10 Examples of Sexism Women Face Every Damn Day

sexism every day
| Feminism > UK Feminism

Hey there! Do you menstruate? Walk on the street? Wear clothes? So many examples of sexism abound on an everyday basis. Unlike Pokemon, too many of us have caught them all.

I recently found myself standing in the lobby of a local auto repair shop. The man behind the desk spoke to my father the entire time — something I let slide since my dad was doing most of the talking. However, it all went to pot when he asked my dad if I drove my Focus it like it was a race car. My dad half-shook his head like he didn’t understand the question. Then, the guy turned to me and said, “Geeze girl, it ain’t stolen!”

I was furious. Seeing as I’m a 32 year old woman, I don’t appreciate being called “girl”. What’s more, this automatic assumption that I drive poorly just because I’m a woman is absolutely infuriating. We left immediately and I think it’s fairly safe to say they won’t be receiving my business.

As I sat in the car on the way home, I thought of all the little (and not so little) things women deal with every day. Being talked down to, being paid less for the same work, being objectified, being sexually harassed and assaulted — and then being told to stop complaining, because “women already have equality.” For the most part, we do have far more rights than ever before; but we’re far from being treated equal to men. Don’t believe me? Here are just ten of the things women face on a daily basis:

Sexist Language

Though men aren’t entirely immune to this issue, women in particular are constantly bombarded with language that erases our contributions, sexually objectifies us, or flat-out uses our gender as an insult. For instance:

  • Masculine generics are the most commonly used — e.g. mankind, chairman, referring to a group of people as “guys.” This assumes that the default human being is male and subtly paints women as a subcategory of human.
  • The generic “he” — i.e. “Every student must have a pencil, and he should always bring it to class.” Using the pronoun “he” to describe someone of unknown gender erases women from the discussion entirely.
  • The female gender is overwhelmingly targeted as a source of insults. These insults imply a person is weaker because of their anatomy or sexual activities — and strengthens the notion that women are inferior to men.
  • One of my biggest pet peeves: women are frequently called “girls” by adult men. This infantilizes women, implying they are childlike and dependent.

Sexist language is used so casually that it’s become part of our mainstream lexicon — making it incredibly hard to eradicate. Even when it’s not directed at an individual woman (or at a woman at all), it is symptomatic of broader microaggressions against women.

Objectification Of Women

Media and advertising barrage women with images and messages that dehumanize and/or objectify them. When all we see is women’s bodies being used to sell products, we’re taught that our worth lies only in our looks. If we don’t have the body, face, or skin colour that parallels society’s standard of beauty, we have no value. Advertisements, glossy magazine articles, and concern trolls routinely tell us that that we need to engage in the latest fad diet, wear “flattering” clothes, and exercise until we drop in order to remain attractive to others.

This message is spread to girls as young as ten, which is also when it begins to take on a distinctly sexualized tone. Not only are they made to believe that their worth is defined by their looks, but also to value themselves according to what boys and men think of them.

Street Harassment

Regardless of what we wear or how we behave, society gives men the green light to voice their appraisal, comments, and criticism of our bodies in public — all at the expense of our safety and comfort. Street harassment serves as a stark reminder that our bodies are not truly considered our own. When we speak against street harassment, we’re told to “enjoy it” or “take it as a compliment.”

Catcalling is not a compliment; it’s a statement of power. It’s a power that is used to intimidate and dehumanize women, a form of sexism that most experience for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17. It’s an entitlement to our bodies that can turn to abuse and violence when we reject their advances. How dare we say no to them, they think, when society has allowed them to believe that commenting on our bodies is their inherent right?

READ: When Roswell experiences street harrassment, she takes a photo of the offender.

Rape Anxiety

Rape “jokes”, rape threats, and outright sexual assault are horrifically widespread in modern society. From a very young age, we’re taught that we cannot go about the world as safely as men do. This can lead to a deep mistrust of others, as well as existing in a state of constant vigilance. We scan the streets as we walk, we choose where and when we shop and commute very carefully. We walk with our keys between our fingers in case we need a weapon.

And if the worst does happen… we question whether we should report it at all. After all, the police, the media, and society as a whole declares that we must have done something to cause it. What were we wearing? How much did we have to drink? Did we do something to lead him on? Why didn’t we try harder to fight him off? Why weren’t we carrying a gun? Rarely is it actually acknowledged that sexual assault can happen to anyone, anywhere — and that no matter what a victim is doing, wearing, or saying, only the rapist is responsible for the rape.

READ: Preventing Rape Culture 101

In The Office

Sexism in the office can be both subtle and overt. For instance:

  • Female employees are often tasked with a disproportionate share of “office housework,” such as taking notes at meetings, mentoring other workers, and bringing food to office celebrations.
  • During meetings, women are invariably interrupted, condescended to, or just ignored altogether.
  • Women are underrepresented in positions of power.
  • When a woman behaves assertively in the workplace, she is referred to as bitchy, shrill, abrasive, aggressive, or pushy. Men displaying the same behavior are commanding, decisive, and natural born leaders.
  • Women who choose to have children face maternity discrimination and even losing their jobs altogether.
  • Women make 80 percent of what men do for working full-time (a 20% wage gap) — this indicates a lack of women in high-paying positions as well as a disparity in wages for the same positions. This gap is much larger for women of color.

