13 Unintentionally Sexist Things You Didn't Realise You Were Doing
Women and men, it's time to listen up.
Sexism might not be the sexiest of topics, but it's something that not only affects each and every one of us every single day, but hurts us all too.
So with the theme for International Women's Day being the suggestion that we all - no matter our gender - Be Bold For Change, let's start with something simple and consider the little, sexist things we all do everyday that are consciously and unconsciously perpetuating prejudice and discrimination, most typically against women.
Stereotypes can be positive or negative, but it doesn't make them accurate or useful. When people make an assumption about you based on your gender, they are generally also making a value judgement and in the case of gender stereotypes about women, probably using it to make them feel inferior.
From making jokes about how your friend's girlfriend is such a nag to the media's obsession with the two dimensional ditzy female character who only exists to create romantic tension, these stereotypes are just another way of controlling women, telling them that they exist purely as a sex object and will only be liked if they play along nicely. BOO TO THAT.
It's a truth universally acknowledged that every time a woman is talked down to by a man or woman, she tries to find an explanation that won't offend them, because we're used to having to take the backseat and be the placating force. But the time for being polite is over: it's sexism, pure and simple.
Both men and women are guilty of interrupting women way more than they do men - and that's a scientific fact. Then there's mansplaining, where men feel it necessary to explain things to women that they already know in a bid to feel superior.
GUYS, a lifetime of experience has already taught us women to feel like our opinions carry less weight than yours and is a big reason it can feel harder for us to step forward and share an opinion. It's not that we don't want to - maybe it's just time we all think about making space for women to be able to have their say and allow them to say it in full.
3. Tone policing
Telling a woman she's being shrill, hysterical, pushy, overemotional and melodramatic when she's angry or upset is the WORST. Women are allowed to be high-pitched and cry if that's how they express their anger, sadness or passion: telling us to 'calm down' isn't a valid argument, it's just undermining our point by trying to make us fit in with a very male-skewed idea of what is ok.
Ironically the same behaviours, particularly in a professional context, are seen as assertiveness in men, so just think twice next time you use this kind of language to criticise a woman.
4. Period Shaming
Dismissing someone's emotions, calling a bodily function 'gross' and making women the butt of countless derogratory period jokes probably has a lot to do with why women still don't feel like they can talk about menstruation openly. But why should we feel ashamed of something that happens to around half the population of the world?
The sooner we all start calling out lazy period jokes and ask why female hygiene brands can't even be honest about periods, the better. Because literally, who here's period comes out as blue liquid? We're all aware blood is red, you guys and the sooner dudes get to grips with that, the sooner we can all get on with our lives.
5. Double standards
You know the drill: a girl who has casual sex is a slut while a guy who does the same is just being a lad. Similarly, the body of a woman, non-binary or gender nonconforming person is a site for moral judgement the way a man's is not.
The examples are countless but each and every one is a way that entrenches that male-hierarchy while resticting other genders from living free, secure and autonomous lives. Doesn't sound like much fun for anyone who isn't a guy when you break it down like that, does it?
6. Assuming women want to get married and have babies
Not only is what a woman plans to do with her ovaries is none of your goddamned business, but asking a woman when she's going to settle down and pop out some babies is inherently sexist.
It implies the predominate value of a woman's life is to pair off with a man and further the human race and - *NEWSFLASH* - it's not for everyone.
It's ok to want to wear makeup, nice clothes and do your hair if that's your thing. But it's also reaaally important to ask yourself whether you're contributing to the bodyshaming problem that is so ingrained in our society or whether you're trying to be part of the solution.
If you notice yourself judging people and particularly women on how they look, think about if it would affect your opinion of a man in the same way. If not then it's time to check your behaviour and start questioning why we are shaming women for living their lives the way they want to.
Why, why, why does society think it's acceptable for men to express an opinion and especially a sexualised one about a woman's body or outfit at the expense of her comfort? Women don't exist as a pawn for men's pleasure: wearing a low cut top or a short skirt has absolutely no bearing on your moral character and it doesn't give anyone, man or woman, a right to comment on it, be that in casual conversation or in the form of catcalling.
This blatant culture of sexual harassment has become accepted and the fear and intimidation has also created a culture where women are the ones who feel unsafe and have to police their own behaviour when SURELY it would make more sense to address the issue at its root. ie. in the people using intimidation to feel power and dominance.
9. Victim blaming
Why is it that there's a tendency to assume that a woman must have done something to garner unwanted attention? Instead what we need is to accept that rapists and those committing sexual assault are the only people to blame for not accepting that no always means no. Just so we're clear, a woman wearing a short skirt or flirting has absolutely no bearing on a man's decision to force himself inside her against her will.
Maybe it's time to address why so many men think they have the right to do just that instead.
10. Buying into unnecessarily gendered products
The gender pay gap is very real and yet products for women still always seem to cost more than those for men, even when products have no justification for being gendered in the first place. Next time you're in the supermarket just check out how much the women's razors cost in comparison to the men (spoiler: it's a LOT more).
Another great example is BIC's decision to bring out a range of pens 'for her' last year. The idea was that they were crafted 'for female comfort' - but why having a vagina would have any bearing on your ability to write we still don't know.
11. Making assumptions about what it is to be a woman
Not all women have periods. Not all women have vaginas. If you're confused then you need to do some serious googling about intersectional feminism and why it's so important to consider how systems of oppression, domination and discrimination can affect trans women, women of colour, women with disabilities and basically women with all different and overlapping social identities.
12. Using gendered language to describe things as good or bad
Calling someone a pussy and telling someone to man up are perfect examples of how phrases we use every single day imply that women are inferior to men.
Using the pronoun 'he' to describe someone from a sterotypically male profession is just as bad so cut these from your vocab and make a concerted effort to acknowledge the contribution of women instead.
13. Dealing in microagressions
You know when someone asks you if you've lost weight, asks you where you're from because they can't pronounce your name or assumes you 'wouldn't be interested' in something for no reason other than your gender? These are all microaggressions: verbal, non-verbal and environmental factors which might seem small and insignificant to those who say them, but which together perpetuate a whole load of sexist, racist, homophobic and able-bodyist (to name but a few) behaviours and practices that can build up to have a massive effect on a person.
Usually they are derogratory and discriminatory, even if those perpetuating them don't always consciously realise the implications and the way they are targeting a person for their membership to a marginalised group. Basically it's a way of tearing somone down, so just think before you speak already.
*BONUS* - Refusing to acknowledge everyday implicit bias
It's an undeniable fact that men and women are generally treated differently in the workplace and in a social context and it sucks. It's basically the ideas we have about what kinds of jobs and rolse women and men are suited to, not because of scientific fact but because it stems from traditional subjugation of women in patriarchal systems.
Don't believe it? The tweet below is a perfect example.
Still confused about feminism? You're not the only one...