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Michelle

Our next-door neighbour is the father of four boys who visit him once a week. The two youngest play with my son and daughter, dividing their time between our two backyards (but never inside the houses, that’s the rule). Yesterday, after playing for an hour in our yard, they headed next door to watch the two older boys drive a go-cart. My daughter soon came back, in tears. The boys had told her that their Dad doesn’t want girls coming to their house. I don’t know if the boys made this up, or if their Dad really said that. Either way, it was a pretty shitty experience. If he did say that, and excluding my daughter is his way of ‘protecting’ her or himself, then what message are his boys receiving? I vented about it in my online mum’s group, and received lots of replies supporting the dad, and statements along the lines of ‘this is just the way things have to be’. Speaking to the Dad isn’t an option, as he has extreme social anxiety and rarely leaves his house. I called my son back, then explained to the boys that excluding a person because they are a girl is silly, unfair, and mean, and that my kids aren’t allowed to play with families who treat people like that. I didn’t know what else to do 🙁

Claudia

My earliest memory of everyday sexism is from when I was 11 years old. A boy two years above me in school, who was a complete stranger to me, started wolf-whistling at me and saying “hey sexy” every time he saw me. The fact that I would blush and look away nervously every time didn’t stop him. I ended up getting my head of year involved and luckily it stopped after that. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had my boobs or bum groped in a club – even in my local pharmacy on one occasion – or been wolf-whistled at by men far too old to be even looking at me. One time I was in a bar, and a man, who I thought was my friend, let his friend put his arm around me, and state over and over, “I want her” – without having even met me right up until that very moment. My father, in an attempt to cheer me up because I was feeling down about my appearance, once offered to pay for me to go on a beauty course, so that I could learn to “make the most of myself”. An attempt to reassure me of my natural beauty would have gone down a lot better… He honestly thinks that reminding his wife, my step-mum, to put on some make-up for an occasion, is showing his care for her. My step-mum is beautiful by the way. I have lost count of the times he has upset myself, my sister or my mother by criticising our body shape, pointing out zits, telling us to lose weight (even though we didn’t need to) and generally totally failing to even try to instil a sense of self-esteem and confidence in our natural beauty and appearance. He thinks it is appropriate to comment on my girlfriends’ appearances, in my presence, and even to them directly, especially when he finds them attractive. I have tried telling him this is not appropriate and makes me uncomfortable but he doesn’t listen. I can see the effects of this in his eldest son too, who has turned out even more superficial and critical of women who don’t conform to his idea of what a woman should look like. I am well aware that my experiences pale in comparison to what too many women have to go through. However they have still had their affect on me: I have suffered horribly since puberty from low self-esteem, largely as a result of my father’s actions and words, and constantly reinforced by the countless other instances throughout my life. Sexism is everywhere, and can spring on you at any moment.

Marcy Klein Perez

We just bought a house in a busy little suburb of Miami. An older neighborhood very central to work and school. On our first weekend there, on a Saturday afternoon as my husband worked, my girls and I were cleaning and organizing. A salesman for a security alarm company came by and started pitching his deal. As i listened politely, he asks “is there a husband?” He was shocked that I asked “is there a discount if I have a husband?” And he proceeded to ensure me that my husband would really want to know more. So, I told him that my husband would learn of his pitch if I thought it worthwhile to mention. He regrouped, and then had the audacity to ask “can I come in?” “Why?” I asked. “To count your windows and doors. I need to have an accurate count.” I responded by saying, “well, if we want your service you’ll get the count. I count as high as 20 so we should be good.” He did not understand my joke. And so, proceeded to INFRONT of me out a sticker with his business card on my front door.”Sir, you can hand me that.” His response “i just want to make sure your husband sees it.” I obviously took it down while he was there. I go through all the setail because the curios thing was that my daughters heard the while exchange. Ages 7 and 9, they immediately snickered when I mentioned if there was a discount and when I closed the door my oldest said “why didn’t he want to talk to you? Papi isn’t even here now.” This next generation expects much more equlity from the world than even mine does, and I love it. At her age, I don’t think I would have said anything. And while I’ve worked on human rights issues my whole life, standing up for yourself takes practice and a conscious realization that abuse happens to you too not just the cases u hear about. As my career progressed and I encountered a hanfdul of bosses that either kept me from opportunities, kept my pay low, or dismissed me as opposed to male counterparts, I’ve learned to say something at the onset. I would tell my mother about these incidents and she would be floored. Like the boss who wanted to deny me a promotion because “You have kids and what will happen when they get sick?” My response “I have a husband and a great family, and we work thigs out. They are the inly ones that need to be concerned about my children’s health thank you.” I would tell my mom “that damn decency you showed us makes u hesitate before calling someone out.” And she told me “there’s nothing indecent about standing up for yourself.” My mother, through me, realized that women of her generation tolerated much unnecessarily and that mine and My daughters’ would have to learn how to be “assertive while respectful.” I’m glad my girls noticed something was up with the salesman at an early age. I’m glad that they expect and demand much more.

