Everyday sexism abounds wherever a girl goes. It happens where a girl may not notice and will instead feel bad – for having said something, for making a “misstep” – without recognizing the belittlement as not just personal but societal. Cut down, interrupted, or expected not to know something are all small bites out of a girl’s confidence. Part of why everyday sexism is hard to wrap your head around or address is because we as women take it personally or internalize it.
How do we as girls and women maintain self-respect without being called a “combative female?” How have you handled bias leveraged at you?
Some examples of everyday sexism are:
- “You are the smartest woman I have ever had a conversation with.”
- Diminutives such as “girl,” “honey,” or “little.”
- “Have you heard of…[insert presidential candidate, psychological study, what UBI stands for, the rapper Lil Dicky].”
- Being interrupted or talked over.
Some ways people (read: men) brush off or are unaware of their own misogyny:
- “It was a joke.”
- “Calm down.”
- “I didn’t mean it.”
- General rejection that something said or done was incorrect.
Often a solution can be making a joke to recognize the slight but not make a huge deal of it. Ideally, this is a positive part of the conversation – part of the banter. Here are some other ways to combat everyday sexism, based on what you’re comfortable with and what the situation might entail:
1. Say Something Definitive
Some decisive statements can be made in response to a sexist comment that are not confrontational. They include statements such as, “I can’t permit you to make those kinds of comments in my presence,” “It isn’t funny to make [inaccurate] comments like that,” or “Is that something you would say if your mother, wife, sister, or daughter were in my shoes?”
Obviously you can tweak them a little bit, but the message for the other person is clear: Watch what you say.
2. Address It
In order for sexism not to become a pattern of interaction between you and the person should it be a social relationship, a job, or to prevent the person from treating other women the same, it’s best to take on sexism immediately. As soon as a sexist comment or action has been made, call it out either by using a stock phrase or indicating your discomfort, dislike, or unresponsiveness. This shuts down the possibility for repetition.
3. Don’t Wait for Other People
Don’t expect someone else to come to your defense or to say something on your behalf. For a man to interject is demeaning and sexist in its own right – own the interaction not because you are at fault but because you can stand up for yourself. Speak for yourself. Have a set of girlfriends who will back you up if you get into an uncomfortable situation and whom you will support should they advocate for themselves, but not to speak for you.
4. Surround Yourself with Good People
If you are in a safe environment with supportive people where you feel comfortable directly responding instead of brushing off a comment, it can be empowering to call out an inappropriate and/or biased statement. This allows the previous options to be used all at once, giving you support and a soapbox. Best of all, if in a safe space, those who make sexist or ignorant comments and actions will definitely learn from their mistakes.
Despite discomfort, addressing everyday sexism is necessary for progress to occur. We all need to regard each other as individuals as opposed to a gender. Given the importance of language in shaping our thoughts, shutting down the pattern of low-key sexist speech is essential to changing attitudes and behavior. In other words, more power to us.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.