The Everyday Sexism Project exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced on a day to day basis. They might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so niggling and normalised that you don’t even feel able to protest. Say as much or as little as you like, use your real name or a pseudonym – it’s up to you. By sharing your story you’re showing the world that sexism does exist, it is faced by women everyday and it is a valid problem to discuss.

If you prefer to e-mail me at laura@everydaysexism.com I can upload your story for you instead. Follow us on Twitter (and submit entries by tweet) at @EverydaySexism.

Add your story:

Kitty

I’m enjoying the new series of Celebrity MasterChef so far, but unfortunately it’s blotted its copybook in the usual way. TV presenter Angellica Bell was one of the contestants in the first heat, & the voiceover woman said that she cooked a lot for her children. But there was no mention as to whether the 3 male contestants in the heat- comedian Jim ‘Vic Reeves’ Moir, snooker player Stephen Hendry & tennis pro Henri Leconte- were fathers. Now I know for a fact that Jim Moir has children (not sure whether the other 2 do or not), but this was not mentioned.

Steve (female)

Second day on the job in a jewelry store. Was serving a German woman with a broken watch and asked my manager (male) for help. Customer said, “ah, yes, the men often know more about these things”.
Manager asked if I would mind completing the task that we’d discussed earlier (sorting the delivery in the stock room). I think he saw my expression.

Em

In the 4th week of my everyday intensive Dutch as a second language class, my teacher makes yet another sexist comment, describing a doctors office “The doctors are all women, but I think it’s good” I ask why the “but”? His response “you feminists, you have to be careful, too careful. I meant it as a compliment”
After twisting every language exercise into a sexual innuendo or a sexist comment on gender roles, the one time I stand up to this teacher, it’s “oh, come on, you, and feminists in general, taking my misogyny seriously… ”
*EYE ROLL*
How shitty is it that I’m afraid to use my own name or his even here?

I am sending a complaint to the school though.

Sophie

Working in a small computer shop with a total of 5 staff. 4 men and me. I only worked a saturday. Every single week someone (almost always a man) would ask a question and I would provide the answer. The customer would then stand at the counter looking behind me at the technicians for them to answer the question. The guys I works with were fab and every single time they would say she just told you. Most of the time the customer hadn’t listened to what I said because I’m a girl so they would have to ask me to repeat myself or leave with out the answer. Some would try to ask around the question to get the answer repeated.

vanessa

a customer refused to speak to me as a “female underling”. Before I could object I got an, “Are we done yet” followed by a dead phone.

Lara

I was out at Christmas in small farming town. Some outsiders were in the bar we were in, one particularly revolting and drunk creature was ranting and raving to a group of his Neanderthal, herd like friends. Out of nowhere, their little huddle parted bringing me into the direct line of sight of the ringleader. As the atmosphere closed in around me, the group went silent just as the moron screamed at the top of his lungs ‘OI! YOU! TITS!’ Whilst punctuating each word with a jab of his finger. He then proceeded to drop his phone, pour Desperado beer all over it before jumping up and down on it. Is it not time we as a society accepted that men like this need a separate place to play, like the zoo?

that woman

Really just too ridiculous. I made a comment on a facebook post that a friend of mine had started. It was a teeny bit rude (the joke centered on the fact that what we call condoms the Americans call rubbers – immature, but hardly offensive). A mutual friend has taken it upon himself to ‘tell me off’ saying that I should remove the post!! He’s unfriended me (she hasn’t).

I can’t help feeling that if I’d been a guy he wouldn’t have reacted like this. I mean, a middle aged woman having a joke with another middle aged woman about condoms – can’t have that, can we?

