Pretty/Ugly Open/Covered Free/Restricted
Notice that although one can be both a Muslim woman and a Western woman, the binary view positions these identities as opposites and therefore prevents us from seeing the complex and intersecting nature of identity. Because we have not been taught to see the complexity of social identity, without further study we can only understand forms of social oppression such as sexism through the most simplistic explanations. These simplistic explanations cannot account for the ways that other social positions such as race and class also determine women’s experiences under sexism. Thus these binaries also reinforce racism, classism, and other forms of oppressions.
At the same time that corporate interests are amplifying rather than reducing rigid gender roles, we are socialized to believe that in the United States and Canada, we are liberated and free; the way we “do gender” just seems normal, even healthy, and certainly better than the way they do it (for example, we can wear whatever body-revealing clothes we choose from chain stores in the local mall where our heavily marketed brand choices are believed to demonstrate our individuality, while they “have to” wear clothes that cover their bodies and all look the same). While our attention is continually drawn to examples of sexism that occur “over there”—in non-White, non-Western contexts—examples of sexism “over here” are usually situated in the past. Together, these dynamics hide the patterns and outcomes of sexism that surround us all. Let’s examine a few contemporary locations in which patterns of sexism are normalized.