Recently there’s been a spate of articles written and videos made about incidents of what are called “everyday sexism” but sometimes the best way to tell these stories just to tell them without some sophisticated media agenda. Sometimes stories need to be told in a straightforward way. In that vein, the Everyday Sexism Project creates a spot for women and girls to talk about instances of sexism that sometimes go unnoticed, often even by the people perpetrating that sexism. Beyond the big issues, it shows that most ideas about gender limitations and stereotypes become ingrained in women from a very young age and extend into adulthood and it’s not simply men who propagate them. It’s men and women, it’s people we trust, and sometimes it’s even people who think they’re doing their best to help.
Here are 30 stories from the Everyday Sexism Project by girls and women. Some may seem small, like minor inconveniences, but when they keep happening they build into a frustrating pattern that causes discouragement for women and a kind of behavioral captivity for men.
In those cases where the word ‘name’ is substituted for a name, the submitter has declined to enter a name of their own.
1. “Girl Drummer”
I’ve played the drums since I was around 12-13 years old, and I really enjoy playing. I’m in 11th grade now and am on the high school drumline (which by the way, only has 2 other girls besides me out of a total of 20), and all of the guys constantly make rude comments toward me and the other girls in the line. It doesn’t matter how good I am, I need to be twice as good to even be considered at the same level as one of the guys. Even though I’m much better than most of them, I’ve never gotten a solo or been in a leadership position. The band director made one of the girls center, and every guy on the drumline constantly makes fun of her and says how much she sucks- she’s 10 times better than all of them! Gosh it makes me so mad- like having a penis is required to keep a beat and play the drums.
Small Success: In high school, I had already been training as a runner for years. During PE, we had to run the mile one day. The teacher split us up into girls vs boys, 1)because there was probably 50+ of us in the class, 2)because yes, on average guys do run faster than girls without training. (focusing on the without training part) When we got to the track, I had been dreading the moment, and coach called for the boys to come to the line. I walked up there with them. He looked at me with a small bit of shock. I simply said “I can run just as fast as the guys and you know it.” So he nodded, looked at the rest of the girls and said “anyone else?” No one else came up, but he asked. He didn’t do it angrily or condescending, he just asked because it made no difference to him. What shouldn’t be a success however, is that it surprised me.
For the record, only one boy beat me. He ran a 5:45 mile, I ran a 6:00 mile.
Last year on the train: I always knit on the train, so when he was staring down, I thought he was looking at my project. I often get looks and questions because very few people knit in public. I started to make a comment about the project I was working on when he commented, “I just like to look at your breasts.” While that in and of itself made me uncomfortable, what made me feel especially awful was the feeling that there was nothing I could do. The man was twice my size and I didn’t even move to a different seat. I was too afraid to say something back to him. I was too afraid to change places. I was afraid of how he’d react and how the people around me would react. I didn’t think anyone would come to my aid. That made me feel dirtiest of all, that feeling that no one would help me.
When I reported a rape by a co-worker the male Chief Executive Officer fired the co-worker the next day. The male Chief Operating Officer said to me “What people do in their own time is their business. We didn’t fire him for rape we fired him for having sex with a co-worker”.
It was a holiday–Thanksgiving or Christmas, maybe, One of the few times that we get together with my boyfriend’s extended family. Upon greeting his aunt and uncle, his uncle looks my boyfriend up and down and says to me, “He looks skinny! Don’t you feed him?!” …….I didn’t even know what to say! I DO feed him, HEALTHY dinners that I DO cook at home, but not because it’s my JOB or OBLIGATION or DUTY! He is PERFECTLY capable of feeding himself, which he DOES in the event that I’m doing something else or don’t have dinner plans. Ugh.
Recently at my school, we had spirit week. It was extremely fun, and since it was my senior year I dressed up for each day. That is, until Friday. Friday was genderbend day, where the girls dress up as boys, and vice versa.
Before I get into that day, let me just tell you a story. A few years before I went to this highschool, the students were allowed to wear shorts (I live in Florida, and it’s always hot here so it made sense), however (according to a female P.E teacher) the girls “ruined” it by coming in really short shorts. Therefore, they were banned.
Now we’re back to Genderbend day, I don’t dress up as a guy and come in my normal school uniform. Guess what I see? Short shorts, mini skirts, spaghetti straps, and dresses so short that when they bent over, you could clearly see their boxers. The guys were allowed to wear all those clothes that girls are constantly shamed for wearing. Why were they allowed? “Because they aren’t going to distract the girls” says an administrator. They were practically mocking us girls by pretending to be frail and weak and helpless, as if the concept of strong women was lost to them. This is in no way “equality” as my school principle claims. If the women of my school cannot wear short shorts to school or spaghetti strapped short dresses to school, then neither can the men.
