Let’s Talk About Sexism and Racism

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i know, i know. i said i was going to only be posting on wednesday but this weekend stirred too much in me to wait. i attended the women’s march in downtown denver on saturday and it was the first time i have felt hope since the election. i cannot sit quietly or idly by and no, i will not simply accept our new president. i cannot.

i strapped my 4.5 month old daughter to my body, locked arms with my mom and joined the 100,000+ other people who won’t stand for this.

i won’t stand for the current administration threatening to remove the rights and choices for what i get to do with my body or what you get to do with yours. i won’t stand for threatening to take away rights of people who identify as LGBTQ. i won’t stand for the overt racism towards muslims, latinos, blacks, native americans or any community of color. i won’t stand for a muslim registry. i won’t stand for blanket deportation of undocumented people. i won’t stand for my daughter to have the leaders of our country be bullies, to invoke fear and hate.

i will stand for:

love

social justice

equality

peace

feminism

laughter

hope

community

action

engagement

positive and peaceful disruption

it absolutely baffles me that anyone voted for this man but especially women. he is so outrageously and blatantly sexist while also admitting to sexual assault it blows my mind that people can look past this.

you may not agree with me but this is my platform and i will no longer let fear, the feelings of inadequacies or not saying the perfect thing keep me silent any longer.

if you are unsure why people were marching on all 7 continents (yes even antarctica), in every single state and many countries around the world – it is because we deserve better and won’t stand for what is happening in america.

i have my master’s degree in social work with an emphasis on community based social justice work. this means instead of focusing my studies on direct human service work, meaning one-on-one therapy, casework and working with individuals – i studied how the entire system needs an overhaul. i studied institutionalized racism and sexism, i learned about how traditional social work often continues to perpetuate many of the issues because it’s a bandage approach (and absolutely still necessary until we can have that system overhaul).

these are all complex issues. i have often felt paralyzed in fear that i wouldn’t accurately be able to speak about them or i might forget to include something but that in itself is privilege – i get to decide whether or not to talk about these things. i have a new awakening in me that i need to be more vocal about these issues and i don’t have to be perfect. i need to have an open mind, receive feedback and get to work.

on my personal facebook page, i have been engaging in discussions around what all of that means and i want to share it here too.

what is feminism? it’s a person who believes in the social, economical and political equality between the sexes.

it is not women wanting to be superior to men – it is wanting to have equal access to the world of politics, power, influence, etc. as men. men can (and should) be feminists because we need you to join in our fight for equality.

what is institutionalized racism? 

this a form of racism that is within systems such as the government, schools, the military, criminal justice systems, corporations, and organizations. it is not directed at an individual or a few people but rather is deeply ingrained in the structure that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups.

this is also where white privilege comes into play – we, as white people, benefit from institutionalized racism because it benefits the majority.

here is one of the first pieces i read about this was when i was 18 years old and it completely blew my mind because i never had to think about my race before then. it’s called “white privilege: unpacking the invisible knapsack” by peggy mcintosh.

another good article to read is “why it’s hard for white people to talk about racism

personal examples i have experienced based on white privilege and institutionalized racism:

  • when i started on my first day at the native american youth and family center as a housing specialist – i went to a county meeting with my boss (who is latino and native american). the coordinator immediately assumed i was her boss, though she regularly attended the meeting and had 20+ years more experience than i did
  • i have never been pulled over by a police officer (many of my friends of color have and for bogus reasons)
  • my parents never told me how to protect myself when interacting with law enforcement because people who look like me aren’t assaulted and murdered in disproportionate numbers (that concept never had to occur to them)
  • i have never been followed around a store
  • i can easily and always find make-up and hose that match my skin color (in fact, bandages used to be called “flesh” color, which match my skin perfectly).
  • when my white husband and i were on the light rail in portland, oregon – a trimet worker got on to check tickets. i dug around my purse to find our proof of fare. the inspector asked a latino couple a black man, a group of teenagers and a young woman of color to show him their tickets. he never asked to see our tickets.

what is institutionalized sexism?

