Anita Blake - What Does Sexism Look Like?

When I went to college, there were many times where I was either the only female or one of the only females in class. (These tended to be the math and science classes - so ladies, get out there, sign up for chemistry and calculus. STAT.) A lot of times, I had more male companions than female companions.

And you know what? Absolutely nothing happened. Oh sure, there were a couple times that I was looked down upon - but whether that was because I was a woman or because of my being one of the best students is up for grabs. The men I interacted with daily were respectful and kind. They didn't require me to be constantly on the offensive, defending my place. Of course, I also didn't fling my straight A's in their face, while they held B's and C's.

The workplace isn't much different. There are equally as few women, maybe a bit more outright sexism (I've been told a couple times to leave an area where I was supposed to be, likely because A) I looked lost and B) I was the only woman present), but overall, I've had great, accepting coworkers.

Now, I understand my situation isn't everyone's. Some women are constantly being undermined by men - fired because of their beauty, fired because they aren't beautiful enough, not paid enough, etc. Some of it could be because I am ignorant and can't see it or my personality being suitably "submissive" that men don't typically find it offensive.

In Anita Blake's world, 99% of men are sexist pigs. If Anita appears on the scene, they IMMEDIATELY tell her to leave and not get her precious, nicely made-up nose into it. They IMMEDIATELY distrust her ability to do her job. They IMMEDIATELY start talking about her sex life - whether it is relevant to the case or not. They IMMEDIATELY challenge her on everything.

Do I think people like this exist? Of course; there are sexists on every corner. In fact, I don't doubt that we can all be a bit sexist at times. I'll be the first to admit I'm not perfect and am sexist from time to time (though I'm trying to get better!).

The problem is one you might have seen me write about before: patterns. Trends. How frequently do we see police and other authority figures question Anita's prowess with a gun? How often does a sheriff or officer refuse to let her on the scene to do her job - even though she has paperwork and a badge? How often does Anita end up just short of a hand-to-hand brawl before she is allowed to do her job?

The answer to these questions is abysmal: all too often. In nearly every book, from "Guilty Pleasures" to my most recent read "Skin Trade", Anita fights, kicks, and screams at nearly every authority figure in order to do her job, squealing "Sexism" at every turn. In nearly every book, Anita ends up having to do something that only One of the GuysTM could do to prove herself.

Yes, this situation does happen. But sexism isn't just a man walking up and telling a woman, "You're a woman, there's no way you can do this job." Sexism is also one of the following:

+ A woman giving her professional opinion, and the other person ignoring it (especially if it is GOOD advice).

+ A woman not being allowed to speak uninterrupted in a meeting (this happened with Susan Sandberg in her book "Lean In").

+ A woman being passed over for promotion in favor of her male counterpart.

+ A woman getting lesser assignments than a man.

+ A woman being paid less than a man.

+ A woman being talked down to by another person, as if she doesn't understand the details of the job.

NOTE: Some of these could be another person just being an @$$-hole, not necessarily a sexist.

These are SUBTLE. These are insidious. These examples are ways that women's confidence are gnawed away - and are MUCH harder to fight and prove as sexist. And THIS is by far what many women have to face - not the silly dick-whipping that Anita faces at every crime.

The other thing that bugs me: just because these guys are police officers doesn't automatically make them sexists. There are a lot more female officers. No, this world isn't perfect, but would it be SO HARD to include a few more balanced male officers that interact with Anita?

But I have a secret: I know why Anita has to always whip out her figurative dick and prove herself. It's to show Anita off - "Look how good Anita is - she has all these weapons and is just like a guy!" "Look at how amazing Anita is - she is just as good as all these men - no better!" "Anita can lift over 2X her weight in a bench curl - what a great woman!"

A real character doesn't need to prove herself like this in order to be amazing. She doesn't have to talk about how awesome she is - she IS just awesome. She does her job and does it well.

I appreciate LKH not being afraid to show sexism, but I wish she would include more varieties - the varieties we women face daily. I wish she also didn't feel she needed to include these to prove Anita's awesomeness. If Anita is an awesome character, her ACTIONS will be enough to prove herself to the audience.