I’m totally damaged by media. “Skinny women are happy/better women”. My weight consumes me – not my health.
It’s horrible but I am sort of sexist when I don’t think. I am a female and because I have been growing up I have had the standards of women forced upon me. It’s horrible to think like that and I hate that I sometimes think like that.
My friend said that she wanted to be a video game designer. My first thoughts were that it would be weird for her to be one because girls shouldn’t play video games, and that she might be a little crazy. Of course I didn’t say these aloud and then immediate regretted my unspoken thoughts. But sexism is so horrible.
A few weeks ago, one of my close guy friends (actually an ex) called the nude photos leak “legendary,” with a laugh. I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about it.
A security guard tell me to “Smile,” and when I flashed him one he said “much better.”
A man tried to pick me up by pulling over and slowly driving next to me, in a van on a main street while asking me arbitrary questions.
“Hey, are you in high school or university?”
A group of older men were talking about having sex with me (no, I didn’t know them I was just walking past them)
I overheard a group of teenage guys who rated me on the 1-10 hotness scale and then proceeded to take bets on who could get me to sleep with them.
These are only a few episodes of harassment which I have to deal with daily. Not included are the stares, whispers, unwanted groping, whistles and shouts of “Hey Beautiful,” or “Hey, Sexy,” which I pretend to ignore. I am so used to ignoring harassment that I started to believe it was normal. This website has made me realize it is not normal and that I should no longer ignore unwanted advances.
I was chatting for a while with a friend over coffee. When it came out in the conversation that I was a virgin, she kind of looked at me in some disbelief, and said “Really? I mean I guess I just thought you were always so cool, ya know?”
I shaved my head to raise funds for childhood cancer research and two days later my boss told me to work on finding a more “appropriate” appearance for work b/c appearances matter (though I might mention there is a male employee at my company who regularly shaves his head and this is a-okay with management).
Recently I went to the hardware store with my husband and children. I was standing behind him as both of our carts wouldn’t fit in the aisle. He asked a male employee a question then turned down the next aisle. Before I could follow the employee blatantly looked at my chest, leered, and said “Well hello there.” Then turned to follow my husband. At the time I didn’t do anything, because really what could I do? I texted a friend after, telling them that this is why I didn’t wear low cut shirts in public. My shirt wasn’t even showing cleavage, but I still felt it was my falt for not wearing a higher necked shirt in public.
Tonight at work, 4 men saw fit to openly comment on my appearance and that of my coworkers while we were checking out their items. What started out as a friendly conversation quickly turned into them coming on to me as they misconstrued my kindness for flirting. They started exclaiming every time I bent over to get a bag, looking directly at my chest and backside with little shame. They made a comment about my “nametag” saying that it was nice while blatantly staring at my chest, before one of them piped in and say “You think that’s good, go stand at the other side of the counter!” Unfortunately I don’t get a lot of comments like this at my work or in my day-to-day, so I was totally caught off guard. I ended up being so nervous my hands were shaking and I just felt completely violated by their eyes on me but I was like a deer in headlights and kinda of instinctively responded to everything: smiling awkwardly, trying to deter, saying “no” twice with both times being ignored before I just became sort of a shrinking violet as I tried to get them out of the store and away from me. They’d ask my number repeatedly, try to get contact information, and openly commented on how the view of me was “better from the back”. What started as a nice conversation between people ended up with me being an object for viewing pleasure. I felt really demoralized.
I am used to this stuff in night clubs (which is sad) but then I usually have a group that can quickly get me away from the scene if I want to. I can’t necessarily run away in the middle of a transaction. I’m running through the should haves: I should have called over my manager, I should have said “No, and stop asking” when they persist with contact information, I shouldn’t have let myself get overwhelmed and give one of the assholes my number just to get him off my back (I wasn’t even thinking at that point), I should have given him a fake number, etc. etc.
It pisses me off that I beat myself up for someone else’s absolute misbehavior. They’re coming back this Friday, and I will likely work in the same place. I’m overwhelmed and not sure what to do. I’m thinking of talking to my manager but part of me wants to stand up to them now that I know to expect it.
I have no idea.
When I was young, probably about seven, my mother and I were walking to the ice cream store since it was a hot summer evening. We were walking up one of the streets to get there when a car on the other side of the street slowed down, and some men began to whistle and cat call at my mother. She didn’t say anything, and they drove away after a few seconds. When I asked what those guys had just been doing, she told me it was nothing. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how disgusting that had been.