Anon

Several years ago, when I was still a teenager at Secondary school, we would have single sex PE classes every week. One of the activities in the schedule was using the small gym in the Sports Centre that was on the school grounds. In the gym there were various kinds of equipment including weight training equipment. As girls we were not permitted to put extra weights on the lateral pull down machine or the leg curler. In fact we used the weight training equipment sans any weights. So we weren’t really lifting weights, just air, which I found rather ironic considering that we were supposed to be exercising. One girl tried to beg the female gym teacher to put a tiny weight on the lateral pull down machine. The teacher flatly refused telling us all that we’d break our backs, stunt our growth or something horrifically irreversible would happen to our fragile female young bones if we even added a tiny weight to that machine. As females, we were however permitted to lift dumbbells that weighed a maximum of 1 kg. The same girl begged the teacher for heavier dumbbells. The teacher refused then explained that girls have less muscle mass than boys (“because science!” boys have more testosterone so can supposedly lift more) so girls have to lift smaller weights than boys so as not to injure themselves. Also we were told that for health and safety reasons we had to lift small dumbbells because a 1kg dumbbell would hurt a lot less when accidentally dropped onto the toe than a dumbbell of a larger mass. The female teacher directed us to the static bikes and the rowing machine. These were fun, but I did feel like we were like little hamsters trapped inside wheels at times. No offence to hamsters btw.

When I saw the boys in that gym, I noticed that they were given heavier dumbbells and they actually had some weights put on the lateral pull down and the leg curler machines. The male coach was telling them all to lift more weights, not less.

With hindsight, I don’t think that it honestly would have killed us girls to just one tiny little light weight onto those weight training machines. It might have actually done us some good for muscle toning.

Women and teenage girls in some other countries (as I found out in Geography Class) have to carry heavy water pots, firewood, baskets of rocks, farming equipment, small children in slings and even giant tents on their heads and backs. Exercise and weight lifting isn’t optional for these women: they have to do this heavy lifting work to survive. Women and girls not being forced to lift heavy weights to survive is a privilege for females living in richer countries. Those female PE teachers in my first world secondary school were too cautious with the weights, probably fearing that they’d be sued by parents for damaging someone’s daughter. To be quite brutally honest, I think that some of us could have benefitted physiologically from lifting slightly heavier weights, particularly the chip eating, pizza scoffing and fizzy drink guzzling female contingent in my old PE class. Just a little more weight training would probably not have killed us or deformed us or stunted our growth. We were 14 year olds, we weren’t toddlers. Was it all just scaremongering?

Later in life, I met a female rugby captain who would lift random men onto her shoulders for fun as a warm up exercise before she weight lifted at the gym. She could outrun lots of men and lift more weight than many of them too. She was built like a firefighter and ran several miles a day because she felt like it. She was built like a tank, but was still a woman, albeit a very strong one. Many men and myself were in awe of her strength and physical prowess. Then I released that what my female PE teachers said in the past about how much weight women/girls should lift (“because science!” “because oestrogen!”) was sort of rubbish. Then I felt angry, sad and betrayed.

Annie

I assume like all other women, there has been just too many incidents of everyday sexism in my life and that of my friends and family. I had a male teacher finger me when I was 6 years old and I used to sit in class hoping that one of the teaching assistants will come to help me with my work rather than the teacher himself. I was not always lucky. One day he took me through several classrooms, touching me inappropriately, and I understood that he was looking for an empty classroom. Lucky for me, none of the classrooms were completely empty. I still remember that walk to classroom after classroom dreading what was going to happen if we found nobody in a room. He even managed to touch me inappropriately in front of my parents when we met him on the streets. My parents had taught me to respect and honour all teachers and I struggled with the idea with this teacher.

I wasn’t much older when I fell asleep in a bed in a neighbouring house where I was being babysitted and woke up to find a man (now I think he was a teenager), a visiting cousin of the neighbour, fingering me. He also kept trying to put my palm inside his underwear, and I remember it was so prickly that I kept taking my hand out, funnily, that was what bothered me the most– it was hurting my hand. I didn’t know what to do, how to react, so I preferred to pretend I was at least half sleep, or not very aware of what was happening. I just kept trying to move away from him as if it were in my sleep, although considering my age then, it must have been pretty obvious that I was pretend sleeping. I guess I was 7 or 8.

