Everyday Sexism campaign

24 Jul

Following the Everyday Sexism campaign on Twitter never ceases to shock me.  It has confirmed my belief that casual sexism is rife and ingrained in our society which is an incredibly depressing thought.  Everyone seems to accept that sexism is still a problem in developing countries but to realise that this is something that has a vice-like grip in our ‘developed’ society in the 21st century is unacceptable.

What’s also poignant is the fact that it is not only men that exhibit sexist views which is perhaps the general old-fashioned view.  It goes far deeper than that.  Many women adhere to gender stereotypes and judge other women on sexist grounds – just look at the catty ‘celebrity reporters’ that scrutinise the tiniest bit of cellulite on an actress’ thigh.  This is a problem for both genders.

These pervasive beliefs of many people are revealed in various ways, ranging from the obvious sexist remarks – the catcalls, the lecherous comments by randoms on a night out, the blunt remarks on a woman’s physical appearance.  Or these sneak insidiously into offhand remarks that betray an inherent sexist mindset like: ‘Girls don’t get science’/ ‘Girls go to university to find husbands’ (thanks floppy-haired Boris!)/ ‘Does she look the part for our business?  It’s a client facing role and it would help if she’s easy on the eye.’

I am glad that feminism is getting more attention of late and this campaign has encouraged people from around the world to share their stories and experiences of sexism.  It got my friend and I chatting about one experience in particular that we had when we were both 13  at a bus stop late at night.  We were young girls and these two men – they must have been in their late forties – started chatting to us, trying to encourage us to come with them on the bus.  We politely declined and while we walked away, one of them shouted out ‘You should do what you’re told, dressed like that!’ and then they both started laughing.  Frightened and alarmed, we walked away quickly with our heads down, feeling ashamed.  I remember thinking that perhaps it was our fault that they had said that.  We were both wearing miniskirts and makeup as most young girls experimenting do ; perhaps our way of dressing justified such comments?  Of course not.  And the fact that we both felt ashamed for a comment they made simply goes to show how rife sexism is.  Those men could have had daughters, or perhaps granddaughters – they were definitely old enough – yet their attitude to women and young girls was abhorrent.  If I saw something like that now, I would speak up instead of running away – in fact, I’d probably have to stop myself from kicking them in the balls – as this kind of behaviour is disgusting and inherently damaging to a person’s self-esteem.  In fact, this behaviour seems somewhat normalised in today’s society, serving to perpetuate these repulsive beliefs and maintain them in younger generations.

The campaign has deservedly received prolific attention and has made me far more aware of things.  I was surprised to discover just how much marketing and advertising out there reinforces sexist beliefs – since when was a hoover or a cleaning spray a most-desired item for women?!   Before I would be inclined to ignore all of this, avoid it or believe people’s half-hearted claims that ‘that’s just the way it is’ but knowing the extent of this issue and understanding the importance of the cause, it is simply not something that should be ignored or avoided.

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