Getting inspiration from instances of sexism
Sexism remains an unpleasant reality in our world.
Since sexism is still with us today, you might see it, or even experience it yourself. However, even an unpleasant experience can inspire fiction writing. Because sometimes, you just want to write a villain. And maybe your villain can eventually see the light and change, too.
In the United States, there are rather specific laws governing and prohibiting gender discrimination. However, that was not always the case. If you write historical fiction, things can differ considerably. Consider what gender discrimination truly means. It means judging a person’s characteristics or abilities based upon sex and often traditional gender roles. Hence judges might see women as better parents in custody battles. Or men might get blue collar jobs more often due to perceived differences in physical strength. And this can happen even when physical strength does not factor into job performance. Sometimes women lose out on promotions due to imagined differences in toughness. And men can find they are overly scrutinized in professions where they may be in the minority. These can be nursing or teaching or the like.
In Social Situations
Some instances of sexism have essentially mild or semi-benevolent origins in what is gallantry behavior. Holding the door for someone is a nice thing to do. However, when a person only holds the door for women, that is move which treats the sexes differently. Even a positive difference is a difference, particularly when it can be a vestige of not just gallantry. It can also be a vestige of behaving as if women are incapable of taking care of themselves.
Social sexism can also take the form of deciding who asks whom out, or who pays for a night out. Waitstaff can perpetuate this by asking for women’s food orders first, and also by giving the man the check. Teachers might perpetuate these behaviors by giving strength tasks to boys and praising the quietness or cooperation of girls.
When sex is used as an excuse for a snap decision about someone without taking specifics into consideration, then it’s sexism.
Whether you try to excuse it as locker room banter, or it appals you, sometimes people indulge in this. And it can even happen almost inadvertently.
One area where this tends to happen is with apparel. It’s rare when boys or men receive judgment for what they wear. That is, unless it’s overly feminine, filthy, or completely inappropriate for the occasion or task at hand. Or it’s the wrong team’s jersey.
Women and girls, though, can often be judged by skirt or shorts length, the neckline of a blouse, or the height of their heels.
Characters can remark on everything from who pays for dinner to who gets the right to vote. They can support sexist conventions by pulling out chairs for women and giving little boys toy trucks. Or they can upend those conventions by giving up seats on the subway to men. Or by giving little girls chemistry sets.