Question Of The Day

Would You Rather Everyone Thought You Were Sexist or Racist?

We asked people to defend their preferred type of discrimination.
July 7, 2017, 4:54am

So, neither of these options are great. But you have to choose. You have to choose and really, it's possible you won't find it that hard because you're already leaning just a tiny, little, inadmissible bit in one or both of these directions anyway. It's just human nature to explain away differences by being a dick, so let's discuss that. Let's discuss that with a hypothetical.

VICE wandered around Melbourne, Australia asking people which flavour of discrimination they prefer.

Arthur, 24, Bartender

VICE: Hey Arthur, would you rather everyone thought you were sexist or racist?
Arthur: Ok, I think I'm going to have to break this down. Sexism is definitely more of a recent issue, but racism is still very present. Sorry, I'm thinking out loud.

This is a life or death situation, now pick.
Man, usually when I don't know what to do I just flip a coin, but I guess you can't really do that with this hey.

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Would your choice come from something you've personally experienced?
Well I'm actually from France, and I've always been among white people. I mean France is very multi-cultural, but for some reason I've only ever been around white people.

How did you feel moving over to Australia then?
Racism is definitely different in France compared to Australia. I think if I was going to answer this question from a perspective of living in Australia, I would rather be racist than sexist. In my experience, racism is a lot more socially acceptable in Australia that it is in France.

Interesting you say that, because Australia is pretty multicultural, so the issue of racism is brought up here a lot.
I mean, I work in hospitality, and issues around sexual harassment are brought up far more than racism. I haven't witnessed any myself, but I feel like there is a lot more awareness around it, and people talk about sexism far more.

Has your decision been guided by what other people would think is worse?
Yeah definitely. I think I have to approach this question by how I would be judged by people, because both options don't make a huge amount of sense to me.

Would you be ashamed to be racist, or pretty open about it?
Ashamed. I've grown up seeing people as they are, not really thinking about their skin colour. It's definitely an educational thing though. Some people I know in France have been raised with a hatred towards others—like people are going to steal their job or whatever. I don't understand that, but if you are raised that way, I think I can understand why.

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How do you feel about racist jokes?
I'm pretty flexible on humour actually, and I laugh quite a lot at sexist or racist jokes. But it really depends on whether or not I know the people the jokes are being made about would laugh too. It also helps if the joke is delivered well. I think it helps to laugh about things though, it shows how stupid it all is. I've made sexist or racist jokes to women or people of colour, but I knew how they were going to react first.

Karlie, 26, Hospitality

Hey Karlie, would you rather everyone thought you were a racist or a sexist?
Well I think that being a racist is worse.

Why?
I think it's slightly more acceptable to be a sexist. Like more people only seem to have a problem with sexism recently, whereas racism has been an ongoing issue for a long time. Women also have a bigger support network, and racism is a bigger, more negative thing I think.

Can you tell me about a time when you worried you'd come off as racist?
I work in hospitality in Federation Square, which is a big tourist area, and accidentally sometimes you'll assume that a group of Asian people can't speak the language, but they're actually from here.

Do you feel bad about that?
Yeah, I guess I do. I'm from England and because I have freckles, a lot of people assume I'm Irish, which I know isn't the same thing, but I'm like, well why do you have to assume?

Bill, 31, Social worker

Which one Bill?
I'd rather be sexist to be honest.

Can you tell me why?
Maybe because women can defend themselves quite well. But with racism, you've got that whole historical perspective as well. Like there are people out there who can't even comprehend why we shouldn't view some races as superior to others.

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Are there personal reasons behind your choice?
I was raised by a single mum and have two sisters so I think being raised in that environment, I saw them better able to defend themselves. If two separate fights about racism and sexism were happening in front of me, I would probably jump in to defend the person being racially abused, because I think the female could hold their front a lot better. I also don't think there is much to be sexist about in this world anymore.

Do you think the fact you're a guy has anything to do with your choice?
Maybe. I mean being raised in a household of women has given me way more insight into a female's life than a male's, but I also know that each sex has their pros and cons. I know that I'm stronger because I'm a guy, but I don't have as much compassion as a woman might. And now maybe that opinion would be considered sexist, I'm not really sure.

Do you think everyone is a bit racist or sexist?
Yep, I mean sometimes it can just be a joke or a throw-away comment, but that can get a bit out of hand. I think everyone at some point exploits their superiority over others. I mean, I remember in high school, there were all the different groups, and it was really normal to separate people by their nationality without thinking.

Can throw-away comments or jokes be damaging?
They can definitely wear thin. I know that I've participated in them to some extent, and I'm not proud of it at all. But most of the time it's been for fun and games, or to get a conversation moving and get some ideas out of someone, or even a reaction out of someone.

Ashleigh, 24, Florist

Would you rather be thought of as a racist or a sexist?
Perhaps sexist. I think sexism is a lot more straightforward and easy to deal with than racism. But I'm not sure, honestly. Sexism isn't really an issue I've ever come across.

So you've never experienced sexism?
Not on a great level no. I grew up in the country and was pretty much treated like a boy, and was on an equal footing with everyone around me.

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What about racism. Do you have more of a personal understanding of that?
Yeah, within my family. Like their opinions are often everything I'm against. My grandma has some fairly full-on opinions about people from other places. In saying that though both my grandparents are from overseas, and they are discriminated against because they can't speak English very well.

Have you ever discriminated against anyone?
Yeah probably, but only because I didn't know what I was saying and didn't know what I was doing. Never on purpose.

So you think ignorance is a main cause of racism and sexism?
Yeah, 100 percent.

Would you keep quiet about it, or would you be telling the world about your opinions on social media?
If someone asked me my opinion, I'd tell them. I think everyone has the right to their own opinion, even if I don't really like it.

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