along the same lines as institutionalized racism and is the discrimination against one gender, usually women. it restricts the opportunities for one sex compared to the other sex.

the ‘patriarchy’ does not refer to a male conspiracy to seize power over women, but rather a society that privileges men.

personal examples:

  • any time my husband and i go into a bank to talk about the business that we co-own together, people always ask him about our finances. i manage every dollar that goes through our business.
  • many people have assumed that i am his assistant
  • when people and organizations write us letters that say “mr. and mrs. ryan avery”
  • when we got engaged, nobody asked if he was going to take my last name and instead it was heavily assumed i would take his last name. i eventually made the conscious choice after a 2.5 year discussion about it.
  • when people assume i am the cook in our family
  • after my husband and i got done giving a keynote, the meeting planner referred to me as “sweetie” and my husband as mr. avery
  • when our tax company would always list my husband first on our taxes and call him for questions about it (again, i manage all finances for our business and family)
  • i was first ‘cat-called’ as i waited at the bus stop in 6th grade. it has continued ever since.
  • when people tell my daughter she is cute or a sweet little princess – often little boys get talked to about being strong, athletic, etc. at least tell my daughter she’s the freakin’ queen (and that’s she is smart, capable, brave, kind, etc).
  • when i told a woman at the store that my daughter was home with my husband, she said “oh, how nice that he’s babysitting all day!” actually, it’s called parenting.

i saw someone post about shirts saying “the future is female” but if he wore a “the future is male” shirt, everyone would be upset and why do we have to put gender in it at all? i will tell you why.

“the future is female” is worn with the hope that someday and someday soon, women will hold the same power and influence that men have had since this country was created. we live in a patriarchal society – there is no denying that (45 MALE presidents though women are just as smart and capable to hold that role).

by wearing a shirt that says “the future is male” wouldn’t make sense because the PRESENT and past have always been male.

it’s the same reason why BET (black entertainment television) station exists but not a “white entertainment television station” – every other channel IS white entertainment featuring the lead roles by white people.

when people who voted for the president continue to tell me to “just accept it” and “get over it and move on” now you know why i cannot and will not.

if you were one of the millions of people across the globe marching on saturday, thank you. marching is a start but doesn’t change much so we must continue to act. thank you marin for sharing this with me – here are 10 actions we can take these next 10 days and i am committed to doing them.

we deserve better than this and we will work to make that happen.

love always trumps hate.

20 Comments

  1. Jo

    January 23, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Well stated Chelsea. I think you have found your voice again! You go girl. Thanks for sharing. I really like how you laid out the definitions and examples. Wish I had know about the march in Denver. I would have attended.

    Cheers to you!

    • chelsea

      January 24, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      thank you jo! this past weekend i did feel a rising up in me that i haven’t felt in a while and while it’s crappy about why the rising is there – at least it is there! thank you for reading and for your comment. sorry you missed out on the denver march – we would have loved to have you!

  2. Elyse @ JustMurrayed

    January 23, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    This was a great way to find your voice, Chelsea, for standing up for what will always be right and that’s equality for all, not just for some but for all. I love that there was 3 generations in your family walking! My mom, aunts and sister walked in Toronto and Andrew and I walked in Vancouver.

    • chelsea

      January 24, 2017 at 1:54 pm

      thank you for your solidarity in canada, elyse. that really means a lot. i am so grateful the three of us got to walk together too. it was very powerful to look around at 100,000+ people and know that others in our community won’t stand for this crap either.

  3. Audrey

    January 23, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Yes yes yes.
    You most definitely explained all that more eloquently than I could’ve.
    Members of my family are in the “Why do we even need a BET channel?” camp and it drives me mad. How the hell does treating others like equals affect YOUR quality of life!?
    Grrr…..
    Audrey recently posted…Truths I Live By…

    • chelsea

      January 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      it can be so hard to get white people to understand race because we have literally never ever had to unless we seek it out. i feel for you. hang in there with it and keep advocating!