I have been reading these stories and understand completely. I have also been the victim of everyday sexism and outright discrimination in the workplace. Being quite a bit older than many of the participants, I hope to provide some helpful information. Number one. This is not your fault. You never did anything to deserve this. Number two. If this occurs in the workplace, talk to the employee’s supervisor. Don’t just talk to them. They may not seem to be interested. Insist that will file a formal complaint and do it. If they block it, go the Human Resources. No Human Resources? Notify the corporate office or business owner. The words you need to use are “hostile workplace”. Tell them if you are embarrassed or afraid. Most importantly, document everything – who did what, what you did, when it happened, who you spoke to address the issue – and make sure you have copies of all paperwork including the complaint. What is this doesn’t work or you are subject to retailiation? Get a lawyer. Some will work for free (pro bono) others won’t require money upfront and ask for a percentage of any settlement you may receive. In most cases, a letter or call from an attorney is all it takes to bring the situation under control. What if they fire you – especially for a bogus reason? Sue them. Number two. If they touch you, file a police report. Again get a copy of the report. Don’t let a cop tell you they don’t have a case. You still have the right to file an “incident report.” File charges. Insist on it and SHOW UP at court. What if this doesn’t work? What if the guy gets off? Then you have created a documented history of sexual harassment or assault. This will come in handy if the problems continue. It also builds a basis for the next woman he goes after. Establishing a history of inappropriate behavior will help the police or a lawyer to protect both you and other women in the future. Think long and hard before inviting the media into the situation. They may turn on you and there is little you can do about that. Be prepared. If you take the incident to social media, you must accept that you are going to receive nasty attention. Most importantly, if you put something on social media that you cannot prove as true in a court of law, you may set yourself up for legal action by others. DON’T GIVE UP. These men will not stop unless there are consequences for their behavior. They think they’re not doing anything wrong or “it’s just a joke.” THEY ARE WRONG. A special note: if you are a minor or are in college, tell your parents. If they think you’re overacting, tell another trusted adult. Teachers, school counselors, doctors, nurses and social workers are REQUIRED BY LAW to report these incidents to the proper authorities. The only way to stop these attitudes and this behavior is to hold the men who do this accountable. I have to say that this is based on my personal experience and is not an attempt to used as legal advice. SPEAK UP! IT MATTERS!
I’m 17. Last summer I worked at a construction site. I worked as a secretary for the boss. The first day I got there he told me my pants were to tight and my tank top showed to much shoulders. He sent me to Walmart to buy sweatpants and a baggy long sleeve shirt. It was mid July. He had to escort me to the bathroom and wouldn’t leave in a room alone. Everywhere i walked the men whistled and hooted. Even though my body was completely cover i was still harassed. It was the worst 2 months of my life. Ive never felt so insecure and embarrassed.
People in my high school treat girls like they are fragile. Our sports teams are call “Lady” then the sport. I don’t see the guys being called “Gentlemen Soccer”. Also the school celebrates that victories of the boys’ teams at pep rallies but not the girls’.
men are not allowed to express any kind of emotion except happiness. if i cry or get depressed people don’t care about my problems. they don’t want to hear about them. they just tall you to “man up” which basically means suffer in silence because women don’t give a fuck about men’s problems. i don’t see any women talking about testicular cancer. when my father had prostate cancer nobody cared. women constantly tell men to “open up about their feelings” and say “women love sensitive guys” but when they do they break up with you and use everything you told them against you, then they tell all their friends that you’re weak and “not a real man”
I write dissections of literary theory online as a hobby, but my gender isn’t ever revealed through my writing. This has lead most of my readers to assume that I am a male. And I prefer it that way. I know that I’ll never be sent rape threats by a commenter and I feel like people take me and my work a lot more seriously. I can also make jokes and have people think that I’m funny, where as I see a lot of female comedians (who are funnier than I could ever hope to be) get a cold response from the internet. I’m always afraid that my readers will find out my sex because then their entire image of me will change. I won’t be seen as laid back or fun anymore because it’s assumed that all women are uptight and whiny. I just want to be fun…
21. Rachel G
While working at a call center for an insurance company, I had an unpleasant exchange with my boss. He put me on a project to call other agencies to set up partnerships. He told me that I was good for the project because a lot of the insurance agents liked to talk to women and get attention from a woman. I was hit on by several of the agents, many of which were married. One felt the need to tell me he hoped I was in a bikini all weekend for memorial day. It was degrading and made me feel dirty. I resent my former boss for purposefully putting me in the line of fire like that.
I go to a very progressive school, a highly competitive academic high school that encourages political and social debate, and is, for the most part, very liberal. But it doesn’t feel that way when the guy in my Latin class makes eye contact only with my breasts when talking to me. “you look really good today” to the edge of the fabric that lies over the offending body parts. When my performance in our production of “Beauty and the Beast” is met with, “who knew you didn’t have a white girl’s ass!” When that guy in my history class comes up with new ways to make it look like he isn’t using the camera on his laptop to take pictures when I lean over to pick up a dropped pencil. It doesn’t feel like an educated place when incoming freshman lean over the banister in the entry hallway and shout down to all of the arriving males “Good Morning!” and “Have a Grrreat Day!” while telling the girls to “Smile for me, it’s Monday.” The worst thing was when I volunteered to build a shelving unit for the freshman bio teacher ( a mentor and good friend) and as I lay out the materials, was told by the college counselor that I “should get a boy to help me with that.” It’s not just at school either. My younger cousins still think that “women’s rights” is an acceptable joke to make. My field hockey coach told our team that if we didn’t win the tournament, we had better get used to the site of nonstick pans and sandwich loaves. My church choir being shocked when I wanted to get in the truck to unload pumpkins for the annual fundraiser. I am just sick of it. But it is so difficult to confront.
