When it comes to sexism, the struggle is real for women. Whether it’s little instances of everyday sexism or big, giant instances of bias that cut you to the core, woman are constantly dealing with prejudice and discrimination based on gender. It’s not okay. It sucks. It’s hard to deal with. And it’s all endlessly frustrating.
This week, we want to help you deal with all the sexist B.S. that comes your way. That’s why were answering 5 of your really good questions about really sexist situations. Check it out and learn how to deal with sexism — and how you can support other girls with some fierce comebacks.
“Why is it considered catcalling if a guy simply asks, ‘How you doing?’ Yes, someone I don’t know saying hello to me can be annoying, but that’s not going to stir up fear the way it would if someone was walking alongside me or even following me in a car.” — Anonymous
I think catcalling has to do with tone and situation. If I’m walking down a street and a guy aggressively yells out, “How you doing?”, I would consider that catcalling. Why? Well, I’m clearly not stopping for an interaction because I’ve got places to be. And his tone is assertive and threatening. So that’s as uncalled for as following someone in my book.
But I get that a random dude saying hello might not make you feel threatened all the time. That’s fine. But you should also think of it this way. Every single day, girls are bombarded with guys making comments to them that range from “How are you doing? ” to “Hey sexy, nice ass.” If you are hearing these things on the regular, you are going to get really effin’ sick of it. So even the most well meaning passing comments are going to bug you. A lot. Why? Because a strange man trying to grab your attention never feels completely warranted. Especially when in society, women are aggressively pursued by men, making us question even the slightest passing, “Hi.” No, it’s not being paranoid. No it’s not being sensitive. It’s simply living as a woman in a sexist society. It’s simply being conditioned to (rightfully) expect the worst. Even from the slightest comment.
“I’ve said plenty of things about guys that are basically VERY sexist. For example, I make fun of boys who lift the same weights as me because they’re boys and should lift more. Am I sexist?” — Rose
You are not sexist, but you are being gendered. Let me explain. Being sexist means you are enacting a gender privilege to put down or threaten someone else of an unprivileged gender. So, who has gender privilege and power in society? Men. Definitely not women (and definitely not trans* or gender non-conforming people either!). Basically, if a man puts you down on the basis of gender or sexually harasses you, they are pulling on all this privilege and power while doing so. Whether it’s a passing comment via catcalling or a more physical threat or saying women are inferior to men, they are using their power (whether they are conscious of it or not!) to be sexist. And even the tiniest comments uphold sexism, which holds women back in big and small ways.
Now, when you make comments about boys being weak, you are not pulling on the same privilege and power with your comments. Sure, your comments frankly suck and aren’t fair to the boy you are picking on. But, still after that interaction, the systems in place that give that boy privilege and power over you aren’t strengthened or damaged. And that’s the difference.
“Today, I was sitting with a group of five guys working on a project. This one guy randomly asked me how I would feel if he said that women are less superior to men. I told him that it’s not true—plain and simple. They all said if it wasn’t true, then why aren’t more women millionaires or leading nations? I said because women have been held back by men for a long time. Then, they started saying how my brain is inferior. I don’t even know how to respond! I am angry and upset that when I get older, I will still be seen as lesser because of my gender. How should I deal?” —Anonymous
First off, let me be the first to say I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s totally not okay! All of your responses to these men are absolutely correct. You are not at all less valuable or talented for your gender. You are not less than for being a woman. Women are constantly held back by men, both in the workplace and in society in general. A successful woman has had to face challenges a man never will have to even think of. And many women who have the ability to be successful will never have the chance simply because of their gender. All of this is obviously not okay. And all of this is because of sexism.
Now, you are dealing with this well. You are pushing back against their assumptions. You are challenging them. You are allowing yourself to be angry and hurt, but channeling those emotions to make real change by confronting their judgement. So good on you! You are so strong. But also know that you have no obligation to listen to their chatter. If they are just pushing your buttons to be jerks and you don’t feel like fighting back, take care of yourself and walk away. A lot of the time, women are encouraged to always fight back against sexism. But it can get overwhelming! So make sure to practice self-care while fighting back. Use pushing back as a way to enhance your self-care!
No matter what, even if people see you as “less than,” know that you are not. And you have the power to push back against their assumptions. You have the right to push back. You are fierce. And you can make a difference for yourself…and for all other women. Even if it’s just by saying to one guy, “You’re being sexist and offensive. Stop.” Keep being amazing!
“So I’ve been dating this guy for almost eight months now. Usually he’s great, but lately he been using terms like “feminazi.” He also has some troublesome ideas about abusive relationships and has no issue with his friends making extremely problematic, sexist remarks. I’m really confused about what to do now because I feel like he doesn’t respect my beliefs…or me as a woman. I’d love to hear your opinions on this!” — Anonymous
Oh dear! This dude does not sound like a good boyfriend, girl! If you feel like your beliefs are conflicting with your partners or that your boyfriend doesn’t respect you, those are all relationship red flags. Sure, sometimes you can agree to disagree when it comes to beliefs and still be perfectly fine partners. But if a guy is putting down women all the time, do you really want to be the woman to be with him? From the sounds of it, it seems like you don’t. And you shouldn’t.
By disrespecting women, he is disrespecting you. By not finding his friends comments problematic, he is helping them in putting down women like you. By having “troublesome ideas about abusive relationships,” he is scaring me…and should be scaring you. Take care of yourself and please leave this guy. You can’t change his problematic ways. You can’t be the one to save him. You need to save yourself from this relationship. You are worth more.
“I was on another website today and there was a thread about laundry commercials. They were talking about how it is usually a woman who is always the one talking about it and doing the laundry and how they believe it reinforces the idea that a woman’s job is to clean. But is that really sexist?” — Anonymous
I know it can seem odd when people call out seemingly little instances as sexist. You may think that laundry commercials aren’t really a big deal sexism-wise when there are woman physical and sexually harassed DAILY. The latter, obviously, seems like sexism that deserves to be made into a big deal. But a laundry commercial? What’s so sexist about a woman and a little fabrics softener?
The thing is that these seemingly little instances are sexist. Because there is this common notion that a woman’s “place” is in the house, these commercials use that notion as a marketing tool. They enforce that idea through their advertising, which helps uphold a system of inequality that keeps women doing laundry while men sit on the couch. Think about it. Commercials dealing with labor within the house almost always feature women. If we lived in a non-sexist society, men would be as present as women in these types of commercials. And they would do more labor in the home IRL. So, yes it is sexist. And, yes, we should be critical about it even if it’s not an instance that warrants mass outrage. Why? Because it helps uphold a system that does warrant mass outrage.
Got anymore questions about sexism you need answered? Got any stories about sexism you need to share? Let’s chat it out in the comments below!