While passing through an airport security check, actress Ashley Judd had a major meltdown. At fault was a screener who called her “sweetheart” and complimented her dress. She branded his comments “everyday sexism.”
This got me thinking about the women who came before us.
Women like Helen Taussig who was severely dyslexic, hard of hearing and discriminated against because of her gender. After earning a medical degree at Johns Hopkins, in 1927, she went on to save the lives of thousands of infants with heart problems.
In 1999, a high school teacher challenged three students to complete a research project on Irena Sendler. Little was known about the nurse who smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of war-torn Warsaw.
Irena Sendler worked tirelessly to reunite the children with surviving family. She also created false documents for 3,000 Jewish families. Sadly she was caught, tortured and escaped death when supporters bribed German guards to free her.
While working with Hospice patients, I met one of the first women to graduate from Harvard. She got a job but had no choice but to work in the company’s backroom.
The company couldn’t have clients discover the brilliant new stock trader was a woman.
Slowly her talent and hard work gained her the loyal support and respect of her male coworkers and bosses. She became a major share holder in the company.
As a young journalist, working with whiskey-drinking, cigarette smoking and smirking peers, I shrugged off their stupid comments and studied my craft. Diving into computer training, while they slapped each other on the back, I leaped over them and became their boss.
Never would I condone sexist behavior, but for the women who came before us, and for me, it was more about strategically choosing my battles and winning than making examples of idiots who didn’t know any better.
Ashley, sweetheart, women are being stoned to death because they’re unlucky enough to have been sexually assaulted. Because it was easier than solving flaws in an immigration program, an entrepreneur reinvented the chastity belt. His invention was created to protect German women from being raped, while out jogging, by Syrian refugees. The product immediately sold out. At the same time, Syrian women are swimming across deep, dangerous seas, clinging to their babies and possessions to flee terrorists.
You, sweetheart, were about to board a plane to attend a posh movie premiere. Perhaps you were having a tough day. Maybe the inconvenience of the security check was simply too much. You called it “everyday sexism.” I call it a slap in the face to all the brave women before us who worked strategically and tirelessly so you could have the opportunity to be whatever you wanted.
Wouldn’t it be more effective to focus our positive attention on the young men and women who are eager to dig in and work together for equality, while giving a pass to an older man who meant no harm and was only giving a compliment the best way he knew how?