From the Editors: Stop Tolerating Small Doses of Sexism
Columns / October 22, 2017
Misogyny doesn’t always show itself as a slap on the ass or a grotesque catcall. More often than not, it rears its head through the little things—the microaggressions that are barely detectable unless you’re paying attention or they’re fixed on you.
These are the issues we don’t often talk about when we discuss feminism because there are typically so many bigger things to worry about. Every day women are being harassed, assaulted, abused, and murdered just for existing on this planet. The inconspicuous sexist remarks that barrage our nerves during average conversation shouldn’t take priority over such horrific injustices, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be standing up to the people who make us feel inferior in social situations, whether they’re trying to do so or not.
To offer a personal example, every time I go out to socialize at a show or party, I’m faced with the same annoyance: in a circle of new friends introducing themselves to one another, all of the men in the group shake hands and warmly exchange details while the women go completely, silently, unacknowledged. We are treated like we’re not only invisible, but also disposable—not important enough to even ask for our names or look us in the eye. Without having done anything to deserve it, we are excluded.
This isn’t just upsetting as a symptom of deeply-rooted societal biases against women. It is personally hurtful and isolating for us as people.
Every time a man ignores my presence in a group, he makes it clear that he doesn’t want to get to know me, and that he isn’t even willing to pretend that he values my voice in conversation. There are few more dehumanizing things to feel when you’re trying to make new friends and instead are labelled as either a pretty accessory to whoever you’re with or an inanimate object that doesn’t deserve to be addressed or seen.
There are countless microaggressions like this that weigh us down in our daily lives. Trying to connect with men in one-on-one conversations only to be met with pointless comments about our boyfriends and appearance isn’t flattering, it’s insulting. Enjoying ourselves in a group of male friends doesn’t need to be ruined by reminders that we’re fragile, graceful women and you’re crass, lustful bros. We don’t need you to apologize for swearing around us, making crude jokes, or doing anything else that you might wrongfully assume is inherently masculine. Just be as decent as you would be around anyone else. We can handle it.
I know a lot of good men who don’t realize that they do this to the women around them, and I know a lot of strong women who don’t feel secure enough to fight back against it. On the few occasions that I have been so bold as to bluntly state my name to a man who’s been pretending I’m not there for the past 10 minutes, or directly say that someone’s being sexist towards a friend of mine, I’ve been met with awkwardness and hostility.
In a way, that’s an accomplishment. If you make it obvious that someone is being sexist hopefully they’ll realize that it isn’t right, but that demands a social sacrifice. Call men out for being awful and you’re labelled a ballbuster, a nag, a bitch, a social justice warrior, or any other insult in the slew of degrading slurs hurled at women when they speak up for themselves. Stay quiet and you feel like shit, but at least you don’t get ousted and made into a public spectacle.
We don’t need to be eloquent about how horrible this makes us feel. It sucks. It’s not fair that we’re regularly forced into situations where defending ourselves has greater social ramifications than staying silent and feeling unimportant and unheard all night when all we wanted in the first place was to have a good time.
So, to the people who refuse to make eye contact with women while they fist bump every man in the room: we don’t want to meet you either. And until you start treating us with respect, we never will.