The Everyday Sexism Project has been in the news quite a bit recently, and Twitterers may have noticed a near-constant stream of stories retweeted by them. In their own words:
The Everyday Sexism Project exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women 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.
The litany of complaints from women passed on by Everyday Sexism is gob-smackingly depressing and outrageous. Here’s a couple:
It’s just relentless and it ranges from casual sexist comments right up to sexual harrassment, abuse and sexual assault. But over and over again, the women say that when they respond, fight back or tell the harrasser to stop, they’re met with incredulity and further abuse. I mean, what the actual fuck? How would one of these guys react if his sister, mother or partner was treated in the same way? Ask her if she was wearing a skirt and what she did to provoke it? Jesus.
When I was 14 and my sister was 13, we did a paper round for a local newsagent. A guy worked there who, in today’s more enlightened times, would be described as having learning difficulties. On a daily basis, he would rub himself against my sister and I and try to grab our backsides and breasts. The manager of the shop knew he did it but shrugged and said it was up to us to keep out of his way. He told us frequently that if he had his way, he wouldn’t employ women. He boasted that he paid us less because we weren’t boys. We had pornographic magazines pushed in our faces by staff and other paperboys, we suffered daily filthy jokes, foul language, jibes about our appearances and questions on whether we were virgins. We were 13 and 14.
Another story. I once moderated a forum which was largely male-dominated. Sometimes, if I moderated someone in a way they didn’t like, I was accused of being on the blob or having PMT. I was constantly derided as being a ‘schoolmistress’, sexually explicit posts were made about me and comments about my menstrual flow were made. Rape jokes were common and complaints about them were ignored or mocked. Elsewhere, female forum posters who disagree with someone are told to ‘run along and make us a cup of tea, love’, told they’re being hysterical or simply abused and hounded until they leave the site. Posts vilifying and belittling women in every way possible are everyday occurrences. On every forum I’ve visited, there are rules about racist and homophobic behaviour, yet the most blatant misogyny, sexism and posts normalising violence towards women are tolerated. Worse, they’re lauded.
Last story. Well, this is lots of little stories all put together. A colleague was repeatedly harassed by men pestering her via email and messenger to go on dates. She complained to her (female) manager who shrugged and told her she was very beautiful so it shouldn’t be a surprise. A former manager boasted to me that he had ways of questioning female job applicants on their plans for having children in a manner that evaded HR policy. He also asked me, but tried to pretend it was a joke. In an interview, I was asked by the company owner about my sex life and whether I possessed any sex toys. He also told me I would be expected to be the company’s ‘tits and arse’ and make customers happy. In another interview, the interviewer spent the entire time staring openly at my breasts and legs. A manager at my workplace loudly discusses whether or not he would fuck female co-workers, saying, ‘I’d rather knock one out than stick my cock in that bitch’. I was also called a fucking bitch because I objected to one of his co-workers being rude to me. A job application was met with the words, ‘we’d prefer to employ men, women are trouble’ before being grudgingly offered an interview. Er… thanks, but I’ll pass.
The above is just a minor slice of what it can be like to be a woman. It doesn’t even take into account the catcalls, the cars honking, the shouted remarks and why won’t I just give them a smile. It doesn’t mention the plumbers, builders and car mechanics who talk down to me (or refuse to talk to me altogether and address everything to my husband, unless they’re trying to rip me off), or the car salesmen who won’t answer my questions and pretend I’m not there. Or the man who congratulated me on being able to parallel park or the man who rubbed his phone against my crotch on the tube while trying to pretend he wasn’t. Well, obviously it does now otherwise I wouldn’t have just written that, but you get where I’m coming from.
But y’know, why can’t I just ignore it? Why can’t I just get over myself and stop being such a humourless killjoy who can’t take a joke? Why can’t I just see it as, like, a bit of fun? I mean, sexual assault and rape jokes are just a bit of fun, right? It’s because trivialising shitty behaviour is normalising it. And when you normalise it, it’s not the harassers who have a problem, it’s the harassees. And why on earth would we want to normalise behaviour which oppresses half of the population.