There are huge instances of sexism that most people (we hope) will recognize, like refusing to hire someone because of their gender, or insisting it's a woman's duty to have babies, or refusing to see a woman doctor. These are all real things that still happen in 2018! While many are suitably horrified by such blatant gender discrimination, there's a whole bunch of other instances of sexism we're not as quick to call out.
Illustrator Damian Alexander wrote on Twitter that he overheard a woman tell her son he couldn't have a Wonder Woman doll, telling him it was "for girls." The incident reminded him of a moment in his own life when he wanted to celebrate a hero who happened to be a girl: the character Matilda from Roald Dahl's novel of the same name. Since he's an illustrator, Alexander drew out the whole story as well as his thoughts on how things like this can add up for kids and change how grown men view women.
He explains that as a kid, he mostly related to girl characters in books, TV shows, and movies, but people treated that as strange because he's a boy. He remembered one instance where his teacher tried to dissuade him from writing about Matilda as his classmates laughed at his choice of hero:
But he noticed it was fine with his teacher if the girls chose boy characters as their heroes:
It seemed like a subtle way to enforce in a boy's mind that liking or admiring women for their strength, coolness, bravery, or whatever, was somehow bad.
And that eventually adds up in their minds.
And gets worse as they age.
Alexander wants boys to be able to see women heroes as just that: heroic and awesome, just like we encourage girls to, hopefully.
Alexander originally shared his comic on Tumblr, and it's gone viral on twitter as well. A lot of men could remember similar incidents from when they were boys:
I was not allowed to watch powerpuff girls because of this. I still did at my friends house! And I played as Princess Peach in SSBMelee! But my little brother did not escape this mindset, and now does the same thing to his boy. This idea needs more mainstream attention. A+— The Kelbi Hunter #MHWorld (@TheKelbiHunter) June 16, 2018
Thank you for this. I grew up with heroes like Belle, Kaylee, and Kitty Pryde and had many a similar experience.— Colin (@TriumphantBass) October 3, 2017
Though many said how grateful they are to see things changing, even just a little bit:
My son is 3. And I have already heard other boys(also 3) tease him for liking Rainbow Dash. Thankfully his teachers step in before mama bear— Kirova (@Kirova_BM) October 3, 2017
My 2 year old nephew recently ran around my house in a WW apron yelling "I have superpowers!" Made my day.— Rachel (@prncsspwr) October 3, 2017
Let the kid have the Wonder Woman doll, lady.