try to challenge that construct. I can like cheese, and you can not, and that does not mean that I'm rejecting you. And it doesn't mean I think I'm better or in any significant objective way better because I'm a cheese liker. It means you and I are different, and isn't that wonderful? The only women's groups I've been a part of include men: and I don't think separate but equal works. Different but equal does.

Hawley: It's hard to know with younger men, because I think they treat older women differently than women their own age. Equal pay is still an issue, I agree.
It's a shame that anyone is made to feel "less than..."
This is a fascinating post on a confounding and repellent phenomenon. I swear to god I do not understand how men of any educational level or any culture can live in this country and not at least fake belief in a rational and natural equality between the sexes. I hear these stories - repeatedly - and feel the same tensing of those muscles involved in fight or flight response. I want to hit somebody (that's the man in me, not the swine). Part of the reason these stories bother me so much is that I don't know people who do this, or perhaps I simply don't associate with them, don't attract them, am not attracted to them. I don't hang out with idiots. Idiots are not supposed to be well-educated. Where am I going with this? I'm not sure, but this is an ongoing source of angst for me, because I understand there is a large cohort of well-educated men out there who may as well have Tourette's syndrome for all the sense and sensitivity they have. They can't even fake it! They don't even believe it's worth faking it.

I am not a fake, but I cannot understand why a man would wear his penis on his sleeve that way. I know they do. You've just confirmed, once again, that a lot of men I don't know (and don't want to know) actually don't give a rat's ass about women. They don't. They can't. They are tantamount to the racial bigots who I also have no truck with, who feel safe in saying things that are not only manifestly not right, but are morally and critically wrong.

Were I in your company and a man said something like the examples you've cited here, I would likely make a scene. I might embarass you. I might embarass the fool. I might make a fool of myself. I won't accept racial or ethnic slurs directed at people (and I am hardly a fan of political correctness - it's not that, it's right vs. wrong) and I won't accept some idiot narcissist saying things like that to a woman in my presence.

(Oh, and by the way, kudos to you for your observation that having different likes and dislikes does not indicate rejection of the whole person. When will we get past that one? I'm still waiting).

Apparently I am a wild one, and that must be the price one pays for equilibrium. I am no Ashley Wilkes. Rated
I didn't really follow your line of reasoning. I assume that you are not talking about harassment but rather comments along the lines of men being superior to women?

If that's it, then we are in the post feminist era. To me, it's just another opinion that has little to do with real life. What if someone is a Republican or has bad taste or some other flaw?

But maybe I'm missing the point.

I've worked with a lot of Republicans and they tend to be nice people. But you have to avoid political discussions.

I don't think I would marry one, though.
Patrick: Yes, but we also can't let these things make us feel "less than." I'm partly at fault by letting the comments get to me.

AJ: I'm getting this image of you as whir of energy romping around to stomp out injustice. I have lots of energy, too, but have trouble using it rightly sometimes. May we focus our wild power and use it wisely.

Nick: I think your Republican analogy is almost apropos. People can change their taste and their politics, can't they? Look at Rick Perry! But I can't change my gender...well, I'm not likely to, anyway, although I understand it can be done. Seriously, this would technically not be "harassment," but what is often called a "hostile environment." The problem is, what if you generally like the person? It's got to come down to the individual. So, I think you do clarify my point—which is, do you speak up in such situations, or do you shut up? I gather you'd shut up.

Neilpaul: Yes, I'm guilty of wanting to believe that intelligence+sensitivity=right thought and action. But clearly, that emotional elephant is hard to control in all of us. I wouldn't have been so upset by the most recent comment if it hadn't had happened several times with different people recently. Which is why I'm calling for more thoughtfulness in conversation...both from my male friend sexists, and myself. I tend to get a little wild and self-righteous when talking about equality, and that's not very good, either.
I wonder if some of this might be intended as humor, but it comes off clumsily. Or maybe the men are teasing a little and misjudging the boundaries. If they're oblivious to the effect their remarks are having it would seem they are jerks. Educated sensitive people can indeed be jerks.
I suppose I want to say that I am surprised that any intelligent, sensitive, well educated woman of our American society would be troubled when coming to the realization that the intelligent, sensitive, well educated men in her life were raised by a culture that teaches them that women are objects and that having sex with two of them at the same time is the greatest human male achievement. Seriously, you are surprised that men in OUR culture see woman as objects? Seriously?

