Everyday sexism

JessicaThe author of this article is Jessica Fisher.

“I’m a 20-something college student. I’m a writer and a social media maniac. I love reading comics and playing video games. I can usually be found online or running around campus going to my next meeting or looking for the free food.”

“I imagine you’ve probably been there. You get up and get ready for the day. As always you are doing your best to be your best and put your best foot forward. You get to work or class or the place where you volunteer and as you sit down the person in charge says, “Alright guys, this is what we’re going to do today.” And if you’re like me, you look around in confusion at first. Well, is my employer only talking to half the room at this point? Will half the room have one set of tasks and the other another?

Sexism is so societally ingrained that at this point we’re told it’s ‘innate’. There is nothing innate about calling a room full of people a gender-specific term, just as they’re nothing innate about the transexism of thinking it’s okay to ask a person about their genitals because they identify trans*. The simple fact that a phenomena such as ‘everyday sexism’ exists to be scrutinized and unpacked is in and of itself appalling.

Everyday sexism is teaching children it’s okay to use gender-specific terms to address a group of people. Everyday sexism is being obstinate towards the views of the person who feels they do not need the door held open for them, and then passive-aggressively holding the door for no one. Everyday sexism is instructors teaching a biological sex and a societal gender binary as fact, when in fact, there exist more than two biological sexes and way more than two societal gender identities. And the worst everyday sexism is the most unfortunate effect of sexism as an institutional oppression – and that’s internalized sexism. The sexism that sits in a person’s mind and stews – the sexism that says I’m not good looking enough or I’m not smart enough, or if I could just tone this part of my body a little more – it’s the daily incarnation of the ingrained sexism that tells us we are not good enough, and it makes us neurotic and anxious and angry and depressed.

Everyday Sexism is manifested in the way one is treated. “You really shouldn’t wear that skirt.” “Why do you wear shorts all the time, you look so masculine?” Where everything about you becomes one step from okay and having to process that on a daily basis gets exhausting quickly.

Still, no matter how exhausting, the perpetuation of everyday sexism says we must be happy if not peppy and any delineation from that is a sign of aggression and then we’re made into ‘bipolar bitches’ (because the actual meanings of words don’t matter to the perpetuators of everyday sexism.)

The biggest problem that causes everyday sexism, though, could easily be argued to be the ignorance people have that what they’re doing is sexist.

Without defending the sexist or the sexism, what passes for the ‘culture’ in the mainstream, perpetuates, at least in America, an ideal that feminist women are genocidal purists who claim they’re sex is superior. While one cannot say this has never occured, what’s happening in a general context is the oppressor is dressing up the rebelling oppressed to look as if, coincidentally, they are oppressor-hopefuls. Keeping this oppressor-oppressed dichotomy, especially when an oppressor can paint themselves as victims, leads to general societal ignorance that perpetuates sexism daily as if it were simply a struggle for survival.

As much as I may want to, I cannot point to any one person alive today and blame them for sexism. Sexism has been institutional and societal for far too long, but it is meeting its match. Everyday sexism weighs people down, it’s an unfair and cumbersome burden, but with everyday feminism, if you will, individual conversations are combating everyday sexism. Asking people to use gender neutral terms when addressing more than one person is combating everyday sexism.

It has been stated that sexism is not innate and because of this it can be overcome and it is being overcome. It takes those who are willing and who feel safe to tell their stories to do so, and it takes all of us who are willing and who feel safe to have conversations to do so.

And eventually everyday sexism becomes everyday feminism.

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Learn more about Jessica here

Jessica wrote the article on behalf of Being Feminist, an online platform trying to reach out to and connect to feminists and provide a safe space online to talk about experiences, trials, errors and joys (pretty much anything feminist or feminist-y or which might benefit from a feminist perspective). We try not to mess it up. Sometimes, we succeed. You can follow our blog and Facebook page

5 Comments on Everyday sexism

  1. Useful article Jessica and great to finish on a hopeful note in spite of all the negativity that has to be dealt with. I agree that we need to keep talking and find a way to deal with people’s reaction as a result of their ignorance, when being challenged about their sexism. I think that the recent situation where many female freshers were shown to be experiencing a great deal of sexism is a case in point. A twitter campaign inviting young women to tweet their experience shone a light on what was happening and as a result university administrations had to take action to deal with it.

    The growth in organisations like Being Feminist and Everyday Sexism is helpful in keeping these issues to the fore and providing a voice for individuals so that they do not have to feel that they are alone.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. I love your passion and intelligence Jessica! Nice work.

  3. Very passionate piece. I am a little confused as to why feminism isn’t discriminatory in and of itself. Isn’t equity and neutrality the aim in the long run. Personal mutual respect and institutionalised parity?

    • Greetings Phil,

      Apologies on the late reply, but I appreciate the comment. Some people feel that feminism is discriminatory, and some people’s feminism comes to be discriminatory. No ideology, when put into practice by humans, is ever going to be perfect. Some may prefer to be seen as Equalists or Humanists, I personally choose Feminism, not because it is perfect, and not even because it always accepts and understands who I am, but because it empowers me. It has given me a platform to have conversations like you and I are having, to discuss how we reach mutual respect.

      If you’re asking if Feminism is discriminatory because it advocates for things like equity, then I’m not sure I understand the connection.

  4. Hi Jessica,
    Thank you for replying.
    My point is simple really and, because one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, mutual respect is essential to effective balance and equity. Clearly this is not a gender issue and is one of individual behaviour and values. From a personal perspective I tend to avoid badges and organisations because I have yet to find anyone or anything that fits entirely with my world view which, naturally, changes as I grow and change. I have two guidelines – ‘to thine own self . . . ‘ And ‘do unto others . . . ‘
    If groups of like-minded individuals can collectively support positive change then all well and good. In fact, this is frequently how change happens! I guess the value of the change depends upon the values of the individuals who are effected by it.
    Good luck.
    Phil

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