Everyday sexism

Sexism is a strange thing these days. I mean, come on ladies. You aren’t owned by your husbands any more! You can vote! You still don’t receive equal pay for the same job, but at least you can have a job! Am I right?! *high fives nearby misogynist*

Ladies, think to a time when you have been offended by a sexist joke, comment or action and did not sit on it. You thought, “No. I usually let this wash over me and silently stew. Not this time. Excuse me, pal! I am offended by your joke/comment/action. It’s sexist. Let’s have no more of that thank you.”

Choose the reaction you got from this selection: “Calm down/I was just joking/No need to get emotional/I think someone’s on their period!”

Laura Bates set up The Everyday Sexism Project just over a year ago, hoping to collect 100 women’s stories of everyday sexism, whether it be in the workplace, on public transport or even their own home. The website has now received over 25,000 submissions and is about to spread into 15 other countries. Its twitter feed alone is truly eye-opening, perhaps because the character limit forces the writer to be so blunt and concise.

My own experiences of everyday sexism started age 11, when the school headmaster wouldn’t referee the girl’s football matches at lunchtime, only the boy’s. What a lesson to teach young girls about their future in the world of sport.

I had to fight to be put in the butchery department of a supermarket I worked for, as the (female!) personnel manager was concerned about there being a woman working there, unlike the men in the department, who only cared that I was qualified. Once working in the butchery, I had customers refuse to be served by me, or just reject any meat I prepared for them. “A female butcher! Now I’ve seen it all!”

On top of this, we have harassment on public transport, on the street and even from a former colleague who had me in tears. And I have hardly ever stood up for myself, thanks to a combination of embarrassment, the knowledge that I will be laughed at (or end up in hot water at work) and the thought that this is just the way things are and nothing I say will make a difference. All for just sticking up for myself.

Apart from the bluntness of the Twitter feed, the other remarkable thing about it is the response some of the comments receive from male followers. One woman tweeted on Wednesday that she was walking home when three men shouted “slut” at her from their car. A response to it was: “I did this when I was a young, stupid piece of crap. I’m ashamed every time I think about it. I am so sorry.”

I have seen many admissions of this kind, as well as many men saying they simply had no idea women were receiving this kind of treatment on a daily basis. I would say my own boyfriend has even had his eyes opened by some of the entries I’ve been reading out to him since discovering the site.

Although this website makes me despair of humanity, it also reminds me of the number of great guys there are out there, who wouldn’t think to masturbate against a woman on the tube or follow her home and try and lure her into a van (worrying admissions from visitors to the site).

It’s also made me feel a kinship with other women. Let’s face it, the comedian Chris Rock was right when he said women could rule the world if they didn’t all hate each other. This project reminded me how far we still have to go for equality and that we’re all in the same boat, dealing with the same issues. We have enough going on without making it harder for one another.

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