I am well aware of the Everyday Sexism project and applaud it’s work in giving an outlet for every woman to share instances of sexism in their lives.
“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. By sharing your story you’re showing the world that sexism does exist, it is faced by women everyday and it is a valid problem to discuss.”
I identify loudly and proudly as a feminist and I see the issues around inequality on a social scale; the pay gap, victim blaming and many other issues. It worries me for my daughter and future generations, but on a personal scale I can say that I rarely have instances of sexism in my day to day life. Perhaps that is because I work from home in an office with my husband, perhaps it is because I am confident and strong willed and others would see that I would call them out on it? Or perhaps I just don’t notice.
So it was a shock to me when I had an experience where my gender became an issue. This year I have been working for a few different clients, sometimes alone and sometimes with a colleague. On some occasions I was working with a male colleague in a situation where I was leading the project and he was learning on the job from me and this is where it all got a bit odd…
We entered the workplace and found the person we needed to see, I introduced us both and the company and put my hand out to greet them. This person turned away from me to my male colleague and said hello, she then addressed all her questions towards him. He told her that I was “the boss” and he was there as an extra pair of hands. She seemingly ignored this and continued to address him over me for the entire day.
Now, I suppose there could have been other reasons behind this, but it very much felt that she assumed as he was male, he was in charge. I let her know that I was leading the project and any questions she had, she should let me know and I would address them. I am a friendly and open person, so I can’t imagine that she had taken a dislike to me. It was all very odd. We laughed it off and the day continued.
Only the following day, it happened again! Are we really so ingrained in a male dominated culture that we can’t imagine an event where between a male and a female, the woman is in charge?
Another time, we were staying at some accommodation. I was driving (my male colleague can’t drive), and also towing a trailer. As we arrived at the hotel, the owner came out to greet us, he went straight to my male colleague and spoke directly to him, despite the fact that I had booked directly with him and all correspondence came from me. He then showed us where to park addressing my friend, he was told that I was in charge and I was the driver. It was at this point that he asked me if I would like him to reverse the car and trailer into place for me!
HahahHAHAhahAHaaaa!! (That’s a manic laugh…)
What is funny (odd, not haha) is that I actually feel uncomfortable sharing these events, I feel that others will think I am making something out of nothing, that I am imagining the worst and assuming sexism. Perhaps these people were “traditional” or “courteous”.
Or perhaps we are so deep into a culture where it is assumed that women aren’t the boss and can’t drive that it is seen as acceptable to act like this?
Don’t get me wrong, I know these events are so minor in the grand scheme of things, they were a tiny irksome point in my day, nothing compared to the huge scale inequality going on in other parts of the world. Nothing compared to women who are verbally abused in the street, sexually attacked, nothing compared to those fighting for justice for women.
But it is these little things that make up the day to day sexism that we live through. There are stories today about female only carriages on trains, an idea based on making women safer as they travel. This kind of act puts the responsibility to deal with harassment or assault onto the victim instead of the perpetrator where it belongs. It is another aspect of a victim-blaming culture of ‘why didn’t she keep herself safe’ rather than ‘why did he harass/assault her’. I really don’t think we should be “shaming women into limiting their environments, but focus instead on teaching men not to degrade them.” (Via everyday sexism Twitter)
I am aware that the remarks by Jeremy Corbyn were based on him saying he would like to open a dialogue about safety on public transport and came from comments from women to him (I am actually a big Corbyn fan!) and also that this idea is one about immediate safety whilst the issues of public attacks on women is addressed, but what a sad world we live in where women can’t feel safe just getting the tube home from work.
Often the response to women who point out inequality is that men are just trying to help, the old ‘we can’t even hold a door open any more’. That’s just silly, please do hold the door open for me if you see me coming, but not because I am a woman, just because it is a nice and polite thing to do, I hope you do it for everyone. I am happy to ask for help if I need it, I am not ashamed if I can’t do something and will ask for assistance, but please don’t assume that I need help because I have a vagina. Don’t assume I’m not the boss because I have a vagina. Or that I can’t drive.
In fact, that is probably a good rule of thumb…
Don’t assume anything about me because I have a vagina.