#FeministMondays | Everyday Sexism

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.

 

What is #EverydaySexism? Click To Tweet

 

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.

 

everyday sexism feminist feminism women

 

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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.

 

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Linking to #mg hosted by Mackenzie Glanville

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21 thoughts on “#FeministMondays | Everyday Sexism

  1. Every word that you say is true and depressing. Like you, I have no solutions and examples of everyday sexism are aplenty. From the harassment on the roads to online romeos, from the society that puts a man’s career at the forefront and expects a woman to facilitate and build her career around her man’s and the family, there are so many things we almost take for granted. Yes, we each keep chipping at it in our own way. And I hope to live to see a day when women will be more equal to men.

  2. I feel your anger and your pain Naba. But I have no clear answers to your questions. Much as I would like to say that we should educate the boys we know that while eventually that is possible, it will take a generation or two to change. In the meantime, I guess we should ensure that our girls grow up strong and confident. In the end it is fear that always holds us back. Happy New Year. May 2018 be a great year for you.

  3. I agree. We are so used to sexism in our society that it hardly raises an eyebrow when an odd comment is made. I am so sorry you had to go through that horrible experience. It feels so disgusting… I can understand the confusion… Even I couldn’t understand when something similar happened to me in an auto in Chennai. I was baffled at that moment wondering if it’s even real.

  4. I have faced instances of everyday sexism at the workplace, in the public transport, in the family and even in chats among women whom I consider the gatekeepers of Patriarchy. I wish to tell you Nabanita even though the situation looks grim at the moment but there is hope in the future and I am optimistic M and her generation might have it somewhat easy because there are scores of mothers today, mothers of sons including me, who are working at raising gender sensitive boys. It is not easy for us given the resistance from the gatekeepers of patriarchy but we are developing strength as we are moving further. The world will be a better place.

  5. We speak up when we can and do what we can to build up our daughters to face the world, Naba. We empower them with confidence to fight back and stand their ground. We teach them that No means no and that their words carry power. That’s what I learnt and I hope that my daughter learns it too.

    Hopefully, the #MeToo movement has a lasting and profound impact on the way women are perceived.

  6. The thing that happened to you in the bus, happened to me too. But I did create a scene and ended up having the man thrown out of the bus. This happened because the conductor was a lady. I’m not too sure how it would turned out had it been a man.

    The #MeToo movement was much needed and it made people stand up and take a look at this everyday sexism. I see sexism everyday all around me. Sadly, it is inflicted by more women from where I see.

    Women need to come together and fight for this. Instead of blaming each other and conforming to conventions they need to support each other and make their voices heard.

  7. Oh Naba you have written this so much from the heart and I agree with everything you mentioned here. The chores at home, the shoutings, the work place attitude and ofcourse the ever present harassment in local transport- women are subjected to this abuse daily and with such a self entitlement from the men!
    Standing upto it and voicing one’s concerns is the only way that I can think of right now to tackle it.
    And yes when other women stand up with another, together the voice grows stronger and is heard more clearly!

  8. I felt that the fact that we needed a #MeToo movement should have shown to people how common place this has become. Be it a celebrity or a common woman, the suffering is the same. Reacting to such issues more often cause more issues which the woman herself or her family avoid out of fear. Can’t really blame them for wanting to forget a bad incident and move on, eh? But this battle must be fought and won. For without it, we are slowly deteriorating into a world where there is no hope for women.

  9. This happens so often and it continues because most of the time we fail to raise our voices against it. I hate traveling in crowded buses! And yes, once when I was in college, a guy was selected to go for an international conference though I was I was better than him in all the rounds of selection just because I was a girl! I fought as much as I could but I could not do much!

  10. Its very difficult to counter everday sexism Naba. For often I find myself succumbing to it. Ofcourse most times I do raise the issue. But there are times, when you realise you are helpless and reacting to it isnt going to fetch you results.

  11. I love love love this post. There are so many examples of everyday sexism, I can’t pick one.
    For example, my husband dismissing my emotions because it might be “that time of the month” or – latterly – due to menopause. No, maybe he’s just being annoying!

    I’ve been a feminist since I was 5. I’ve had women say to me in the 90s, “but feminism isn’t relevant anymore, is it?” Then one of them had a child, and she found that their colleagues treated her differently as a mother.

    So your post gives me hope for the future. And your idea of Feminist Mondays. I will join in intermittently on my A Separate Life blog. For your little girl, for my little nieces, and for all the other little girls. And boys. Because this makes it a better world for them too.

  12. It is sad that nothing much has changed but there is a ray of hope as more women are now working and taking care of their destiny rather than being guided.

  13. Nothing seems to be changing much. You are right. Sexism is everywhere. At workplace if a woman progresses even after defeating numerous odds there is always a chance when someone will point out her áffair’ with the boss or she being a ‘favourite’ of the boss. very casually the hard work and efforts are belittled in this world. Its unfair. We need to stand with each other as women as a society to change it otherwise it seems highly unlikely.

  14. It’s surprising that a lot of men don’t realize the implication of their actions even if they don’t intend to hurt us. The most common form of sexism I find is in the form of jokes, and immediately women are asked to develop a sense of humour. But they really don’t get it. So, I think the onus is on us to speak up everytime we aren’t comfortable with something being spoken, at least with men whom we think can understand – starting from our family, friends and colleagues.

  15. I have faced this many times during my graduation and continued. But I always asked back like is there anything? what happened?? is something wrong??? they way I made them embarrassed. But yes did not find any permanent solution. Though it is very depressing and painful to see a, at the same time I feel helpless.

  16. I am a week late here but I couldn’t agree more with you that many times the onus is on us. Sexism is real in every day life. It starts with can you give me a glass of water to sex when she is not up for it.
    I don’t have answers and I would only say that change needs to start some where. We can change how we think and what our kids think and say. Maybe when every one does that is when the society at large will change. Until then, women may have to ‘protect’ themselves cos hey, what other choice do we have? Thank you for raising these questions, Naba! Much needed.
    Parul Thakur recently posted…International Blog Delurking Week – 2018My Profile

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