When I was 13 years old, I was told that playing video games was for guys, and that I should be in the kitchen making my brother’s friends sandwiches.
So tomorrow I leave for a three day backpacking trip with three other females. My mom is still trying to dissuade me from embarking on my adventure. What makes me the most angry about the fact that she’s having issues trusting me on this hike is that if I had been born a boy there’d be nearly no questions asked, encourage even possibly. If my brother were to say (when he’s 18, the age I am) that he had planned a hiking trip the story would be completely different.
I’m in 11th grade now and since middle school I have had boys AND girls alike grope me or push me up against walls and press themselves against me. I was sleeping over at a female’s house and she attempted to sexually assault me in 9th grade. My parents don’t understand why I won’t go to sleep overs or parties now because if I told them, they wouldn’t care. My mother constantly gets onto me for ‘Not dressing like a proper woman’ and says I shouldn’t wear baggy clothes and I should put more make up on… My sister’s three year old boy asked her why she was putting on make up and she said so she could look beautiful and so they could go outside… I’m ashamed of the influence that culture has shoved on young women and men…
I’m in the process of buying my first car. My mother told me to “take a man along” so he can talk to the dealer about the car and check it out for me. And here I thought I was capable of doing all that myself. My bad, mom!
Every day I get harassed walking home from the subway. Every. Day. “Hey, beautiful.” “Smile for me, baby.” “Hey, Vanilla, it’s my birthday. What you gonna do for me?” (Yes, that last one is real. I was actually called Vanilla. In real life.) Yes, it’s only words and body language. But why does this gesture of power and dominance have to be steadfastly ignored and written off by so many people as “It’s a compliment! I would feel flattered!” Are you serious? It’s a compliment to feel a huge flash of fear late at night when you’re just trying to get home and this strange man and his friends are putting themselves in front of you? After you accidentally let slip the “fuck off!” response during the day? Putting up with the elevator eyes and the slimy feeling you get seeing the look on their face? Or the times on the subway when you keep trying to ignore the man playing with his crotch and looking at you? Yep. What a compliment for women everywhere – to be ruled by fear of what some man will do if you stand up for yourself.
I’m a physician and male patients will regularly say, “Thanks, sweetheart/honey” or refer to me and my other female colleagues as “girls” while the male physicians are always addressed as “doctor” or “sir.” Or, male patients always assume that I am their nurse.
USA Today:why Rowling “47-year-old married mother of three” would publish another bk = offensive
In high school, a “current events” class that lasted a quarter required that I 1) select a male partner and 2) plan our wedding. He didn’t have to do anything and would share my grade. Female (older) teacher didn’t understand why this was sexist. Refused; did a nice spread on the career in engineering I was going to have and that I would just go to a justice of the peace when and if I married. Got a D, she couldn’t fail me because I turned in more than some of the others did.
And yes, went into engineering. Not even going to count all the times I have been harassed, felt up, told that girls shouldn’t be engineers, asked if I was lesbian since I didn’t wear makeup, etc by some of the university staff.
My story of everyday sexism comes exactly in the form of casual, unintentional sexism, the most damaging aggravate and worst perpetrator.
I am a third-generation Chinese-American in NJ. My family may seem well-acclimated to America, but there are traces of cultural sexism, ageism and general abuse that continue to haunt us. The most recent example of everyday sexism I encountered began at my grandmother’s house. My grandmother, mother, two male cousins and myself were hanging out in the living room of my grandmother’s house. My cousins live elsewhere and were planning on staying overnight with my grandmother.
While my cousins and I were talking, my grandmother called me upstairs. She told me to make my cousin’s bed (I guess she had already made the other one). Just this little action stung. The implication is that because I’m female, I should do the household tasks for my male relatives. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this particular brand of cultural sexism, but it didn’t make her request hurt any less. In reality, there’s nothing preventing my cousin from putting the sheets on his own bed- he does it in his apartment where he lives as an adult. And even though I don’t mind the actual action of making a bed, it was the way that my grandmother instantly made me feel like a second-class citizen that irked me.
I wanted to share this particular instance of everyday sexism to show that sexism isn’t always perpetrated by males or strangers but that sexist comments from female relatives can make a woman feel just as violated.