The Sexist Hangup That Gets Me Every Time


I watched The Dressmaker yesterday. I love a Kate Winslet costume drama.

The movie was quirky and hard to categorize but I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying there is a bit of a romance between Winslet’s character and the character played by Liam Hemsworth.

Actually, maybe that would be a spoiler because I almost didn’t expect it to happen, even though all the tell-tale signs were there. But then they got together and the chemistry was good and I had all the feels.

I didn’t expect it to happen because Kate Winslet is 41 and Liam Hemsworth is 26. As a moviegoer, I’m not used to seeing an older woman with a younger man.

But if the ages were reversed? It probably wouldn’t even have crossed my mind.

The automatic response I have to seeing older women with younger men (or OWWYM) in media and in real life is a sexist hangup. I get that. I understand it.

The process usually goes like this:

  • I see a OWWYM.
  • I immediately think “Weird.” or another negative.
  • I feel ashamed that my immediate response was negative.

But I’m having a hard time moving passed it and not having that automatic response. Is there a way to train yourself not to have automatic sexist responses?

Another sexist immediate response that I’m working through, but getting better at, is “doctor.” My brain immediately assumes the doctor is a man and I will usually say “he” without anyone telling me the doctor is a man. Same with nurse – I assume female.

The fact that I, a determined feminist, am still working through hangups like these makes me wonder if this would even cross the mind of someone who doesn’t think about feminism and sexism on a daily basis like I do.

But for OWWYM relationships specifically, I don’t have a problem with them. At least, I don’t think I do. Maybe sub-consciously I do and that’s why I usually have a negative mental response. But what that problem could be, I have no idea. I am going to just assume it’s a sexism-related thing that society has pounded into my head since birth.

But can a person get over automatic sexist responses? I’m sure it can be done.

For instance, just look at the United States right now: they are about to elect the first woman president, even though society consistently diminishes the role of women in leadership roles. And she is about to defeat a rich, white man, a person who has sat on the very tippy-top of the societal power pyramid all his life. And that’s incredible.

EDIT: I know, man. I know.

Sexism comes in all levels of severity. But I think if a person realizes their immediate response is sexist, that is the first step towards getting over that response.

The first step is realizing you have a problem.

But if you have the sexist thought and you just go with it, believing it to be truth? Well, friend, you have a bigger problem.

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Jillianne Hamilton is the author of Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, its two action/comedy sequels, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. She is also a freelance blogger, a graphic designer, a history enthusiast, and a dog mom. Learn more.

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