Pic Credit | Feng Yu via Shutterstock
2017 will probably go down in history as the year of #MeToo, the silence breakers. The year that we heard stories of abuse from women, successful and powerful women telling us how much everyday sexism has aggravated to horrible extents over the years. Stories that we know are written every single ticking moment of every day, but still, stories which somehow managed to surprise us. Do you know why? Well, I’ll tell you. Because as men and women we have become accustomed to everyday sexism as something normal so much so that we don’t even stop to notice. It may be staring us in the face but we would still walk right through it. That’s how used to we have become. But tell you what, stop we must lest #MeToo becomes just another highly retweeted hashtags in history.
“Sexism is often an invisible problem. This is partly because it’s so frequently manifest in situations where the only witnesses present are victim and perpetrator.”― Laura Bates, Everyday Sexism
Everyday sexism is like an insect gnawing away at the very foundation of our society, slowly leading it towards decay. #EverydaySexism #FeministMondays Click To Tweet
What is everyday sexism?
That stare from the man who sits across you at work. How he keeps looking at you even though he realises it makes you uncomfortable. That easily avoidable brush against your body by a man in the bus done unapologetically just because he could. When you are asked if you have any “long-term plans” before being hired. Yes, that unsubtle way of asking if you plan to get married or become pregnant. When you are catcalled or hounded on Whatsapp by unknown men because they can do it without fearing for their safety or mental peace. And most of all fear which seeps into your subconscious that you are not really safe anywhere on account of being a woman. The constant deliberation that whether retaliating or calling out a man for his sexist innuendos is the right thing to do or it will only make it worse for you.
As women, we have learnt to live with it because what choice do we have? Most times we don’t have any. I remember a few years ago while I was on a bus a man had practically shoved his crotch towards my face. Truth be told, I didn’t know how to react. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I should react. I was scared of the response from him and those around me. And I didn’t do anything. One more reason why the ladies compartment or seats makes more and more sense until of course men learn how to reign it in. But I digress.
The fact is at homes, workplaces and on roads, women are subjected to varying degrees of abuse daily. And this is a universal phenomenon. It might be a man not allowing his wife to carry on working post marriage or expecting her to take care of all household chores and kids apart from her career because isn’t that just what women are born to do! It might be a male colleague deciding it’s time for you to go on a sabbatical because your continuity in a project might harm his progress in the long term. Or, something as commonplace as you being passed off for promotion because you are a married woman who might in the near future become a mother and hence as per the so-called bosses ‘less focused on your career’. It might be a girl being teased by roadside Romeos while coming back from tuitions. It happens in a loop and we live through it.
“People who shout at women in the street don’t do it because they think there’s a chance the woman will drop her shopping, willy-nilly, and leap into their arms! It isn’t a compliment – and to call it that disparages the vast majority of lovely men who are perfectly able to pay a real compliment. It is an exertion of power, dominance and control. And it’s utterly horrifying that we’ve become so used to it that it’s considered the norm.”― Laura Bates, Everyday Sexism
From the portrayal of women on television and advertisements as the family cook (not chef mind you for that’s for men, right?) or the one designated to do laundry till eternity, we have invariably become the symbols of domesticity even though we might not want to be so. That’s everyday sexism staring at your face through your television sets and billboards. From accounting a woman’s success to the way she dresses up or how she looks to discounting the abilities of a woman because she’s ‘just too pretty to be intelligent’, classic examples of the misogyny rampant around us. Yes, things are changing but the pace is too slow for comfort.
From the gender-pay gap to being expected to start our careers from scratch post maternity break, these privileges seem exclusive to women. Or, something as simple as a woman buying alcohol or a condom seen as abnormal while, not even an eyebrow is raised by a man doing the same. This is what I mean when I say everyday sexism has become too commonplace for comfort.
Our nos are not taken seriously. When raped we are blamed or expected to be ashamed, move away and hide from the society. If we are strict with our subordinates we become bossy or if we dare stand up to a man at work, we are labelled as difficult. The list is endless and the tags are all assigned to us. Our sex makes us open to this kind of exploitation and this needs to be changed.
The funny thing is the onus is on us, the women, to do something to stop this everyday sexism. Whether it is staying off those ‘areas’ which might cause us trouble or go for self-defence classes. Whether it is calling out the nonsense and fighting back, we are the ones expected to take actions. Well, I guess accepting the opposite sex to make changes in their outlook or behaviour is a little too optimistic since they have been accustomed to it for thousands of years now. Old habits die hard right! Even this has a catch for we don’t know how effective or safe our fight back is going to be. And if we are going to be believed at all. But what choice do we have?
The funny thing is the onus is on us, the women, to do something to stop this everyday sexism.
“As long as we as a society continue to belittle and dismiss women’s accounts, disbelieve and question their stories, and blame them for their own assaults, we are playing right into the hands of those who silence victims by asking: “who would believe you anyway?”.”
― Laura Bates, Everyday Sexism
I don’t have solutions so I’ll leave you with this final quote from Laura Bates, a woman who to me makes a lot of sense and also because this quote gives me hope.
“This is a battle that we will win. Because women are wittier, brighter, stronger and braver than a misogynistic and patriarchal world has given us credit for.”― Laura Bates, Everyday Sexism
Before you go, tell me about your experiences of everyday sexism and how you reacted in the face of it. And what do I do so that my daughter M and her friends don’t inherit a world where everyday sexism still rules.
This post is part of the #FeministMondays series (previously called #IAmAFeminist series) on the blog. Inspired by a TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists, I intend to talk about the need for feminism through my posts, posts on my experience and observation as a female. I intend to talk about issues concerning women.
Join me and let’s work towards a world of gender parity. Remember, each voice counts. Tell me your story.