When my breasts started growing, the physical experiences with random men did not only become scary, intimidating, embarassing and guilt creating, it was also painful. Once I was in a neighbouring home where the young man of the house had a few friends come over, one of them with a baby. I was 10 or 11, and I enjoyed carrying the baby and playing with him in a room filled with kids much younger than me. The baby was very comfortable with us, but his father kept visiting the room, and asking me if the baby is crying and then take the baby from me, only to give him back again. This was happening too many times and each time he took or gave the baby, he pressed my breasts with his fingers painfully. Similar experience occured when I happened to meet by chance the old teacher again around the same age. He was sort of stabbing my breasts with his fingers while pretending to show me something on a paper, and it was very painful.

The first time time somebody grabbed my breasts on a public bus I had very idealistic notions about chastity. I was a teenager, and I thought I wanted to remain chaste for that one person who was meant for me. When somebody standing next to my seat pulled my breast through under my hand, I was shocked. Firstly, it was the realisation that I am a grown women now. Then, I felt spoiled, ruined, and like my value was greatly diminished. I was no more the perfect chaste woman waiting for her man. Then, of course, it became a regular experience on every bus along with gropping. Men usually hold something like a carrier bag or folded newpaper in hand to give a reason to keep the hand low rather than holding on to a pole or bar, and then kinda dig into your groin. The difficult part is that very often if you want to travel in my part of the world, there is no option but to get on a crowded bus, and in a crowded bus, you are jammed among people with no space to move/escape. There has been instances when I held strange mens hands all through the journey. When I told my mother, she said they must have enjoyed my hold. But my view was, it’s better that they have me hold their hand than them gropping me. That is, I literally keep their hands pushed away from my groin. It isn’t easy in a crowded bus that runs through dilapidated roads. It is an even major concern if you didn’t get space inside the bus and you are travelling on the step of a bus without any door. You are just holding on trying not to fall off on the road and then you have to deal with men snatching your breasts in every direction and getting their hands between your legs.

When I was in college, every day I will be faced with dirty comments, stares and some kind of unwanted physical contact with men on my way to college and my way back. This was particularly upsetting on days I had important exams. I will reach college traumatised, full of anger and grief, and that really affected my performance in exams. One thing that is very common is for a man to walk towards you as if he is harmless and then whisper something dirty as he gets in level with you. I have also had a sales man at a drug store whisper something nasty as I received my pack of medicines. I have never gone back to that store and I even avoid that side of the road, often crossing the same road four times when I have to go to two stores located either side of the drug store.

When I was in university, I was known for my language editing skills. I used to help many of my friends with their assignments and theses. Once a guy whom I didn’t know too well asked me for help. I said he may bring his work to the library at a certain time and I waited there. He turned up saying he forgot to bring his laptop from his student accommodation. I was quite shocked because, how could he forget something so important! I became nervous as he asked me to go with him to his place. I did not want to do it, but I also did not want to look conservative, narrow minded, suspicious of a ‘friend’, and also I went to university in a different country and I didn’t want to judge the ways in that country based on my experiences in my country. So I went to his room and I started working. The work was extremely frustrating with him having used all sorts of fonts,sizes,colours,markings, for no good reason, apart from the language issues that I was really meant to fix. What made me uncomfortable was that, each time I made a correction, he would pat my head in appreciation as if I were a little child and not a grown woman. I was in my early twenties. The work was too time consuming and when it got late, I said I had to go. He suggested I come back again the next day and I did not commit to that. When I got up to leave, he hug me…for too long and then kissed my cheek and tried to forcefully make me kiss his cheek. I pulled back away from him and rushed to my student accommodation as fast as I could, with rapidly beating heart. I kept getting a lot of unwanted attention from that person for a long time.

When I was in college, I wore very conservative clothes as well as some clothes that were considered ‘western’. No matter which clothes I wore I had men oggling at me. When I am in western clothes, I blame myself. I feel it is my own fault. But when I am in very conservative clothes, covering till my heals, covering my elbows, with high neck,…I kept looking at myself over and over again wondering how was I attracting such behaviour from men. What is ‘inappropriate’ about my clothes. How can I dress any more conservatively. I have confronted men staring at me on buses. The men react as if I have questioned their birth right. They show no shame whatsoever. And every woman look at me as if I am a shameful person to have reacted. Because respectable women do not react. Although I did have one experience when an older woman came near me and asked if a man leaning towards me was travelling with me. When I said no, she made him stand away from me. I felt very grateful.

