Every day sexism in my life comes more from women than it does from men. I’m 37 and am continually asked about when I will meet Mr Right – and when will I have children. Over the years it’s made me obsessed with the subject and continually worried that I haven’t met anyone, even though, left to my own devices, I don’t think I’d care one bit. It’s made me addicted to online dating and I probably come across as desperate, all just so I can finally appease my parents, relatives, married or coupled friends, co-workers, all who feel that it’s their right to wonder what the hell I’m doing! I have a rich, busy life and lots of friends, but nobody is interested in that at all, just merely when I’m going to settle down.
I have shared my life with an amazing man for 30 years. I love him deeply and he loves me deeply. I’m not saying he’s perfect. No one is including me. But he does treat me with great respect as a person, as a woman, as a friend, as a lover, as the mother of our son. Here’s the sexism. I feel so lucky to share my life with him. Sure, he feels lucky to be with me too because I’m an amazing woman – but I’m extra lucky because he’s so rare in being a man who can cope with an unusually strong, highly intelligent woman. I don’t think I should have to feel so incredibly lucky I actually feel guilty about how few decent men there are to go round and I’ve got one of them! It’s a joke between us that sometimes I ask him to make a phone call, speak to a company, explain something to someone we both know. We have both learned that a male voice will be taken seriously. That a male voice will actually get heard. So sometimes it’s the practical thing to do. It makes us both angry that it’s like that. As a speaker I once gave a particularly memorable talk about masculinity to a discussion society. At the start I explained my husband was sitting beside me as I gave the talk, to show that we had worked out together what I would say, because it was about men. Also I was so heavily pregnant I could not stand up for long by myself, so I leaned on him, and put my hand on his shoulder as I stood beside him, which I explained. At the end of my talk someone in the audience asked why my husband did not share giving the talk. My husband answered that he wasn’t the person the club had invited to do it, as I was known for my work in the area, not him. The other person said it was obvious I was a dominating woman because I was holding my husband down as he sat beside me. A journalist asked my husband what it was like living with such a dominating woman as me? He laughed and said it was fun. The journalist said but what about being masculine? what about adventures? being a hero? He grinned, and said ‘I’ve done all that, you see.’ I remember the constant assaults on me in word and action whenever I went outside the house. All the men who made stupid or nasty remarks about my body, or groped me, or tried to talk to me, who frightened me. How that meant I had far less time to study a book or report than a male student or colleague did, because my time in public was constantly interrupted and spoiled. How I became reluctant to leave the house. How it got better when I learned to drive because I was cut off, armoured in a metal box, against all the attacks and intrusions. How that gradually made me less angry, less hostile to men, which meant a more peaceful head space for me. But it also meant I gave up walking about so I put on a lot of weight! Yuk. I am now old and one of the best things about being an old woman is how men leave me alone. I’m not prime meat any more. I know I still live with the threat of assault, rape, that all women do. But I don’t have the constant reminders of it when I’m out in the world. That’s nice. Nice but wrong.
I was in my college psychology class and my one professor liked to try and figure out what would bother his students the most. I purposely kept myself guarded around him. He took different approaches, but the one I remember the most is that I was asking questions about the material, digging pretty deep into the theories, and after I asked a question he let out a low whistle, looked at me, and replied with: “Wow. You’re going to be a downright terrible wife. Asking questions like that? No man in their right mind would ever want to put up with a woman like you.” Everyone laughed. Including me. I used this as a funny anecdote for years, but I now look back and realize that this was a horrifically sexist thing for him to say to me.