Even young boys…

When I was 15, I spent a lot of time at my high school boyfriend’s house because I liked him, his mom was nice to me, and I hated my own house. Over time I started to feel more and more uncomfortable, for a reason I didn’t even understand at first. It wasn’t my boyfriend who was a year older than me… it was his LITTLE brother. The brother might have been 10 years old when my boyfriend and I first got together. This kid wasn’t an angel to begin (huge Grand Theft Auto fan and swore more in a week than I had in my life) with, but over the next two years he became a total creep. This kid would pretend to jerk off towards me. A quick hand thrusting, followed by a hand explosion. He did this thing, towards me, nearly EVERYDAY. It wasn’t even like a secret thing. It was just thing he did, like the way some people use a lot of hand expressions when they talk. And there could be 3 other people in the room and he would still do it. He would walk by, stop, do it, and walk away. Or end a conversation that way. At first I ignored it. Or laughed it off. After all, he was just a kid. But he got older, and I got older, and I started to understand how gross and wrong it was. Eventually, after at least a whole year of this, I called up my boyfriend and tried to explain to him my feelings. At first he tried to say it was nothing. Then I burst into tears, told him it was sexual harassment, and I would breakup with him if he didn’t make is brother stop. He did make his brother stop, who proceeded to be more of a jerk in less offensive ways. I’m 27 years old now, and I still can’t forget how disturbing it was.

SHARON KIMBERLEY

Hi! I am seventy years old so I have come across many occasions in which I was sexually assaulted – verbally, physically and in the work place. I was astounded initially when I found that I was being “managed” as a female professional accountant. One of my employers was asking clients if they would mind having a female accountant. A client did not trust my judgement and was speaking to my employer and confirming that everything I was telling him was correct. A fellow male accountant was talking behind my back to my employer running me down and my employer never came to me to request my response. I found this out much later. Male voices carry more weight. Male clients would undermine me in subtle ways. My employers felt that a “family man” who had a wife and two children and was years younger and no experience or similar education should make more money as I had a husband who worked, therefore I should subsidize their business. Women always made less money at this progressive male chartered accountancy office. My husband always accused me of “running around” when I attended end of tax season dinner with colleagues. The spouse felt that every dollar he made above mine was his to spend however he wanted instead of lightning my load of our financial expenditures. Many men felt it was alright to make statements such as “the accountancy fee could be taken out on trade,” or said something about my appearance. At home all inside work was mine such as housework and children which was not an equal share of the burden. The spouse would take vacations for sporting and use any extra money solely for his “wants” (boats, motors, new vehicles” while I drove very old small vehicles. Later on when I was bedridden, the spouse sexually assaulted me repeatedly apparently he felt he had that right. This sexism is in every part of women’s lives. My daughter at age twelve was sexually assaulted by a family member. My Mother was told what to do and never had any money of her own. She had no pleasures to call her own in her life. Women are held back at every point by any male they come in contact with. But there is hope. The younger generation are acting as if both sexes are equal. I have hope yet for this new generation here in Canada. But the world at large does not provide much hope. Just looking at the USA Congress and Senate making laws that effect women such as abortion without one female representative. These males think this is their right to force women who become pregnant by males to carry a child and have the burden of raising that child ensuring the basic needs such as food, home, health care etc. while the male has no equal responsibility by law – the woman’s body is to be controlled and regulated.