  4. Paula Howley

    January 23, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    THRILLED that you are using your substantial platform to be even MORE vocal than you have been. This is one of your best posts since you have been writing this blog. SHARING big time.

    So proud that you are willing to push through your discomfort of being wrong or made fun of to speak up. This is one of the reasons I referred you to that Rachael Rice series “Confronting Whiteness”.

    You know that famous Margaret Atwood quote “Men are afraid that we’ll laugh at them, women are afraid that they’ll kill us.” In that series, they turned that quote on it’s head, really making me think about the privilege I have as a white woman. “White women are afraid we’ll be laughed at or called out. Women of colour are afraid that they will be annhilated.”

    I have been afraid to speak up sometimes too Chelsea, worried that I would say the wrong thing or get made fun of or told off for doing it wrong. But being wrong and being told off or called out WON’T KILL ME. In fact, it’s the only way I’ll learn what WOC and other marginalized people need. And I need to swallow my precious pride because their LIVES are literally at stake.

    Super pleased at this big step you are taking.

    You rock, your mama rocks, your baby girl rocks. This kid is gonna grow up SO EMPOWERED and SO WOKE.

    We are the storm.
    Paula Howley recently posted…PIVOT

    • chelsea

      January 24, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      thank you paula! i also appreciate you sharing big time – you are fantastic. i have also appreciated how outspoken you have been as well. thank you. you are SO right that being called out won’t kill us and is actually the only way we will learn how to better break down the systems of oppression. thank you for that reminder. lives literally are at stake.

      we are indeed the storm <3

  5. Cassie Lee

    January 23, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    YES. I feel like these topics get discussed a lot in my little academic bubble and then I fail at bringing them outside of that, so I’m grateful you are starting this conversation!

    • chelsea

      January 24, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      i totally know what you mean, cassie! i often miss that little weekly bubble since graduation. it’s often scary to bring it outside, at least for me, because i fear i won’t capture or explain or do justice about it all but that is no longer my excuse!

  6. Ruth

    January 23, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Hi Chelsea,

    I’ve been following your blog since your post about trying to decide whether or not to have kids, but I’ve never commented because I got to that point where it felt like I’d been following quietly for too long, so then it would be weird to comment…

    I’m commenting now because I want to say thanks so much for writing this beautiful post. It’s so encouraging to see so many people standing up, listening, working towards a better future. I know for me it can be so scary to write these posts that some people will not understand, so I just want to say how very much I appreciate it!

    My husband and I also run a business together and travel, and I handle the money too! When we leased our car, everything was in my name alone. We went into the dealership to talk about something one day, I started out introducing myself to the man helping us, asked him the question, did 100% of the talking and he still turned to my husband and asked him his name when it came time to look up our account. And that’s such a small thing compared to the discrimination that so many others face every day.

    Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation, I’m with you!

    • chelsea

      January 24, 2017 at 7:54 pm

      hi ruth! i am so so glad you decided to comment! YAY! i really appreciate you reading along and especially choosing to comment on this point, ruth. i agree it is encouraging to know many people are taking action. you are right that it is scary to write and engage in things where you know people don’t always share your viewpoint so thanks for your encouragement!

      ummm you run a business with your husband and travel too?! why aren’t we hanging out right now?! i’d love to know more about what you two do together and some of your favorite places you’ve traveled 🙂

      thanks also for sharing that discrimination in terms of the car lease – that is so disappointing to hear. while it’s true that others face intense things as well, it’s important not to discount your experiences either. they matter. thanks again for commenting ruth 🙂

  7. Penny

    January 24, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Chelsea as usual you have said everything i wish i could say. thank you so much. you are truly an amazing woman. this fight for women and equal rights etc. has been going on most of my life. it is hard to believe that women and people of color have been fighting for these rights since the 1960’s as i recall. rights are somewhat better because now the lgbtq group now has rights that they did not have until rather recently. but still it is a constant and continual fight that is still hard to believe. i also appreciate what you said about sexism and white people. you are absolutely correct. you are a very bright and strong woman. you will help your daughter to become one as well. thank you for posting and please post everyday if you want. penny

    • chelsea

      January 24, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      thank you penny for your comment. i appreciate your very kind words and words of encouragement – it really goes a long way for me! i agree that it is completely baffling (and depressing) that women and people of color are still having to fight – it’s important to me to also fight along side communities i don’t identify with (like race, culture, religion). thanks again penny!