I am 57 yrs old, divorced for the second time. The first time around I was young, barely 18 and accepted the role of the woman of the house. Of course, I also did everything he did not do, including the ‘traditional’ male things. The second time at age 35, before marriage we had an agreement of our roles, that never happened. What was so confusing is that before we were married he did some of the ‘traditional’ women jobs, and treated me as an equal but also opened doors for me, moved heavy objects, etc and I brought him drinks or food. Once again I was the traditional woman of the house, stuck with all the housework and childcare, shopping, meal planning, preparing meals, taking care of children and all things associated with them. I never became educated as I have always been the one that needs to adapt to his and children’s schedules, I did try here and there but it always got in the way of their lives. I had 5 children over the space of 16 years, one child with ADHD in the middle and my youngest with moderate autism. I took care of those children completely in every way. Though help with others was limited, but I could get an occasional break. It just never changes, I see it all the time in almost every household, even if the men ‘help’, it is not their job, they are helping their wife. And it does not seem to make a difference if the woman works outside of the home or not, the house is still their job and he just helps. I have 3 granddaughters, I would like to see this change but we seem to be going backwards today, I fear that my granddaughters will never have freedom from this stereotyping of women.
My mother is always telling me that when I’m older I should marry a wealthy, attractive man. I don’t want to think about marriage while I’m in my early teens, and I don’t necessarily want to marry a man, either.
A couple of annoyances about sexism with regards to roles in relationships: Some people seem to think that proposing marriage is a ‘man thing’ (i.e. the man should do it) on the grounds that it’s ‘traditional’ for it to be done that way. Last weekend, I was at a wedding reception, & I was party to a conversation where a couple of people were saying as much. To add insult to injury, two of them were women, & one of the women was my sister- a very intelligent young woman, who I thought was quite liberal-minded. She also said something along the lines of how her now-husband (my brother-in-law) wouldn’t have liked it if she’d proposed to him. Whyever not?! Why shouldn’t the woman propose to the man, for heaven’s sake? Talk about sexist, patriarchal & outdated ideas! That conversation annoyed me, & I remember sighing exasperatedly while it was going on. I didn’t want to challenge them on the grounds that I didn’t want to get into an argument, cause a scene & make things even more uncomfortable for the bride’s brother (my sister was talking to him & his girlfriend) than they were already that day. Another gripe revolves round same-sex relationships. Some people seem to think that in such relationships, one partner is the ‘man’ & the other is the ‘woman’. Surely that’s missing the point of a same-sex relationship? Homophobia AND gender stereotyping here, folks.
A male coworker, let’s call him L, was discussing this other male coworker, let’s call him G. So G is married to a woman, and has a couple of kids, and they are apparently having trouble finding reliable childcare. So occasionally the wife will take time off, and occasionally the husband will, in order to pick up their kids. So L’s comment was that “G’s wife decided she wanted to work, so now he has to take time off work to deal with this childcare situation.” How do I even start on how sexist this is? First of all, BOTH parents are working to support the family, and BOTH parents are compromising to make it work. So how is it the wife’s fault? And I don’t know who “decided they want to work”, you HAVE to work in order to make money to survive. They probably needed two incomes.
When I was married in August, 1999, my husband who was a deeply religious man said that God spoke directly to him. He and I were both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and my husband believed that his judgment was basically infallible because of the “personal revelations” he received from Jesus Christ. I found out just before we were to be married that just a few months prior, he showed up at the doorstep of a woman who barely knew of him let alone interacted with him proclaiming that “the Lord declared to me that I should take you as my wife. Will you marry me?” He was dead serious. Of course she turned down his offer. Since he was thoroughly convinced of the infallibility of his revelations, he put the blame on her saying that she was being “stubborn” and “willful” against the voice of God and would suffer in the hereafter for her obstinance. Shortly after we were married, I had trouble with insomnia and chose to stay home from church so I could try and sleep. His demeanor towards me changed from warm and loving to cold, resentful, and accusing me of being a liar because “you made yourself look so much more dedicated to the faith than you really are just so I would marry you”. Later on I decided to make friends with some women who were Jehovah’s Witnesses and read some books which were critical of our faith. He told me that unless I repented and threw away the books and my friends