For some years, I used to be very brave and used to protect other young girls. I would risk myself getting hurt and make it possible for other girls to get away from men grabbing them. For instance, sometimes when you get down from buses, all women will be pushing to get ahead because the longer they stay in the crowd, the more pinches,pulls,grabbing and gropping they experience. So I would stand back and let other girls go ahead of me, and sorta stare right at the men attacking and get down expressing as much courage as I could. Once I was travelling with my mom to see my grandad in his deathbed and the guy sitting behind me on bus kept running his feet up my leg by putting his leg through underneath my seat. At that time I wasn’t yet comfortable talking to my mom about these experiences. I was trying to look very angry and turn back and give him a harsh stare when my mom turned to me and asked something. I suddenly changed my expression to be mommy’s little girl. I had to struggle with saving my leg from the man for the rest of the long journey.

Once I was travelling on a train with my family. We were going to take my sister to her college about 3 hours away from our hometown. I had got up very early for the journey and I was very sleepy. So my mom told me I could lie on her lap and take a nap. I was 16-17. I was sleeping and I suddenly work up feeling something on my thigh. I was wearing a skirt that reached my ankle and the man sitting opposite to me, while pretending to sleep had run his feet up my leg till my thigh. I immediately moved my legs away. Now I was sitting at an awkward angle to avoid him, and I tried to go back to sleep. But I kept having to move my leg to even more uncomfortable positions to avoid his crawling leg. Finally, I gave up trying to sleep and sat up. Later my mom asked why didn’t I sleep a bit longer. By then the man had got down. I told her I was having trouble with that man’s leg. She smiled and said, he hoped that you would play along and have fun with him. I certainly hadn’t expected to hear that.

More recently, I was going to some classes I was attending and the road to the building wasn’t too wide, but had a lot of traffic that morning. There was no designated footpath and I walked as away from the road as I could to avoid being hit by any vehicle. Then I heard a motorbike coming right behind me and I tried to move further to the side to make way for it, and while I expected it to rush past me, it suddenly stopped at my side and a hand extended and gropped me. Then the man rode on and took a byroad. I was too shocked I couldn’t move for some time. I was so angry at the man. I imagined from that moment to several months how I wanted to react to that incident, many of them involving battering him and stomping on his groin. I never walked through that place again. I found an alternate way to get to my class. It frustrated me that it got to me so much. For almost a year I kept fearing every man on a motorbike and kept wondering if each man was that man. I never saw his face because he wore a helmet.