anonymous

I’m in my 30s and have been married for two years. Before I got married I was very clear that I did not want children. My partner seemed to say he was fine with that. In the first year of our marriage I learned that he assumed I would change my mind, because “everyone” told him I would. Having been a woman who never wanted children, I have spent a lifetime confronting these people. I know how to be clear. I know to point directly to sexism without constructing an argument around my abilities as a mother, or over-population, or whatever. Men don’t have to justify why they don’t want to have children and neither do I. I find myself frankly shocked that, indeed, everyone has told my husband that I’ll change my mind. His parents. My parents. His women friends, in their 40s, who themselves don’t have children. I am also deeply dismayed and hurt that my husband apparently believed these people over me. He went so far as to say this is the first time he’s felt “not normal,” and has actually hoped that my reproductive organs don’t work so that he no longer has to justify why he isn’t having children. What is most disturbing is that I have been accosted for years – even at times when I didn’t have a partner – about how having children is life fulfilling, and without them I can’t be a complete person. My husband, a man in his mid-40s, is only now having to come to terms with it. No one has ever bothered him about not having children. He’s had 40+ blissful years of never being asked when he was going to get around to it. Wasn’t he worried that he’d run out of time? Well shouldn’t he adopt? And despite all this people still continually tell me I’m going to change my mind. Women internalize these sexist frameworks too. Recently, my sister-in-law, while holding her child, said, “Are you sure you aren’t going to have children? [Husband] and I think you’ll change your mind.” Days later a family friend noticed I wasn’t holding an alcoholic beverage at an evening event and uttered, “I was about to ask you if you’re expecting, but then I remembered…” while he eyed me critically waiting for me to say, “you guessed it!” The list of these experiences is endless.

Lucy

Hello, thank you for this project that I beleive is much needed. I would like to share some of my stories that left me feel that regarding sex I am more of a prey than a partner. For the first I experienced got into personal contact with sex(ism) was when I was 12 and I found out my moms 50 year old boyfriend watches me through the keyhole when I change my clothes. I opened them quickly because I wanted to run to the bathroom and found him there, kneeling. I quickly ran off knowing that something was wrong – it took another few years to truly realize what hapenned (as I tried to forget that image and get on with our family life). My second experience was my incapability to say “No” to sex with a person I was supposed to love. I was 17 and I allowed non-consentual sex with my boyfriend (I will not use “rape” since he was as inexperienced and confused as I was). It took me years to understand that “No” is a valid answer and that I am not obliged to have sex with my boyfriend just because we are in a relationship and that it is me who makes decisions about my own body. And I still do not take this realization for granted when I look at teenage girls. Thank you for listening.

Anna

My whole family, and everyone (quite literally everyone) that I ever talk to about feminism, has the whole definition wrong and make me feel bad for being a feminist. According to these people, we think that we are better than men and all we want to do is put men down. But that’s how we are treated 90% of the time so why are they so offended and repulsed by the (fabricated) thought of it being reversed ??? Even my own sister says that there’s no point and that it’ll never effect her. I get so beaten down for having an opinion and I know that my story is nothing compared to the courageous women that go through pure evil and are somehow still smiling. We women are going to change the world.

annoyed auntie

My dad said something so sexist and weird the other day, it really annoyed me! I was relating a funny story about a rather cheeky small niece who was trying to get me to play with her, she tried various tactics eventually “I bet you are too chubby to run!” at which I chased her around the garden threatening to catch her in a fishing-net to her amusement (for the record I am definitely not chubby!). Then for no apparant reason my dad replied with “all females are programmed to notice things like weight, even at a young age. It’s the way they are made” AAArrrggh!!!

R

My own mother told me not to bother with teaching as I’d never make headteacher due to the fact it’s much harder for a woman to become headteacher than a man. I will encourage my own children to follow whatever path they choose regardless of whether their gender is a hindrance or not. I am also constantly told to watch myself around older men when I am wearing a short skirt as I may receive inappropriate comments or worse, yet my brother, who is 16 and is the same age I was when my mother started telling me to watch what I wore, has never been told not to act inappropriately towards women. At our sixthform, we had no uniform, except boys were not allowed to wear shorts, even in the summer months, yet girls were allowed to wear skirts and shorts with no tights, when a boy took a stance and came in in a skirt, he was sent home.