that I would be damned in the hereafter. He claimed to see evil spirits following me everywhere. Later on I actually did leave the faith, but he remained with me. He told me that he expected me to wear the garments, pray with him, participate in church activities, etc. or I stood in danger of losing my children forever. This wasn’t a veiled threat, it was something he knew scared the crap out of me, and for a while I was incredibly surreptitious about what I read, said, wore, and did in his presence. I felt as though I was living a double life. In 2010, he left for Afghanistan and I came “out of the closet” as an apostate. I had a credit card, enrolled in school and started looking for jobs to prepare for the consequences of what would more than likely happen. A mutual friend apparently told him about my openness about leaving, and he wiped our bank account clean of every penny over night. I was petrified. We had only the credit card to rely on and that was only $500.00: after that we would be without food, gas, and possibly a place to live. I pleaded with him to make things work, trying to buy time until I could get out of the situation. He put the money back in the bank, but I had to be careful that he didn’t see me drinking coffee or doing anything else that could clue him in on my “little lifestyle” as he called it. If he thought I wasn’t at least trying to be a believer, the money would be gone again. In 2012 after he returned from Afghanistan, I couldn’t take the pressure to be someone I was not anymore. My mental health was suffering and I was physically starting to fall apart as well. The anxiety attacks were a near daily occurrence. We mutually agreed to a divorce, but he took my children. In the State of Tennessee there is literally no protection for Military spouses who need legal assistance, and he kept such close tabs on the money I spent that squirreling away enough money to get an attorney was extremely difficult. He disowned my daughter (She had called him Daddy since she was 4 and she is now 20) and took my two sons to North Carolina. His new wife believes I abandoned my sons even though I call them daily and actually showed up at their doorstep in an attempt to see them Everyone believes he was the victim in this situation and that I was crazy, irresponsible, etc. My Father, also a Latter Day Saint, tried to keep my kids’ address from me because he “promised (my ex) that he wouldn’t share the address” with me. Like my ex, my Father is extremely patriarchal in his mindset and believes Michael’s words over mine. This has permanently damaged our relationship.
I was a stay at home Mom. I was told in disagreements about money, but other times too that I needed to start working. When was I going to be working? We both need to be working so things are equal. Now I am working and I work fewer hours and get paid less than my husband. Now the message is that I need to work towards full time, better paying, better benefits work. When will that be, what is my plan? Push push prod prod. I am 6 years behind in my career and will likely never make the same wage as my husband. How can I win here? Things have been going down hill for a long time. But we have two kids. I love them more than anything and my husband is vendictive and less invested in their welfare. To split means not having them under my eye because his pride and spite would mean 50 50 parenting.It means less for me because I have less to pay for lawyer. He has the power. If I leave, I will pay.
I have always been very career oriented. I got married in my late 20s to a man about 10 years older than me. When we had our first baby, then second I always worked full time at a high-pressure job. I was overwhelmed with everything that goes along with having children. My requests & expectations for help and sharing parenting were seen as nagging. When business conferences came up that would help both our careers he always went. Housework? Me. Daily life stuff like kid running, play dates, activities, dressing them, feeding them? Me. Eventually I came to find out that he used business conferences to meet and sleep with women. He would take photos of them and show them off to other men he knew. We shared professional circles so all of that reflected back on me and indirectly at our children. Did anyone tell me? Warn me? Protect me? Stand up for me? Nope. They laughed along with him. Patted him on the back. He was proud of himself. I divorced him, moved, changed careers, endured serious professional and personal humiliation … and still he feels proud of himself. Travels to conferences. Advances his career. Has even much, much less child raising responsibilities – it’s all on me. But I’m ok with it – I’d rather have a rat like that and all his rat friends far away… But I realize that this all happened as a product of his feeling of entitlement & extraordinary sexism that our culture accepts as okay. Vile behavior like that is not okay – but try telling him that and he’d smirk, puff out his chest and ring up one of his lady friends to meet him for a fuck and he’d be just fine with himself. This world is mad sometimes. (Upside? I see and call out sexism all the time now, teach my children about what is ok and not, and have an honest, loving partner who proves that good men do exist. He thinks that ‘the ex’ is the worst representation of what a man can be and thinks he’s a pos.)