A little over a year back, I was travelling alone on train. At first, the compartment was almost empty with just a handful of people scattered here n there. It was a sleeper coach and I had to pull down my seat to make it into a bed. But the seat was stuck. So I asked a man to help me. He used a lot of strength to pull it down for me and revealed a plastic bottle that had jammed in between the seat and the wall keeping the seat stuck in the erect position. I thanked him and he went back to his seat. Later he borrowed my mobile charger. I was preparing for a speech I was going to deliver at a conference I was attending in a few days and I wished to read up some background materials to understand better what other speakers will talk about. So I had quite a lot of reading material with me. But after a while this person said he wanted to chat with me because he was bored. I did chat for a while, not to be rude and then told him I wanted to read. Then he kept coming to my berth saying he was bored what should he do. Well, I didn’t think it was my problem, but I didn’t voice that. He talked to me like somebody much older than me and yet he was beginning to make me uncomfortable. It was a long journey, a journey of about 40 hours. During one of the chats he put his hand on my thigh, and I told him to take it off. He asked why. I told it isn’t appropriate. At night he kept me chatting even when I wanted to sleep. And at early morning, around 4:30-5:00 I woke up to find him caressing my face and calling me. I was so scared I cried and begged him to leave me alone. He left, but I couldn’t sleep again. Later he came in and asked why did I cry, that it hurt him that I cried. The berth has a curtain for privacy and he pulled it close, and I kept trying to keep my end of the curtain open. I certainly didn’t want to be alone in a confined space with this person. He talked to me about his job and his wife. He often touched me, on my leg, hands, face. I kept telling him, please don’t touch me. He told me, I am not touching you in any inappropriate place, and your body does not have any part that my wife doesn’t have. Then why should I be curious about it. I was getting more and more scared as time went by. And I cried several times, begging him to take his hands off me, or begging him to leave my berth and go to his own. At first I kept messaging my boyfriend about what was happening. At one stage, he started blaming me for being unable to protect myself. I was already dealing with a lot of stress and I thought, I cannot deal with all the blames my boyfriend was throwing at me as well. So I put away my phone and didn’t check his messages again. I couldn’t scream for help, because he didn’t just randomly come to me and start touching me or say inappropriate things. He sort of built up to it. Casual talk, more personal talk, then when I started feeling like he was a friendly person he went to the activities that I found uncomfortable and scary. And I couldn’t ask for help partly because most people had drawn their curtains close and I didn’t want to intrude, and in my experience and knowledge, if a woman gets attacked in my country, the blame is always the woman’s and her parents. It was a long journey and I did not want to be saved by people who will spend the rest of the journey blaming my parents for allowing their daughter to travel alone without a male companion. During that train journey, I cried for at least 12 hours. And I kept thinking, if this guy had the least conscience, he would leave me alone. What was even more shocking was that he turned up on my return train! I had told him on which day I was returning during the initial casual chat. But this time, I asked for help, from a tour group of several families. Not many in the group spoke the same language as me, but it did not stop them from blaming my parents, and warning me that I should always travel with my dad or brother. Then the ladies proceeded to hide me. They shifted my seat to one of their husband’s and asked him to use mine, and they made me shift my luggage as well…in fact, hide my luggage and then asked me to lie low on an upper berth, with curtains hiding me. It was so uncomfortable. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t even raise my head, because they kept asking me to stay low. And worst of all, every time the guy passed by, they kept whispering in loud voices. Something like, ‘this is the guy, he’s looking for her’ as far as I understand their language.

And of course, the worst part of this experience wasn’t anything that I described yet. Dealing with my boyfriend. He was going to be at the conference place, coming straight from his work place. I needed him badly. I was still ready to cry any second when I met him. And yes, I broke into tears in his arms. But I could never truly discuss the incident with him. Because every time I came close, he started blaming me. He told me, I did not want to be saved. That hurt. That really hurt. How could anyone say that! He told me I treated the guy like a saint, trying to appeal to his better side. I felt so alone, traumatised, helpless,….in fact, I never delivered that speech. I physically felt ill, although the trauma was to my mind, and we had to leave from the conference early.

My mom and sister believes if you get calls from strange men who speak dirty to you or try to flirt with you, you are a bad woman, you asked for it…somehow. But it has happened to me a lot. Some times, I know how they got my number, like once when I lost my mobile and I got it back after a few hours, and once I rang a stranger who had received from the mobile company the old number of an old friend of mine. But sometimes, I have no idea who is ringing and where they got my number from. My old phone either couldn’t block numbers or I didn’t know how to. So it was a lot of nuissance. These days, I just add those numbers to the reject list on my phone. The last few calls I got were at 3:00 am and 1:00 am, multiple times, whispering to me to kiss the man on the other end.

