Everyday Sexism

I follow an account on Twitter that is called Everyday Sexism. This is a great account because they are shining a light on sexism mostly women face on a daily business. If you were once in the dark, living in a cave and thought sexism was dead?? Reading the stories they share will quickly show you sexism is alive and thriving, unfortunately.

I got to thinking about sexism and the sexist comments we hear everyday. Some of us experience sexism daily but have grown numb to it or have accepted these comments as part of our personal white noise. I think the later is where I fell during my twenties. I worked at a hardware store when my boys were very young.

After having two kids in my early twenties, I was trying to come to terms with the changes childbirth had on my body. I struggled to feel attractive, sexy and desirable and the words of other women didn’t empower me at all. I was “a mom now and “you can’t wear *that*.” (any item of clothing which was slightly revealing) was the most common comment. How would you feel having it implied that you were a whore since you wanted to feel sexy, simply because you were now a mom?! The shame inflicted came from women who were very close to me at the time. Too bad I didn’t see their comments as a reflection of their own insecurities (insight which came many years later).

Working in the hardware store, I dressed nicely and tried to wear what I liked. I longed to feel like myself again. There was no uniform at work so I would sometimes wear a pair of sandals, a knee length skirt and a nice top. We had a smock to wear so that went over my top. I primarily worked as a cashier and wasn’t on the floor much apart from rare stocking. If I tried to help customers on the floor with products, I was often treated like I was inferior simply because I was not “one of the guys”. I was groped by an abrasive customer while at work. One of my male coworkers would comment on my red lipstick and put his arm around me. He was asked by management to stop as was the customer who groped me. The wife of one of the owners said my treatment was probably due to what I wore and maybe I should not dress like that. What did I expect with all of these men?? Quite honestly, I expected “all of these men” to act like decent, respectful human beings. Seriously, is it really that difficult?

This is just one of several examples of sexism I have experienced during my 40 years on this planet. My struggles are not what I had planned on writing about this morning but it made a lengthy segue into what was truly on my mind. Fast forward to a few days ago……

I was driving to the grocery store with my son yesterday at lunch. There was man who was maybe in his mid 20’s who walked out of the store with a cheery bouquet of flowers. I told my son, “Is it bad that the first thing I thought of was “what did he do?”??”. My son said, “Yes! That is bad! I was thinking it’s probably his anniversary or he’s finally going to ask out that girl he likes!”. I was angry at myself for having that thought and I was angry that it popped into my head effortlessly and unguarded.

Sexism flows both directions. Check yourself.

Multifaceted, Amazing You.

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and my “memories” popped up. This day last year, I shared a post from Board Panda about a mom who photographs her daughters. The caption was:

“Mom Captures Powerful Photos Of Her Fearless Daughters To Show That ‘Strong Is The New Pretty’”

Naturally this title drew me in and the whole idea of this post got me thinking about many things.

When I was growing up in the 80’s-90’s, the idea of being a woman was, for the most part, focused on one’s beauty and how it made others feel. One’s worth was gauged by your attractiveness. My dad would joke and say “Hey! (with surprise) She’s useful as well as decorative!”. I don’t feel he meant any harm by his teasing comment but it certainly summed up the idea of the day.

When woman are strong, assertive and outspoken, they quickly get labeled as “bitches”. Sometimes these labels are more culturally specific. When you hear someone talk about an “angry black women” or a “fiery Latina”, a definite image springs into mind. Those descriptors denote “a crazy women” instead of highlighting strength, intelligence, articulate speech or impassioned individuals. Women are so much more than “pretty” and they are not “bitches” for showing their strength. Being physically strong does not make one less feminine. Choosing to be more conservative is not the “right way” to dress. Choosing to be more overt in appearance is not “wrong” or slutty. You’re not “crazy” or “unstable” when you show emotion. Likewise, you are not a “cold”person if you are more reserved.

Judgement from others is something we cannot escape. However, criticism highlights the heart of the criticizer vs. the object of the criticism. There will always be someone out in the world who will have an opinion on what or how we should do, think, feel or be. Please burn the boxes society tries to stuff you in and embrace the awesomeness that is uniquely and most wonderfully you.