Our culture is nowhere near as modern in ideas of sexual equality as so many would hope, or are deluded into believing
99+% of the women of the world (in your country as well as mine), would be delighted to have their men to be only as sexist as you describe it
sounds like your main problem is yourself: why do you care?

i know any number of men whose abilities are vastly less than their self estimation, typically some success in business or profession leads them to believe they know everything about everything, important.

just smile and change the subject if you are confident of your self, and never forget, putting on a suit doesn't change an ape into a human.
I wonder if our need to measure everything, including each other, has something to do with it. Along with the needless chasing of power and prestige.
It doesn't help that the media pushes sexism and stereotyping along. Commercials and television shows these days are showing more adult content which does not help to quell the views of those that watch them.
I was wondering if you might give us some specific examples of party chat gone awry. I really *never* encounter this. Not saying I never encounter sexism, but saying I don't encounter it in social situations. What indeed are you saying first? I'm so curious as to how this develops - or devolves, perhaps.
jramelle: I love your adage tweaking. Hope you avoid those sucker punches, or at least bounce back quickly, and I will try to, too.

Matt: I do believe that most of the time it is intended as humor. But comedy can have a dark side, revealing a real assumption that isn't so funny. And yes, even good people can be jerks.

DH Austin: As long as you're willing to financially support the two of them throughout their lives and don't force or cheat them into it and take care of all the children you produce, I'm okay with that fantasy. (So is the FLDS Church). Seriously. I'm perfectly aware that even in the most enlightened company, that it's just a hope right now. Equality, that is. Doesn't make it easier to live with human shortcomings.

roberto luigi: I'm also aware and grateful that I'm part of a very lucky, small group of women worldwide to have such relatively small personal problems with men. But that's exactly why I have to speak out about it from time to time. Because I can.

al loomis: I guess I care because I do think I've lost social and professional opportunities because of my gender. And so have many, many other women. Do female apes get to wear dresses?

Ernesto Tinajero: The whole discrimination concept is at the core about power. But power is probably overrated, isn't it? External, man-made power, anyway.

Tater2106: Yes, the media has a tendency to reinforce stereotypes, gender particularly.

keri h: Hmm...good challenge. Hard to do succinctly and accurately. "Did you read Franzen's Freedom?" "Yeah, it's okay. I didn't like it as much as The Corrections." "I liked it, but I didn't find the wife particularly likable." "What is it about women's problem with other women?" "I just don't think that she's drawn as sympathetically as the two male friends." "That's because women don't know how to have friendships. Men are better friends." Okay, that was kind of mild, but it might go something like that.
It depends on what you're commenting on.

Remarks such as "men are superior" are either flippant or asinine.

There are certainly differences in gender interaction patterns, in how rivalries start and how they manifest, in how critical pecking order is, in how cooperation works, in how a social threat is defined, etc. Anyone on either side of that divide is going to have some trouble relating to the culture on the other side. Some of that is what Pygmalion/My Fair Lady is about.

Those differences are straight differences and don't indicate asymmetry. What Oryoki is talking about, however, does, and that's what makes a double standard appropriate. What I mean is this: For the dominant population to exclude others is to deny access, but for a non-dominant population to exclude those from the dominant population is sometimes a question of self-preservation or group advancement. That's why a group of women excluding men isn't the same kind of sexist that a group of men excluding women is - the women (or other functional - not numerical - minority) often meet without outsiders specifically to advance their population in the face of dominant opposition, whether that opposition is intentional or not. Because the roles are asymmetrical, so are the rules.

I'd find the sexism phenomenon annoying, if for no other reason than it's so fundamentally boneheaded. Stupidity in smart people is disappointing.

Here's an oddball question: Are you around Jewish men much? We tend to have fewer illusions about who the boss is, and it isn't typically us.
I think the "by-product" theory has merit especially concerning the female orgasm, but if it gains more support it will trivialize women as a gender and seriously hurt the feminist/equality movement. After all, the correct attitude is equality, not identity.

I believe that the worst enemies of gender equality and women's rights and consequently the biggest enablers of sexist men are those women who insist on enforcing their own preferred cultural limitations on other women. According to them, a woman should have sexual freedom but she should not be promiscuous; she can wear what she wants but she cannot bare too much skin; she has control over her body, but she cannot be a sex worker! This is the sexist male's hog heaven. Incidentally, prostitution laws are perniciously and severely anti-female. Think about it.