I think, it is not possible to describe all the experiences of sexism I have faced so far. I am 30…enough time to have had countless experiences. I will mention a few of a different kind of sexism I have come across. I have a big sister, who was very much controllable by my parents. Who never questions anything they said. I of course, was and am not the same. My dad always told us, women’s laugh should not be heard. So even when we were 9 or 10, he would try to control our laughter. There was this incident when a man had cheated us of money. He was a representative of an agency who received money from us, but did not pay the service provider the agency was working for. My dad and sister were in front of the house, and dad talked first and then my sister said something. She must have been between 25 and 30 at the time. The man said, I am talking to him, not to you, as he was offended by a woman questioning what he had done. But that is not what shocked me. It was my dad’s response. He immediately turned to my sister and said, “Go to the kitchen!” Not because she had any cooking to do. Just to show her where her place is. I have criticised my dad for that comment several times, saying it wouldn’t have come out of him at that instant, if he hadn’t believed it. When my boyfriend and I were at my parents’ home, my boyfriend needed some water. I told him he can get it from the kitchen. My boyfriend and I communicate in English, I don’t speak his native language and he doesn’t speak my native language. So, my mom can say whatever she pleases to me before him without him understanding a single word. Mom started telling me that my boyfriend is going to leave me. Why? Because I was making him get his own water. Another related incident. My boyfriend’s work place is about 50 hrs by train from my place and it takes around 7-8 hrs if we travel by air. Several times when we were together, I have been ill, or I have had my periods…which means, I am ill. The last time he came, I had a cold and I had my periods. So I was quite tired, weak and in pain. My boyfriend is a caring person in general, and has never shown any impatience with any of my health problems. But my mom felt differently. She constantly told me that he will not want me if I am ill, that nobody wants an ill person, no man will like a woman who is always ill, etc. Sometimes, this happened in his presence, the conversation in my native tongue. My eyes will well up and my boyfriend will know that something is wrong, but not what. Both my mom and dad also constantly criticise me for talking to him or talking about him disrespectfully. I don’t think of him as my lord or anything. I am very comfortable with him: When he gets upset about his growing tummy, I say I love punching it and what would I do without it. I say I have kicking rights over him, but he may not because early in our relationship, he promised me that he would never ever turn into a partner who abuses his spouse physically. So, I would kick his arse and he would try to kick back and I will be like, ‘you promised! you can’t!’ and he complaints how unfair it is and we have a lot of laugh playing around like this. We do not behave like this before my parents, but, since this is the kind of relationship I have with him, I treat him as a friend, not as my master, or owner or my lord or whatever I am supposed to take him as. In my boyfriend’s absence, I seem to be able to argue back when my parents criticise me. But when he is there, we are having the precious few days we have together, and will be in such a happy and light mood…and on comes my parents harsh criticisms about my disrespectful way of talking to my boyfriend, and I want to neglect it or get angry, but I always end up tearing up. And of course, my boyfriend wouldn’t have a clue what just happened. The upsetting thing is that it took me till I was 28 years to have my first boyfriend because I never wanted to be in the sort of relationships that I saw the women around me in. I still have a phobia for marriage because of all the unfair, unhappy, marriages I am watching all my friends struggling in. I really love my boyfriend. I want to have a life with him. But, when people make these comments about our relationship, it spoils the magic, it spoils my optimism, and it completely ruins my picture of my boyfriend. He stops being the person I can run to when I need a cuddle, not somebody with whom I can pick a fight for the silliest reason or no reason at all, not someone to whom I can say, ‘sing me a lullaby, please…a romantic lullaby’, and definitely not the person who asks me, ‘what do you miss the most, what do you want me to cook for lunch when you arrive’ when I am getting on the flight after not having seen him for two months. Everything I hate and fear in our culture and in men starts reflecting on him. And that is what makes me cry.

These experiences too are so many. From an undergraduate male student who asked me, why was I doing masters, hadn’t I already studied too much for a girl, to people who told me I would pray for you to feel like wearing ornaments, from people who told me marry quickly, you will loose your looks soon and no man would want you to those who warned me unmarried women’s value equals that of garbage, there are so many men and women in my life reminding me that for a woman, I am leading an unacceptable life. As a young child, my dad often told me, I should not have any marks on my body, because I am a girl. I remember in innocence telling my dad about an eczema scar on my thigh that, “Dad, but nobody is gonna see my thigh. I am never wearing anything that short!” A few days back, I heard him talk to my mom about my 7 year old niece. “Don’t use that cream for her itch. It can cause discolouration. She is a girl.” And I was silent, struggling to think of my little niece who just told me, ‘Today at school, Noami told me that fairies aren’t real”, as a sexual object.

I am from India, and my friends and I really appreciate this opportunity for speaking out about our experiences. Thank you, Laura!

Kirstyn

When I was about 11 or 12, I was at the park with my family and there were these guys who drove past in their car every 5 or 10 minutes and yelled things like “nice a** b*tch” and “shake that a**” at me. I was always chasing after frisbees and little cardboard aeroplanes so my family were too far away to hear it, and I couldn’t reply because they were driving past when they were yelling. When I got back to my parents every-time I pretended nothing was wrong.