Besides all the things listed above, there’s also sexual harassment — something one in three women has experienced at work.

Dress Codes

Whether they’re enforced at work or at school, the lion’s share of dress codes are inherently sexist. Dress codes are particularly restrictive for women or girls, proving to be yet another way of controlling women and limiting both their power and confidence. Even when it has no bearing on our work or schooling, people feel they have the right to discuss how we look and how we’re dressed. We’re fed the message that we’re not valued colleagues or students, we’re distractions and our bodies will be the cause of our ruin.

Young girls are almost exclusively singled out in school dress codes. They’re told that they have to cover up to avoid “distracting” male students and making male teachers “uncomfortable.” This teaches them that:

  • Their bodies are dangerous and sexualized
  • Boys are biologically programmed to objectify and harass them
  • [When she’s pulled out of class for a dress code violation] The boys’ education is more important than hers

Furthermore, this policing of female students’ bodies, while turning a blind eye to boys’ behavior,  strengthens the assumption that sexual violence is inevitable and that the victims are partially responsible — i.e. the rape culture. This sets the stage for college, where one in five female students will be directly affected by sexual assault.

The Pink Tax

Did you know we often pay more for products aimed at our gender? Apparently, women aren’t considered “standard.” Not only are we paying more for needlessly gendered items such as razors and ballpoint pens, they’re often not as well made!  A study of gendered pricing from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that women pay:

  • 4 percent more for children’s clothing
  • 7 percent more for toys and accessories
  • 8 percent more for adult clothing
  • 8 percent more for senior/home health care products
  • 13 percent more for personal care products

In all but five of the 35 product categories analyzed, products marketed at women were priced higher than those marketed to men. Overall, the study found that women’s products cost more 42 percent of the time.

Slut Shaming

Women and girls who acknowledge sexual feelings, act on sexual feelings, have sexual partners, use birth control are often made to feel guilty, dirty, or ashamed by family, “friends”, colleagues, and society at large. This is known as slut-shaming and it’s sexist as hell. Only girls and women are ever shamed for their sexuality — in fact, boys and men are congratulated for the same behavior. Any woman can be a victim of slut-shaming, even if she’s a virgin. The crime in this case is simply being female.

Slut shaming can be incredibly damaging to those victimized. This particular reputation can single her out as a target of harassment and assault, as her peers consider her “easy” and therefore not entitled to say “no”. It may also prove to her self-perception, causing her to shut down her sexual side completely.

Menstruation

Sneers and snide comments like “Are you on the rag or something?” and “That’s disgusting, I don’t want to know what goes on in your vagina.’” This is the derogatory attitude toward menstruation that many women have been forced to put up with for far too long.

If a woman assertively states an opinion, adamantly disagrees with someone, or shows even the slightest hint of emotion, she’s dismissed as being “hormonal” and irrational. Many of us dealing with leaks, pads, tampons, or cups, have desperately tried to cover them up as we rush to the bathroom, since we’ve been led to believe that something completely natural — and that we have no bodily control over — is repulsive.

Not only women menstruate. Nor do all women menstruate. Nevertheless, menstruation is a lightning rod for sexism.

READ: Real talk about menstruation and period positivity with Cattitude & Co.

Pregnancy & Children

Ah, the old catch-22. It’s doesn’t matter whether a woman chooses to become a parent or not, she’s going to face criticism.

It starts with the constant questioning of when you’re going to have kids. Family, friends, coworkers, and strangers will ask you when you’re going to “pop one out”, completely discounting that you may be dealing with health issues, grieving a miscarriage, or one of the one in eight women struggling with infertility. And hell, maybe you don’t want kids! People love to shame women for not being mothers, treating them as if a childless woman is incomplete.

Then there’s pregnancy. As if being female in public wasn’t hard enough, a visibly pregnant belly invites a whole host of uncomfortable interactions. Complete strangers feel it’s entirely appropriate to touch your stomach and give you advice on everything from childbirth to potty training. In fact, all through pregnancy and beyond, it can be hard to get yourself heard.

Despite the known benefits of breastfeeding, doing so in public is yet another thing that women are actively shamed for. Men and women alike judge mothers and attempt to make them feel like garbage for engaging in the very natural act of feeding their child. And while we’re on the subject of breastfeeding, there are the mothers who are vilified for choosing the bottle over the breast. In fact, any decision a woman could possibly make as a mother will be judged at some point.

It’s not easy being a woman in a society that tries to convince you that you’ve achieved equality while resolutely objectifying, shaming, and outright assaulting you. I wake up every day knowing that, before long, I’ll see, hear, or be on the receiving end of a sexist act. All I can do is continue to educate others, join in protests, and call my government representatives until they block my number. Keep up the good fight, sisters.

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