Category Archives: Everyday Sexism

Jeanne

The event I am about to relate is one of countless instances of sexism and sexual harassment I have experienced over the course of my life–and it was one of the reasons why I went to graduate school and earned my Ph.D. in sociology, with gender as one of my areas of expertise. I was a very young single mother of two small children, I was in my early 20s and desperately seeking employment. I felt so lucky to have been hired as an assistant manager in a small retail store but from the first time I met the manager I felt an uneasiness about him. As soon as I met him I recognized something predatory in his demeanor–and I was unfortunately proven correct over the course of the next 3 months. Ever chance he got he would touch me and “accidentally” brush up against me. He started making sexual innuendos and as time went on his comments became more direct and aggressive, to the point of him eventually baldly stating various sexual thins he wanted to do to me. I was so disgusted by him, but didn’t object because I feared speaking out would result in him firing me. My one lame strategy was pretending he wasn’t serious, that he was merely joking. Then his equally disgusting friend, a hunting buddy, started coming to visit him at the store, and they eventually started competing with each other to see who could be the first to convince me to become sexually involved. Both men were middle-aged, and both were married, and although I would constantly remind them of these facts, neither would stop harassing me. By Christmas I was feeling desperate, I wanted to quit so badly so that I would never have to see either one of those creeps again, but I couldn’t find another job and I really needed the income, so I stayed in order to be able to feed and house my children. The manager had planned an elaborate holiday party for the employees at a very expensive club/restaurant, and the seven part-time employees and I met him at the party venue. He’d evidently been there awhile and was already inebriated by the time we arrived, and as soon as he saw me he sloppily insisted that I had to dance with him. I kept making excuses, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Of course as soon as I conceded and started dancing with him, he pulled me into a slow dance embrace and started touching me all over. I couldn’t conceal my revulsion, and I pushed him away as hard as I could and yelled, “stop it!” He stumbled a bit backward, but quickly regained his balance and glared at me like he wanted to kill me. I started feeling afraid of what he might do in retaliation. Eventually the hostess came to let us know our table was ready, and as we filed into the restaurant one of the part-timers, John, steered the manager to the head of the table and suggested under his breath that I sit as far away from him as possible. So I went to sit at the opposite end of the very long table. I wanted to just get up and leave, but John was my ride home. Unfortunately I had yet to discover that John’s car had stopped working and that the manager had agreed to drive him home after the work party. I think the manager knew I had no other choice but to accept a ride home along with John. After we had all ordered and received our food, the manager refused to make conversation with anyone, all he would do was eat his fried chicken like some kind of neanderthal and glare at me the entire time. After the first piece was gnawed clean, he reared back his arm and flung the chicken bone across the table as hard as he could–directly at me. I ducked to the side very quickly, so the bone and all the ensuing others that he lobbed at me never hit his intended target, but it was very humiliating at the time. John kept trying to talk sense into the manager, and would try to intercept his arm before he could throw each bone, and he actually told the manager “hey man, that’s not right.” But the manager would always shrug him off and continued to throw the bones at me as hard as he could. Thankfully he was too drunk to aim very well. No other person besides John–not any of the other employees, waiters, customers, or any of the managers–tried to intervene, despite the possibility that someone else might actually have been hit by one of the numerous flying bones. The other employees, and me as well, tried to act like nothing out of the ordinary was going on–we never klooked at the manager, we looked everywhere else because we were all just too afraid we’d lose our jobs. After dinner I found out that the only way I had of getting home (a 40 minute drive, and I had no money for a taxi) was going along with John and being driven home by the drunken manager. Despite John’s best efforts to convince the manager that they should take me home first and go out for a beer, the manager insisted he was taking John home first. I had elected to sit in the back seat of the car, and when we got to John’s house the manager kept telling him to “get out,” while John kept insisting they take me home and go out for a beer. I felt guilty for being the reason why John refuse to get out, I knew he felt he needed to stay to protect me, but I had to get home to my children and so I told John I’d be okay and that he should go ahead and go into his house so he could go to bed finally. After John asked me “are you sure?” like a dozen times, he finally got out of the car and instructed me to call him when I got home. We sat in the driveway another 10 minutes because the manager kept ordering me to move to the front seat, and I kept refusing. The manager insisted that he wasn’t moving the car an inch until I moved up to the front seat. Finally I said a terse “ok,” and moved up tio the front seat. I did move to the front seat, but by this time my fear was turning into indignant anger–finally. The manager had to get on the interstate to take me home, and after merging on to the interstate he grabbed me by my neck and tried to violently pull me to him–all while he kept insisting “give me a kiss.” I had my left arm straight out pushing against him but he kept trying to force me to kiss him. So because he wouldn’t stop I put my other hand on the door handle and I opened the door a crack, then I screamed, “if you don’t let me go I’ll jump and my death will be all your fault!” Having finally got the message that I would rather die than kiss him he pushed me away with the hand he’d been grasping my neck with–and I had to grab his arm to keep from falling out of the door. For the rest of the drive he stewed in silence, and after I got out of the car at my house he peeled down the street with the tires making a terribly loud squealing noise. I was so relieved that the ordeal was over that I cried before composing myself to go inside. I knew I was probably going to be fired, but I kept hoping that he’d been so drunk he might forget everything that had transpired the night before, so I went into work the next morning actually hoping I would still have that terrible, awful job. As soon as he saw me he looked away and simply stated, “Your services are no longer needed.” I turned right around and walked out, eventually got home somehow, and never did anything except look for a new job because I knew, even back then and at such a young age (22 years of age) that I could never afford a lawyer, and that he’d just lie if the case ever went to trial. I also felt that the only person who would be a witness for me was the one person I would never ask because John was a new father and could not afford to lose his job. But over all these many years I recognize that this sexism/sexual harassment experience only made me ever more determined, ever more angry, and it pushed me to become a person who actively tries to enable other women to more effectively deal with such situations. I became a professor who teaches, researches and publishes articles about gender power relations.