To eradicate sexism in a civilized setting there should be only one rule: a citizen is free to do whatever she wants as long as it does not hurt another citizen's body or livelihood. Consensual sex should never undergo the scrutiny of religion or "morality." Only in a culture that accepts consensual sex will gender equality defeat sexism.

This is a most intriguing and thought-provoking piece. Well done, Helvetica. R
You have a way of acknowledging the grey area's between the black and white of male female relationships that I appreciate and relate to. Although you gave some examples of the types of comments that trouble you, I wanted more. Yet as I reflect on this, I realize that in my own life such comments often take the form or tone or innuendo or other such subtleties that don't play effectively as quoted dialogue on the written page.
The evolution of racism and sexism and other ism's is fascinating. I often wonder if there is a moment as each ism seems to diminish that it grows almost so subtle as to become an insidious virus, mutating into a form that can't be cured with the same old remedies. Meanwhile, we keep treating the original virus.
koshersalaami: Ironically, the one that set me off on this rant is an absolutely lovely, incredibly talented Jewish man. Of course there are times we would prefer to be with our own kind. But it shouldn't be dictated, or even assumed. How can we collaborate if we're not in the same room? PS: I think your screen name is the cleverest on OS.

Thoth: Well, if it were only about consensual sex, I think we'd be further along here in the West. And, ahem, from personal experience, I don't buy the "by product" theory at all. Thanks for the rating!
Teri: I really like the notion of "isms" as cultural viruses! Maybe over time, we humans just get immune to them. Then new ones spring up to do some more damage. And I'm glad another woman posted here tonight. I was starting to feel weird about all the men commenting on this thread.

But seriously, gentlemen, thank you all for coming. Your responses give me hope for mutual, if somewhat imperfect, understanding.
hell with the men, what really gets me is when I hear misogynistic stuff coming out of women's mouths. It makes want to just slap the lips off their face. Lots of that seems to come out in political "debate" though work is another place to find it. The nursing profession is dominated by women...guess which sex my DON is?
The two examples of comments you believe are offensive -- could you explain why you think they are offensive? I don't even know what the first example means -- what would it mean for men and women to be "separate?" Separate in what way? Separate for what reason?
It's a man thing, Hel. I have a friend, retired university professor emeritus, who is always talking about who is a Jew and what they do knowing that I am Jewish. I just let it go. He is too good of a friend to fuss about his being an anti-Semite..
This is brilliant and needed to be a 'Cover' and I'm delighted that it is. r.
Fascinating and illuminating book written decades ago, The Mermaid and the Minotaur, by Dorothy Dinnerstein iirc about the core issues of the relationship of men and women.

Women whose identity is based on their same gender mommy are compelled to work to be like her, to emulate her and her bonding and caretaking and empathy nurturing the family. They have a close up adult human role model to pull their identity from. Accessible and available. She is an ever presence in their lives, or used to be back when Dinnerstein was writing about her in the home.

So bonding makes a woman feel grounded since her same sex role model is doing it with the family. Again, girls build identity by "merging" with the mother figure then others as a kind of establishment of identity. Merging reinforces that identity of woman-ness.

The male child to be grounded in his identity needs to SEPARATE from mommy and needs to bond with the exotically and often frustratingly remote father sometimes in a kind of desperate at all costs way for his confused and more challenging quest for what a "male" is (and it is an opportunity to become far less androgynistic as a human being, since he does not have the full palette of an adult human accessible to him as frequently as the mother is to the girl to build from) and since the father is often remote, he must rely on brittle and misogynistic social mythic and not always healthy stances of what maleness is from the father or surrogate fathers around him -- and that insecurity of identity breeds overcompensating superiority at the worst of times in others and in him.

Also, again the very act of anti-bonding with women is a quest for male identity. Not to be overwhelmed throughout his life as he was by being a tiny infant once in her god-like thrall, so he or many men still are sometimes fighting the surrogate mommy-women in his life from that identity-questing time of being abandoned by their gender role model and at the mercy of the "other" gender adult being so profoundly.

