Sexism should never be ‘part of the job’

Two things made me SCREAM IN ALL CAPS this week, so this column will be something of a two-for-one. WHADDA DEAL. 

First up, this must-read article that’s making the rounds. A personal account of sexism encountered at the U.S. border was documented for and it is absolutely horrifying. You can read it for yourself, but here’s the bullet: a woman was detained three times in two weeks on her way to or through the States by officials who had a problem with the contents of her luggage. Apparently, carrying “sexy” lingerie and condoms is HARD EVIDENCE that you’re Captain Slutty McSlut Slut whose mission is to compromise the VERY MORAL FABRIC of the United States of America. Homeland security, indeed.

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And it gets WORSE. She was told she could be charged with being a “working girl” — you know, for traveling with a married dude. It was insinuated she was a highly-paid call girl. A career in modelling and acting was treated as code for “sex work.” At another checkpoint, she was asked if she was “looking to get sexually assaulted.” Why? Oh, you know, because she’s WRITING A BOOK about the sociology of sexual assault. (This babe sounds righteous, BTW.)

I’d love to say that her experience is an extreme, isolated example, but I know it isn’t; more than a few women have come out and shared their own harrowing experiences at the border. I, personally, have encountered more insidious forms of sexism (and, for that matter, ageism) at the border. When I was 19, traveling to Hawaii —“do your parents even know where you girls are?” The judgement reserved just for me when I was traveling with a guy who was not my boyfriend. The eye-rolling, WOMEN, AMIRITE? jabs about how much I spend shopping in Minneapolis. The joke I didn’t quite catch that those French border officials made about getting undressed for the scanner. (Oh yes, border power tripping isn’t solely a North American problem.)

The worst is, “Why aren’t you married?” My partner and I own a home together and have been common law for some time — but because we don’t have matching last names and rings, I guess it’s a point of contention for a few officers. A comment that was meant to be jovial veered too close to “honest woman” territory, and we left feeling very uncomfortable.  But unlike the woman who wrote the piece, I never speak up and say, “It’s actually none of your business” when I feel uncomfortable. I grin and bear it, so to speak. I play to the agreed upon stereotype of Nice Canadian Girl. I’m know I’m not alone.

And it makes me angry that women are made to feel that we have to somehow accept unacceptable behaviour. Using positional authority to intimidate and moralize isn’t OK. Sexism should never be “part of the job.”

Oh for crying out loud, you guys. Sephora is selling a “body-bettering” kit called FatGirlSlim, from Bliss Cosmetics. This abomination — and problematic riff on Fatboy Slim — promises to make you feel “thin-credible.” VOM.

False claim that it gets rid of cellulite — which can’t be removed and affects ALL body types (SCIENCE) — aside, this is yet another offensive reminder that we’re not good enough and need to buy $36 cream to “fix” our gross bodies. And no, Sephora: Bliss’ cheeky names DO fail to make me smile. They make me rage-blind.


Jen Zoratti is a Spectator Tribune columnist and freelance music journo. Follow her on Twitter @JenZoratti.