anonymous

My friend told me the events of her past week. There is an abusive man living next door to her and her flatmate. He has a restraining order placed against him going near the woman who also lives next door- they have had a relationship. Last week he committed two acts of violence against her by entering the property. Once with a baseball bat, the other time was an attack sustained over an hour long. My friend said she and her flatmate (who is male) could hear it and she says it was the worst thing she has ever heard. Then she tells me that while the hour attack was going on- her and her flatmate did not call the police and that they chose not to because they were worried that this man would end up in prison if anyone found out about his attack- he’s not only committed a violent assault- but he’s broken a restraining order to do it. They spent the whole attack- listening to the whole thing and protecting the abuser by not calling the police and listening to acts of terrible violence because ‘he’d end up in prison’…. then she tells me that her flat mate- (lets call him Dave although this isn’t his real name) “Dave says” she goes (and i’m paraphrasing here)— “Dave says that she was in bed with another man in his house and so the attacks were justified…” and then she tells me that Dave went over to the police today to give a good character witness for this violent and abusive man because they are ‘soulmates’. Then she tells me what a ‘good person’ Dave is- how he’s “one of the good guys”…. Then she tells me that she’s thinking about going over to see this woman- a woman she has never met and has no relationship with to ask her if she wants my friend to call the police the next time he attacks her. I’m so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so fucking angry right now. And I can’t believe I heard this. I told her she was supporting violence against women, protecting the abuser, colluding in violent crime and that her friend Dave is clearly not one of the “good guys” if he’s prepared to support the actions of violence against another- as well along with everything else that’s wrong with this picture. And as for going round to see the woman. I was speechless…. speechless. She told me that another woman who’d been in a abusive relationship had told her to go and do this—– I said I’ve been in an abusive relationship and I’m telling you NOT to do this. I also asked her what about trusting her own sense of right and wrong?????? It doesn’t matter what I or anyone else says- What about her own moral compass???? This in itself is an act of abuse.. How fucking DARE she collude with the abuser and then think she can just go round to this woman’s home and expect to take her trust and “ask” her what shes “wants” the next time her partner is violently attacking her. People have been asking- “how do abusers get away with it” and “why doesn’t anyone do anything”… well here we have an event which is live and which describes exactly how this process takes place in our society. I’m utterly utterly utterly horrified.

