Ask most women and they’ll tell you it’s a fact of life (though it shouldn’t be); it’s seen as a non-event (though it shouldn’t be); and now it’s a website (which it absolutely should be), called The Everyday Sexism Project.
Tell you what. Do the entire female gender a solid and go check out the site right now. Call it a mini-field trip. Spare two minutes. That ought to be enough to either open your eyes or start grinding your jaws.
Go on. I’ll still be here when you come back.
Hey. Glad to see you again.
How you feelin’?
See, I know the vast majority of my female readers hear the words “everyday sexism” and think, “Well, yeah. I put up with that shit all the time. That’s why they call it ‘everyday’.”
In fact, it’s so “everyday” that before writing this blog, I tried to come up with examples from my own life, and all the “everyday” ones just sort of blended together into one long LSD-trailer of images and sounds and feelings of shame and disgust.
My shame and disgust.
Which is exactly what those sexists were aiming for. And of which I’m not proud.
What I could recall clearly were the instances of Fucking Egregious Sexism.
You know Fucking Egregious Sexism.
It’s those moments you’re still talking about 5, 15, 30 years later – because they either scare the piss out of you, enrage you to the point of wanting to do violence, or so upset your worldview that you have to renegotiate it completely.
That’s Fucking Egregious Sexism.
Everyday sexism, on the other hand, is like the sky.
It’s always there, hovering. Never goes away. It’s only on rare days – crackling lightning days, hot summer days that suddenly unleash hail the size of golfballs – that you look up for a second and go, “Oh, hey, right: sky.”
Because if I had to list every time a guy…
grabbed me, groped me, cornered me, pinched me, rubbed up against me, called me a “bitch,” a “whore,” a “cunt” (and I love it when they append “stuck-up” before the noun; as if that’s the insult), called me “opinionated” (’cause… women shouldn’t have one?), “confrontational,” “unladylike,” told me to shut the fuck up, told me I could never be good enough, that I was stupid, fat, ugly, that I “ought to make more effort in the looks department,” that I should wear clothes that “emphasize (my) assets,” that I “should have kids by now,” deferred to my male companion, spoke mostly to my male colleague, ignored me entirely or deigned to talk down to me, assumed I was incapable, assumed I couldn’t learn, treated me like I was deaf, or mute, or an idiot, or an object, catcalled or whistled at me, acted as if I were nothing but a disembodied pussy and tits, talked over me, shouted me down, looked past me, looked through me, tossed off a sneery “whatever,” took credit for my ideas, thought “no” meant “oh jeepers, shucks, I meant ‘go ahead’,” tried to infantilize me, tried to shame me
…seriously, y’all. We would be here FOREVER.
And that’s just the everyday sexism.
In my next post I’ll tell you a story about my latest experience in Fucking Egregious Sexism. Partly because I thought it was funny at the time, and partly because of what I discovered about myself once I was free of the situation:
I didn’t think it was funny at all.
At last — at last — I realized that laughter is merely my defense shield — against both everyday sexism and Fucking Egregious Sexism. Granted, as far as defense shields go, it isn’t bad; nothing wilts a penis faster than female laughter. (This is often where the “stuck-up bitch/whore/cunt” yawnfest begins.) Unfortunately, that’s not how I’ve always used this shield.
Having been through an emotionally abusive relationship, I developed the shield in order to ward off danger, just so fights wouldn’t escalate and get uglier and more injurious… as they invariably did if I stuck up for myself.
And two weeks ago, during my last encounter with Fucking Egregious Sexism, this is what finally dawned on me: while laughter can act as a defense shield, it also tells the offender – whether partner or stranger – that what he’s saying or doing can’t be that big a deal, if the woman he’s saying or doing those things to acts like it’s funny.
Even if we’re only laughing out of self-preservation.
And this is where my own culpability comes in.
< I’m-prepared-for-the-flames section >
When it comes to sexism — either everyday or Egregious — your reactions are your responsibility.
Now before you freak the hell out about me playing blame-the-victim, allow me to state my belief that the only way to be truly victimized is to give up your right to react. Women who have ceded all their agency, all their power, all their free will — the shut-down, the closed-off, the damaged-into-silence — those are the women I think of as “victims”.
I should know, because I used to be one.
Being a “victim” is not a life sentence.
You should know — know — with a deep, utter certainty — that devictimizing yourself is ALWAYS an option.
But no one can do it for you.
You have to reclaim your power, your will — because you want it, you need it, and because it is your inalienable right to have it.
Once you’ve done that, you are no longer a victim.
You are now a survivor.
A survivor can speak up. Stand up. Speak up and stand up for somebody else. If a person pulls misogynistic shit, call the motherfucker out on it. Chances are everyone already knows the person’s a raging asshole — they wouldn’t call it “everyday” sexism if it was hidden away in a dark little cupboard somewhere — so rather than taking power away from you, it’s more likely the raging asshole will end up losing power to you.
That’s karma, baby.
So be brave.
And as a survivor, I repeat: remember that your reactions are your responsibility.
When it comes to everyday (and Fucking Egregious) sexism, your reactions are your only responsibility. Rarely can anyone make sexist fuckwads into non-sexist fuckwads, much as they may want to and hard as they may try. The only things you can control are your reactions to said fuckwads.
Because should misogynists try to make you feel like crap?
Of course not; but they try to do it anyway.
Do you deserve their dismissiveness, abuse and disdain?
Of course not; but you’re going to get it anyway.
So should you be forced to monitor or alter your behavior around them?
OF COURSE NOT;
BUT DO IT ANYWAY.
And I’m not saying, “Be timid like a little mousie so the big bad bully doesn’t see you.”
I’m saying, “Get in that bully’s face and verbally punch him in the fucking mouth. Preferably in front of a cheering crowd.”
Metaphorically lying there, thinking of England, while some creeper shoves his sweaty fat fingers into your crotch on the F train (yes, happened) won’t do shit for you, his next victim, or any other woman these sexist fuckwads try to cow into fear and submission.
So stand up. Yell. Point fingers. Be “confrontational,” “unladylike.”
Try to scare the piss out of them for once.
Of course these rules go all wobbly when a threat of physical violence or sexual assault is involved – self-preservation is automatically triaged higher than moral outrage – as proven by my own “adaptation” – but as I eventually learned: even walking away is a reaction.
A first step. A reclamation of free will. An autodevictimization.
After which you should vow to yourself: I will never again cede my power to anyone else.
And that’s the first step to fighting everyday sexism.
< / I’m-prepared-for-the-flames section >
Fucking Egregious Sexism