Now, at the same time men have issues with bonding to an uncomfortable degree, we women can have harsh issues, socially reinforced, with separating. To be a "bad" girl in society is often unforgivable, whereby to be a "bad" boy is sexy and admirable. You are judged more on gender as a woman than on individuality by the tribe. Look at the double standard for sexual behavior in men and women, for example.

It's been years so I hope I am not skewing the essence of her treatise. But I found it very enlightening.

I wish you had written more about how misogynistic men can call out the misogyny in other men that one didn't think was there, but that need for a male to sometimes bond with another male, heed his call, against women can ambush and confuse and hurt a woman who assumed a basic loyalty and specialness above that kind gender cronyism.

At its worst, this is when a group of, granted, already seriously amoral men commit gang-rape on a woman. The peer-pressure to go along with the biggest and most disturbed male predator psychopath makes those particular profoundly weak-willed and also sociopathic men go along with that group action who most likely alone would not have gone there, gone to that dark dark dark evil place in the name of male bonding and comraderie and heretofore latent misogynistic rage.

I once was in a writing group led by a soft-spoken very well educated male teacher -- who back during more feminist years would be called a "snag" -- "sensitive new age guy". I wrote a short story based on an encounter with a "misogynstic brute" I had met at a social event who by the end of the evening came close to slugging me. Much to my horror the teacher got so personally protective of the male character (who was a fictional character as far as he was concerned but it hit some nerve with him of startling outrage), he insisted that I was being overly stereotypical of the guy and unfair to him. That was one thing. Then I watched my "sisters" in the class take up his drumbeat and I was really confused. It was a story that an earlier, fantastic, mentoring female teacher and another class of both men and women had seemed to groove on so I had had support on this story, otherwise his gross over-reaction would have really shamed me and made me feel like I had some horrifying subconscious anti-maleness leaking out (and I do have issues with men admittedly and maybe more than most women ... but don't we all have issues with the opposite and our own gender at times).

Anyway, this guy protested so much about this story. It was not a flattering portrayal of a male and maybe I was flat-footed as an author analyzing it all back then, but his reaction to me felt like a disturbing "projection" of HIS issues, not mine. I had triggered a reaction that did not fit into his persona imho. :)

sorry to go on so. appreciated your sensibility with this blog!

[r] libby
great piece...as with so many social battles, this one still needs to be fought--too many men glibly assume that casual sexism is still sexism, and still destructive...rated
I think your piece would be improved with some specific examples. My husband and I always disagree when we talk about sexism. He says that he enjoys working with all men (in the construction industry) and that having women on the worksite changes the social atmosphere, making it less enjoyable. I don't like him saying this but haven't been quite able to articulate why.
I find most conversations fraught with stupidity. But conversations about sex, sexuality, gender and identity frequently appear to share another characteristic: aggression. Some say that it is because sexuality and aggression are intricately intertwined in our biology, in evolutionary history. I think there is some truth in that, and it has helped me to navigate the little contests — some playful, some blunt, some rude — relevant to the arena.
If you really would like to see the lot of women improve in the world, DO something about it. Quit wasting your time socializing with windbags. Use all this extra time and money you appear to have and actually to make a difference. You can start here: emilys.org.
"Perhaps this is the answer to my problem: I must never open the topic of the relative difference or equality of men and women when speaking one-on-one with a man."

Anytime people try to describe, understand, or justify a perceived phenomenon, especially a complicated issue like inequality, we are liable to say something foolish or ignorant, because no one understands all the factors. Smart+Sensitive≠Omniscient.

Example: In a political science class, the teacher (a former state senate president) talked about legislators' back-scratching and how the male legislators seemed to do it more often than the female legislators, according to his perception (he didn't cite any study or statistics). He then offered an explanation for this perceived discrepancy: men cooperate more because they played team sports, whereas women didn't play in teams. Again, he didn't cite evidence or methodology, like how he figured which legislators did or did not play team sports. I don't know about his Baby Boom generation, but my Gen Y schools' phys. ed programs required students to play team sports. In any case, back-scratching isn't necessarily caused by prior team-sports-playing, given that playing team sports doesn't involve much tit-for-tat and isn't the only civilian activity that requires cooperation. More plausible factors were not considered, including (as Land Poor wrote) that some men preferred working with men and not women.