Love this site

A man easily fifteen years my senior, utterly unattractive, whom I hardly knew, trapped me at night in a flat in the middle of nowhere and demanded to know my feelings for him. When I told him I had no feelings for him and wasn’t attracted to him, he demanded to know the reasons why – I could tell he would try to argue me out of my decision. I arranged alternative accommodation by making phone calls from the bathroom, and once he saw me packing my things in a hurry, he asked angrily what I was doing. “Leaving.” He whined, pleaded and shouted at me that I was wrong to want to leave. Yes of course, I’m wrong to disagree with you! He told me I was overreacting, he would sleep on the sofa (between my bed and the door!) and that we could still be “friends.” Why would I want to be friends with a creepy old stranger! I was scheduled to give him a lift home the next day – we were in another town that we’d travelled to for the sport we both do. In the morning I messaged him on whatsapp telling him I was furious about what he’d done and he could get the train home. I then blocked him. I enjoyed the drive back so much. I felt so free and empowered. He has since messaged me several times on all other forms of media he can find me on, arguing that I have the wrong impression of him, he’s always gentle and kind to women (I don’t remember suggesting he wasn’t gentle…alarm bells) and that we should be friends. He even mansplained to me that he wasn’t condescending. Imagine explaining to someone that you’re not condescending!! Hilarious if he weren’t so horrifying. Every bit of his behaviour since I decided to leave that place has told me I did the right thing in leaving. God knows what else he would have done if I had stayed. Always, always trust your gut. If your gut tells you something’s off, it is. Remove yourself from the situation, before it gets any worse. Do not apologise. Do not feel awkward. You have a right to enjoy your life, and be away from situations that make you uncomfortable. Men will try to undermine your judgement, make you doubt yourself. It’s just another tool to manipulate you. Your gut knows who to trust. Finally a thank you for the contributors to this site – reading your stories helps me know that I’m not crazy, and that it’s not just me. It makes all the difference.

Megan

I have so many stories I could tell – from being told I wasn’t hired for a job because they “needed” a male hire or the time a man stood in front of my car door so I couldn’t leave until I gave him my number, or having men grab at my ass like I was a prize. But the one occasion that stands out to me the most also breaks my heart the most. I was walking to my car after taking a Barre class. I won’t lie, I wear tight clothes to these classes, and I’m a curvy woman. I’m used to being hollared at by men, and usually, I stand my ground with them and tell them to buzz off. But as I was walking to my car this night, I heard this voice say “Mama Mia what a body!” I looked around, and just saw a car driving by. Didn’t think much of it. Until I saw that car stop. I continued to walk toward it, and as I walked past, I looked at the car. Again, I heard “Mama mia, what a body!” I looked right at the person who said it: this boy could not have been more than 10 or 11 years old. And his mother was sitting in the car. I almost always shout something back at the men who catcall me, and this time, I hesitated, but then I quickly realized… this is a CHILD. He needs to know, more than anyone else, that this kind of thing is not ok. So I shouted back “Hey, you should not be talking to a woman like that, ever. You should treat women with respect.” I half expected the mom to come and yell at me, but she didn’t. I almost wish she had. Because despite my response in that moment, I doubt he actually learned that what he was doing was wrong. A child cat called me. A child objectified my body. That is not okay.

Eva

My boss talking about two of my colleagues, saying they’re the best at what they do and the only bad thing is that they are women. Then talking about one of our branches, he said they had a bad summer, lots of fights, because they employed all women. I’m looking for a new job.

Kitt

I was 34 at the time and shopping for some toiletries mid afternoon at a retail store when I noticed two young boys (I’d guess 16-17) following me and giggling. I ignore them and continue to shop. As I finish up and turn onto the main floor towards the registers the boys fall right in behind me. Then as I’m walking, aware of them, but not fearful, I hear one of them say “schwing” It stoped me in my tracks! I put down my basket walked straight up to them and said “really? Schwing? What possessed you to think that was ok? The one guy who didn’t say it, smacked the other guy and said ” I told you she could hear you” what? So it’s ok to say if I don’t hear it? So I took a few minutes out of my day to educate these young men about how inappropriate such comments are. I explain that it’s disrespectful, intrusive and downright abusive. That was 15 years ago and I hope those two took what I said to heart and became respectful young men who see women as people rather than objects for their perusal. Unfortunately ive been the victim of far worse. I’ve had my fair share of sexual harassment, abuse and discounting when I was too scared or too young to speak up but that day I stood up for all women. The sad thing is their parents didn’t raise them to respect women or see them as equals. Fathers need to step up and tell their sons objectifying women isn’t ok.

