I was venting to my friend, Matt, about work.
He listened to me for a while, nodding and drinking his pint, saying all the correct responses to my irritations, which mainly meant calling certain colleagues swear words.
But that all stopped when I said, hiccupping through too much wine:
“And there’s a guy in the office who just makes me feel massively uncomfortable. Whenever I speak, he interrupts me and then says exactly what I was going to say and makes it seem like it was his idea. All the rest of the male management then give him a pat on the back for his amazing idea. It’s completely sexist.”
Matt put down his pint, smiled and then said something that knocked me for six:
“Yeah, but c’mon…sexism’s not really a thing anymore is it. Sure, the guy sounds like a d**k, but just chime up next time. Call him out.”
I was acutely surprised at the idea that sexism was as dead as the poor Dodo, but instead of going into a feminist monologue, I just grumbled a short response and went to the bar. I’m not massively confrontational; we were at a pub, having a laugh. And besides, it was my round.
Thanks to Matt’s denial of the existence of sexism, my annoyance at the work situation was now void. The issue was me not being strong enough – it was nothing to do with my gender.
But it got me thinking about why my dear friend Matt would think we were equal in today’s society. And the conclusion? It is my fault. And it’s been my fault for many years.
Let me explain.
You see, at work, it was my fault for not going straight to HR when a man said a sexual comment to me, including these classics:
“How do you lads get any work done when sitting next to her?”
“I don’t think my wife would like it if she knew I worked with you.”
Instead, I would fake a laugh and therefore commit to the assumption that these statements were meant as compliments
It was my fault for then using these sexual comments as a trade-off for things I wanted. If I wanted someone to help me lift a box, back my idea or sign a contract, I had to laugh at a few stupid comments. It’s my fault for ignoring sexual comments for my own gain.
And it is my fault for not saying from the age of 12 that I didn’t like it when men commented on me in a sexual way.
It was my female friends and family members’ faults for just walking away when people would beep at us or shout things out of the car.
We would simply slide away from men who would not leave us alone on the dancefloor and therefore it was our fault for not taking the time to explain to them why they were making us feel uncomfortable.
It’s my fault for adhering to fashion and wearing make up which makes women look older, more glamorous, sexier.
It was my fault for not chiming up when a male colleague got away with taking my ideas.
It was my fault that my friend Matt thinks sexism does not exist anymore.
How was Matt meant to know that these things happened and how they affected women if I never got angry or upset about them?
Matt was simply echoing something that us women have lived with for many years. Sexism is now so engrained that it’s not even considered “a thing” anymore.
Everyday Sexism, a wonderful project which encourages women to come forward with their ‘trivial’ acts of sexism, sums this up perfectly:
It seems to be increasingly difficult to talk about sexism, equality and women’s rights in a modern society that perceives itself to have achieved gender equality. In this ‘liberal’, ‘modern’ age, to complain about everyday sexism or suggest that you are unhappy about the way in which women are portrayed and perceived renders you likely to be labelled ‘uptight’, ‘prudish’, a ‘militant feminist’, or a ‘bra burner’.
Do you have any sexism stories you would like to share, however normalised or small they seem?
Do you agree with Matt – or do you think we aren’t quite equal yet?