@libbyliberalnyc: Psychology has come a long way since Dinnerstein's book and the heyday of psychoanalysis, which is based on psychoanalysts' (culturally biased) assumptions rather than evidence. There was a lot mommy-blaming and some daddy-blaming. Today's psychology emphasizes experiments, data and statistical analyses. And there's more awareness of cultural, situational, physiological, and evolutionary factors; so blaming of persons or peoples is no longer popular.
Thanks for the compliment about my s/n
hyblaean- Julie: I think you're getting to the point that some women do that to ourselves. I'm guilty of that sometimes, "oh, women aren't good at blank...or that's a man's job..."

mishima666: "separate but equal" was the rule that allowed the South to segregate public schools. The law determined that it was impossible to execute separate but equal school systems. "equal but different" is more of an overall call to respect diversity. Saying women aren't good at friendships overall is undermining women's confidence and relational power. It's subtle and hard to explain.

Miguela Holt y Roybal: Yes, often, letting go is the best thing to keep the friendship going.

Thanks Jonathan, you're a model of diversity.

Libby...that is really interesting! Helps me understand the need to keep separate/emotionally distant in some men...

mistercomedy: casual sexism is a good phrase for what I'm irked with.

Land Poor: Yes, that's exactly the kind of thing that's hard to describe: it's exclusive.

pilot light: Okay. I do get involved in organized political causes from time to time. I don't mean to imply I'm wealthy. Far from it. And I'm scared to death about losing my job, in a place full of men. I am feeling excluded. Which is why I'm trying to socialize.

Ghost of Joisey Shore: Funny. Thanks.

Monsieur Chariot: Aggression is a factor, I'm sure...I'm pretty aggressive as a woman, frank and outspoken and like to get things done, and that can be a real problem. Sexual attraction can be amusing, but dangerous.

Ms. Freethought: So your concur that the ideas are still perpetuated?

Wow everyone. Thanks for the ride. I'm kinda exhausted now.
Helvetica, Your words are sensitive and beautiful, may they be read by many. I think we all have to take a "reality" pill and see that in the vast fields of mankind you will come across your garden variety sexist, and that's just part of life. In the States I thought it was bad, then I moved to South Africa (where it is nearly 1950's in sexual economy) and I was baptised into a new way of thinking. How do we get through to those who are so different in thinking from us?? It won't come from teaching, that's for sure!! I think I must be who I am and know that they may never know the beauty and wonder of me...a lesser being in their eyes. And I may not know the beauty and wonder of them, who is now lesser in my eyes... a sad predicament.
Brazen Princess: Thanks so much for the lovely note! I have met several very strong women from South Africa over time...I never thought that the culture might be strongly male dominated...but it makes sense. I think your acceptance tactic is in the right direction...can we go further and transcend the "better than/lesser" value judgment of a person? "Hate the sin, not the sinner," as the Christians say...or "seeing through the disability to the person," who is whole unique individual, full of abilities and disabilities and strengths and weaknesses, just like we all are.
Oh Hawley, come visit me at the Jersey shore. I have a gaggle of sexist surfer men I'm forced to contend with constantly. I will say this: even though they say ludicrous things, they are open to discussion when I explain to them their flawed thinking. Somewhat.

My concern is more people are keeping their traps shut about their bigotry or sexism and it only comes out in other ways. I'd rather hear what they have to say. I'd rather see the enemy.
Like racism, people think that sexism is something that is "over," that we're living in a "post-sexist society." So they think they're just being bold and fighting "political correctness" by making obnoxious remarks. Judd Apatow has made an entire career of offensive non-offensiveness...in terms of manners and sensitivity we've been on a 10K race to the bottom since about 1980...
Well it looks as if I'm late for the party once again. Great insight and interpretation on one of our oldest and hardest social issues. It's not called the "battle of the sexes" for nothing.
R
Sometimes men just want to be with other men. Women should not be offended by this. Women have their own clubs too. Sexism has nothing to do with it, as these may be otherwise good men, some who might have families.
This can be in a locker room or an exclusive men's club, where they can smoke cigars, play poker, swear, spit, and tell dirty jokes and watch endless sports on TV. There is absolutely nothing that women can do to prevent this desire in men to bond this way. It isn't going to help to educate your sons with a supposed feminist education. When they reach a certain teenage age, they will indeed start looking at the females around them as sex objects, and they will want to have sex, and hopefully they have been taught that women must be respected and laws must be obeyed... But still, anything you teach them is still going to be subject to the universal laws of sexual attraction between men and women.