I have experienced sexism so many times that I have stopped counting, but there have been a few incidents that have stuck with me over the years.
The first time I can remember actually realising that sexism existed, was when I was walking home from practice after school on a hot summer day. I was wearing a pair of sport shorts and a tank top and a group of guys who must have been at least three or four years older than me, slowed down their car and started to whistle and shout inappropriate comments at me. I was only fourteen and didn’t have a clue how to react to this situation, so I kept my head down and continued walking as if nothing had happened.
Another incident I can clearly remember is when a drunk man who was at least in his late fifties (I was around the age of 18 or 19) sat down next to me on a full bus and started to verbally harass me and didn’t stop until I called my best friend in a desperate attempt to get rid of him. I looked at other people on the bus for help, but everyone looked away and no one helped me or said something, I was too uncomfortable to stay any longer on the bus with the man getting closer to me with every second, so I got off the bus two stops earlier and walked home with my best friend supporting me on the phone.
Throughout school, but even more at university, I noticed how difficult it can be to voice your opinion in a group discussion. Women are brought up to believe that we must never make any mistakes and to be ‘perfect’ all the time, which keeps us from speaking up during class and discussions. I don’t know how many times I have held back a correct answer, simply because I was too afraid to make a mistake and I have noticed that a lot of my female classmates have done the same thing over the years. However, I have hardly ever been in a class or group discussion where the majority of the men kept their mouths shut (yet there is the prevailing stereotype that women talk more than men). And even if I want to voice my opinion, I often have to interrupt or speak over a man to get a chance to say something at all. I can’t remember how many times I have gotten interrupted during discussion and then decided to give up, but the number will be very high.
Every day sexism exists. It exists in the beauty industry which is mainly aimed at the female part of the population and the in the media who make us believe that women have to look flawless and young all the time. It exists in the fear that I have to walk around alone after dawn and the thoughts I put into my choice of outfit when I go out, to stop men from seeing me as a potential victim for sexual assault.
It exists in the low number of women in leadership positions and the prejudices that keep them from attaining one. It exists in the fact that many men’s main argument to change their disrespectful behaviour towards women lies in the words “I don’t do that anymore because I have a little sister or because I have a daughter”.
It exists in the way that society still teaches women that they are worth more when they are in a relationship with a man or that they should have the natural desire to want children. It exists in the fact that most still frown upon little boys playing with barbie dolls and little girls getting themselves dirty outside in the mud.
It exists in our society and it exists in our heads. But if we decide to speak up, if we decide to make a change and stop accepting it, we may be be able to stop everyday sexism one day.