Sue

Walking back to my car in lidil car park when a man in a van starts waving at me.i just ignore and walk on. my car is parked behind his van. He roles down his window and says hello, would you like to get to know me!

Kitty

Why on earth does the bloody media insist on throwing issues relating to stuff like women’s rights, gender, etc., open to the public for debate on the internet, on TV & radio & in magazines? From what I’ve seen, when this happens, all the misogynistic trolls come crawling out from under their rocks to add their tuppence worth. Some examples: -The subject of domestic abuse being taught about in schools was picked as a topic of discussion on Teletext one day (for those who aren’t familiar with this, Teletext on ITV had a discussion forum of sorts where you could text in with your opinions on things, & sometimes they’d ask for the public’s opinion on certain issues that had been in the news, & this was one of them). I was infuriated with the comments that were published, & I think you can guess what they were- a denial of any gender imbalance in domestic abuse (how predictable), with people texting in to say that teaching kids about domestic abuse is OK by them as long as they say that it happens to men as well, or words to that effect. An accusation of a ‘feminist agenda’ (or words to that effect) was also made by one texter- because of course domestic abuse is a feminist issue, isn’t it?! Bollocks to that- it’s an issue that concerns all of society, not just feminists, & in any case, I’d have thought that any decent person would want it shut out of society. Hey ho, I guess I was wrong. -There was a news article on Yahoo a while ago about child abuse (I think), & the comments section consisted of comments about how the stats were skewed because there are so many false allegations of rape made (or words to that effect). I no longer read the comments sections under any online news articles for this reason. -The Ched Evans case was the subject of discussion on Call Kaye [Adams] after his retrial, & according to an online news article, “There was plenty of support for Ched Evans – whom Kaye Adams described as a “promising young footballer whose career is now in tatters’’ – but not much for the woman involved, predictably…We were asked to judge the worthiness of the complainant and the accused and, as such, the discussion quickly dissolved into one on morality and the “type of woman’’ the former is. That woman, we learned, is one who has “loose morals’’, as one caller suggested. Another informed us that “she was hardly a virgin, was she?’’ while another asked: “What does she expect? These are young footballers’’. One said we all know women like this, who “put it about a bit, are a bit of a tease and a bit minxy’’.”. http://www.thenational.scot/comment/14872287.Kirsty_Strickland__Repetition_of_dangerous_rape_myths_has_no_place_in_a_responsible_debate/ And now Chat magazine has gotten in on the act as well. They have a section where they ask readers for their views on certain things, & the latest thing in their current issue is gender neutral clothing. The response was, unsurprisingly, unanimously negative (the people anti it were in the majority), with (female, I’m sorry to say) readers saying stuff like “John Lewis should stop being so politically correct”. Why is not putting your child in a box as far as their gender is concerned (i.e. not dressing little girls in pink with vomit-inducing stuff about wanting to be a princess on the front- barf city!- or dressing little boys in blue tops with dinosaurs on) being PC? Blimey O’Reilly! I rest my case.

Alison

When I was 20 I got an abscess on one of my buttocks which I had to have a small operation under a general anaesthetic to drain. At a follow up outpatient appointment, I was seen by a male doctor that I hadn’t seen before and I did not have a chaperone. The Doctor got me to take my underwear off so he could examine me and then whilst I was lying down, he rammed a gloved finger hard into my rectum whilst asking me how I had got the abscess. Saying that I must have done something to cause it and generally shaming me and not accepting it when I said that I had no idea why I had got it. At the time I felt guilty, embarrassed and ashamed. It was only years later that I realised that the doctor had sexually assaulted me.

Alison

When I was 21 I took an overdose and ended up in a psychiatric hospital for a few days. When I was admitted, the doctor who admitted me insisted on giving me a physical examination and spent what felt like hours examining my breasts. I felt very uncomfortable and was praying for it to end. At the time I accepted this as normal practice. But now years later, I’ve had many breast examinations and I realise that I was being sexually assaulted.CHARRO