"Bol", a Pakistani movie directed by Sohaib Mansoor. The film was a part of a maternal and child health project, PAIMAN (Pakistan Initiative for Mothers and Newborns). In 2009, Shoaib Mansoor's Shoman Productions partnered with John Hopkins University for the production of this movie.
The movie is about a girl, Zainab who was going to be hanged for the murder of her father. She killed her father as he wanted to murder her brother, who was born a eunuch. There are various instances where sexism is portrayed in an intensively thought-provoking manner. The movie is yhighly recommended and it truly does get the mind thinking.
The reason for the inclusion of this movie is, when we discuss sexism, we tend to ignore the existence of sexes other than male and female!
Subtle sexism, two words that are simple enough to understand its meaning. The most obvious explanation to our minds is "sexist behavior towards women and girls portrayed in an elusive and abstract manner". This statement in itself is subtly sexist. We tend to assume that women are the victims of sexist behavior, which is no doubt true. What we tend to overlook is the marginalized genders of society that face the same troubles. In fact, indirectly, it affects men as well.
Sex and gender are two terms that are often used interchangeably when in reality, they have two different meanings. Sex is the term that refers to the difference in anatomy produced by chromosomes, hormones, and their interaction. Gender, on the other hand, is a socially constructed phenomenon. Gender is what people identify themselves as; it could be male, female, or non-binary. Non-binary is an umbrella term, and under it, several genders are included. A few of these are but are not limited to polygender, bigender, fluid gender, agender. This barely scratches the surface of the number of genders identities in the modern world. In fact, ABC News has recorded a total of 58 genders.
So, on recalibrating, we can now define subtle sexism as "sexist behavior towards a specific gender that is portrayed in an elusive and abstract manner". This type of bigotry is more challenging to detect as its manifestation is so delicate and indirect.
The most significant setback is that the whole idea of sexism has been so deep-rooted into our minds that these behaviors are imperceptible. They lurk right beneath the surface and are exposed to the slightest trigger. These behaviors are often overlooked or ignored (intentionally or unintentionally) because they are not being questioned.
Subtle sexism can be manifested most straightforwardly. Research proves that a situation as simple as being cut off between a conversation happens more to women than men. Assuming someone's gender and sexuality based on their appearance is also sexist.
Non-binary people have their own struggles in all of this. A mismatch in their name and appearance triggers anxiety of being outed, denied, or even left to die. Coming out as non-binary is hard enough, and in a country like India, one can only imagine. The whole process is fraught with ordeals and triggers that may cause severe damage to one's mental health. Studies repeatedly prove that parents refuse to accept their child's sexuality and preferred genders and still address them in terms of their 'dead names'. These are the names that they were known by before they came out. India still struggles to provide equal opportunity to women. Even in their own household, women and girls face large sums of subtle sexism, directly and indirectly. Think about this for a second, when guests come over, who serves them snacks? Undoubtedly in the majority of houses, it is the women or female children that do so. Male authoritative figures (such as bosses) are normalized, whereas a female with the same temperament would be considered 'angry' or 'bossy'.
Sexism also affects men and boys as well. There is another concept called second sexism that focuses on how the male gender experiences sexism. A typical example, only 10% of men get custody of their children during divorces.
Subtle sexism is often overlooked, primarily due to the inability to detect the same. Changing policies and rules will not affect the current situation; instead, changing mindsets may show a change for the better. For starters, we could perceive all genders at the same level. No one gender is higher up the ladder than the others. Something else we could practice is the concept of 'give respect, take respect. By creating an accepting environment, we allow people to express themselves freely. The impact this has on one's mental health and well-being is immense. Something that we've all been taught during our social science class is 'unity in diversity. It's time we put this to practice. By being a little sensitive and aware of the words we speak, we can no doubt change our mindsets.