Everyday sexism

This week’s post veers away from the regulars on minimalism and zero-waste to a more controversial topic: sexism.

To those who think sexism is dead, think again.

Even in this day and age, where modern countries are spouted as being more equal than ever, sexism prevails.

It’s there everyday, whether you actively see it or not.

I just read the book “Everyday Sexism” by Laura Bates, and I honestly could relate to over half of the stories told there. (If you’re unfamiliar with the book, it is a culmination from thousands of stories she’s collected from women of all ages on the blatant sexism they encounter every day. Www.everydaysexism.com )

I won’t bog you down with all the statistics about the gender pay gap, or the enormous lack of equality in politics and jobs in general. But I will tell a few stories and ask a few questions.

I personally have been cat-called, yelled at, leered at, groped, and been put down multiple times by men who think because I have a vagina it somehow makes me less than a person.

I’ve been stalked while walking to the local library by a guy in a sports car. (No, I’m not paranoid, he literally drove back and forth down the same street and honked at me each time he passed)

I’ve been sitting in my car at a red light and had semi truck drivers yell “hey sexy” through the window while simultaneously gesturing to their crotch.

As a teenager I would go for walks around the neighborhood and once had a group of men in a car pull over on the side of a main road to leer and offer me donuts….as though I wouldn’t feel threatened by it.

I’ve been groped by strangers and acquaintances. Once in middle school a guy in my class pinched my ass, I turned around and kicked him in the shins.

Other gropings happen while in crowded hallways or even in line at the bank, where they had ample room to walk around me but instead chose to brush up against my behind instead and then proceed to grin and smile smugly about it.

I stopped feeling comfortable going out to eat when I got “hit on” by a thirty something year old guy…I was only 11 at the time.

Then there are the more subtle daily bits of sexism…

If you wear shorts, you’re “asking for it”….and considering the fact that I’m almost 6ft tall, ALL shorts are short-shorts, but I can’t really help it when it’s like ninety degrees outside.

But then again if you wear a long-sleeved dress down to your knees, you’re a prude.

If you wear flats or tennis shoes on a date, you’re not trying hard enough. But wearing heels and make-up can be construed as slutty or trying too hard.

My daily musings before getting dressed involve things like…Should I wear a skirt and be whistled at and cat called, or should I wear sweat pants and have the same thing happen but a bit less frequently? At least with the sweats I’ll be comfortable.

(I guarantee you men’s daily wardrobe decisions aren’t this difficult)

Then there’s the work place, the “professional world” where women, believe it or not, have been reprimanded for not wearing enough makeup, or for not wearing heels. I don’t see them telling men to cover up their puffy eyes or blemishes or wear ridiculously uncomfortable shoes all day.

Then of course there’s the whole assumption that if I’m of child-bearing age…you know like between the ages of 11 and 50, that you’ll inevitably get pregnant and become incompetent in your work, which makes employers less likely to hire you in the first place.

Not to mention the lovely bits of sexism many women experience within the workplace, like being asked for sexual favors or getting groped, etc.

Alas there are always a litany of little things, subtle or not so subtle, that have become an inherent part of our lives and experiences…

I’d totally bang that.

Nice rack.

Why don’t you come sit on my lap?

Men don’t like it when you voice opinions too loudly, you’ll catch more guys if you go along with what they say.

No matter what, always laugh at a man’s jokes, it makes them feel valued.

She’s such a bitch/prude/slut/whore/(insert rude remark here).

You don’t want kids? That’s so selfish. You’re a woman, you’re supposed to have kids.

Every single comment ever made about how keeping a house is “women’s work”.

If you’re going to get married and have kids do it before you turn thirty, it’s all downhill for women after that.

Every single movie and advertisement where women are specifically shown to only want love/pretty things/fashion, while the ones geared to men are much more diverse.

All of the cleaning advertisements that are specifically geared to women, (though recently I did see an add with a father and sons doing the cleaning, which was quite refreshing, kudos to them).

Video games where the women characters are only shown with ridiculously unrealistic proportions, mainly in the breasts and backside…and of course they always are wearing little to no clothing.

Telling any female child that the boy who is throwing rocks at her, teasing her, etc. actually “likes her”.

“boys will be boys”

Every single time a girl is singled out in school or work for her outfit and told she shouldn’t wear it because it will “distract the boys/men”

Kids aisles in the stores, girls are pink and marketed princesses and “home-making” items, while the boys get action figures and building materials, etc.

Why do we let this all go unchallenged? Probably because it’s normalized, because it “isn’t that big of a deal”.

But it is. It’s a very big deal. That “innocent” catcall can later turn into physical touching, and can escalate into assault really quickly.

Instead of victim blaming girls or telling them they should cover up more/don’t drink/don’t walk down the street in broad daylight by themselves, why don’t we simply teach our young men how to control themselves? Or teach them that those sorts of comments are inappropriate? The phrase “boys will be boys” is simply an excuse for bad behavior, and we need to wipe it from our vocabulary.

We need to teach girls and boys that no one should be able to touch them without consent. No one should have the right, or feel they have the right, to physically intimidate someone or continue to give them unwanted advances.

Nor should anyone feel that it’s okay to make lewd comments in public. No woman wants to go to the grocery store and have to endure comments about her breasts or ass. Or have some random creep follow her around the store. Or in my case around the block and down the street, but this day and age it isn’t old guys in white stalker vans, it’s young guys in convertibles.

Women and men are both human beings, the only difference being in our chromosomes of XX or XY, and our genitalia. One is not better than the other, nor should one feel superior to the other. Both men and women are needed to procreate and keep the species alive, one cannot do it alone without the other.

Both deserve dignity and respect.

Both genders should feel safe when walking down a street alone.

I can only hope we acknowledge our shortcomings and teach the next generation to do better.

If you have any stories you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments 🙂




4 thoughts on “Everyday sexism

  1. What a great blog post! I can’t wait to read the book that inspired it. Unfortunately sexism is rampant in our society still, and the subtle ways it still informs our everyday life is harmful to the young women who grow up and internalize outdated ideas like they deserve less pay, or that physical beauty is their only asset. Good for you for calling out some of the ways our society continues to be less kind to women. It’s easier said than done!


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