  8. Roemer

    January 24, 2017 at 10:08 am

    TURNER, you nailed it! Well written and needed to be said. Let’s all hope good things will develop out of this March
    Love you. Papa

    • chelsea

      January 24, 2017 at 7:59 pm

      thank you papa!!! that really means a lot to me – there is still lots of work to be done but agree that good things will continue to develop from the march. love you too!

  9. Christina @ Hugs and Lattes

    January 24, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    One day I’m coming to Denver and we need to get coffee, because I think we could get along really well IRL. I love how you approach glaring issues in an uplifting way. I talk about you & your blog a lot in real life – as weird as that may be, because I take hope in the fact that even though there are a few things we see differently, we are able to talk about it without putting each other down. I love this post. I love feminism explained. I love how you carefully laid out institutionalized racism and sexism. My heart is absolutely broken over these things, but I am encouraged when I see other women and men standing up for each other. I was talking earlier today with a good friend about the Women’s March, and why it is so important that the emphasis of the women’s march was not just about pro-life or pro choice (which is all that people on my Facebook feed could see), but instead an array of issues. She brought up a good point that it is so important we speak for women who are oppressed not only in our country, but in countries everywhere (especially where women are not allowed education, are forced into marriage at an early age, etc.) We need women and men who are so passionate about human rights that we don’t only protest, but we are proactive in providing opportunities for knowledge, awareness, and change. That’s why the world needs more people like you. And on another note – it pisses me off when they say a dad is babysitting. No way! That’s why you are parents, not parent.
    Christina @ Hugs and Lattes recently posted…3 Tips for Changing Your Name

    • chelsea

      January 24, 2017 at 8:05 pm

      pleeeeease come play in denver!!! i also believe we would get along splendidly in the flesh 🙂 thanks for saying that about talking about things in an uplifting way and also i’m glad we don’t have to put each other down even when we may disagree. i am usually pretty good about that in general but this election is making me dig reeeeal deep to still be a kind person (turns out people respond better when you aren’t an ass).

      i agree that my heart is finally feeling on the mend and for me, it’s specifically because of the march. i was able to look around at the 100,000+ people in my community and know they won’t stand for it either. that gives me hope. honestly i had been viewing almost all strangers as though they voted for trump, wanted to deport every person of color, tell me what to do with my body and end gay marriage. now i have realized that isn’t the case and it gives my heart such relief.

      you are also right about needing to expand women’s rights in other countries because we do have it significantly better here and yet we can still do better everywhere.

      the world also needs more people like you christina <3

  10. Catherine @ Cup of Catherine

    January 25, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Such a well-written post!
    It blows my mind that people – my own family – cannot see this.
    It boils down to empathy, I think. I’m white and fairly privileged. I’ve only experienced sexism and racism in very SMALL personal doses and yet – because of knowledge and empathy – I realize they exist ALL AROUND me.
    We have to do better.
    Catherine @ Cup of Catherine recently posted…What I Won’t Do in 2017

  11. Dorothy

    January 26, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    So well done, you expressed exactly how I think, feel, and experience in my life as a women and so dam right about this horrible, vulgar man that managed to become USA President I convinced that racist individuals with questionable IQ vote for him (? ). I can not accept and I would not accept his bully approach, denigrating attitude toward women and people. You are so right about institutionalized racism in our country. My father was from Peru my mother from Spain, almost every minute of my life as USA citizen I have encounter people stereotyping me. I have 3 Masters in my profession nevertheless, to try to promote in different jobs throughout my entire professional life regardless my spotless credentials has been a continuous struggle. I feels that I succeed but it takes a lot more efforts and stress than people that they don’t like me. So Chase, Hooray for you and us.

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