“Misogyny, sexism, everyday in every way.”
When Julia Gillard stood up in Australian Parliament and called out the casual misogyny of the Leader of the Opposition, and the government itself, she inspired a generation of women to fight back against the revealing, and potentially dangerous, behaviour we accept in our daily lives.
Casual misogyny is everywhere, every day. It is not isolated to manifest dangers like street harassment or domestic violence. In fact, it’s usually the subtler conduct and beliefs that lead to these larger issues.
“Football team returns triumphant!”
How often are headlines like this assumed to be male? Despite no reference to gender, we all know this is a men’s team. If it were a women’s team, it would be described as a women’s team. Why are men not given the same treatment?
This example of everyday sexism is minor but signals how entrenched these beliefs are into our society.
These views are generally ingrained in childhood. Every woman growing up was told to ‘sit like a lady’, to ‘cover up’ and adhere to dress codes, and that little boys ‘are only mean to you because they like you.’ These messages not only dismiss the direct violence many boys grow up to replicate but teach women from a young age that their bodies are to be policed, or else sexualised.
The normalised objectification of young girls, with practices such as ‘skirt measuring’ in schools, is a rather overt indicator of casual sexism. However, we also need to address those which we don’t even notice. The language and actions we smooth over with a laugh or a roll of the eyes. For instance, prodding or shaming young women about their professional or marriage choices.
Or the idea that a woman must be submissive and ‘smile more’, otherwise she is ‘bossy’ or ‘pushy’, or ‘it must be her time of the month’.
These assumptions all perpetuate a greater culture of misogyny and are part of the reason why a lot of women suffer in silence when these behaviours become more physically or emotionally abusive.
“Research has identified that leading drivers of family violence are forms of discrimination in society including sexism,” said Tracey Gaudry, head of Respect Victoria, in an interview with The Age.
“There’s no conscious awareness of the gender bias; subconscious bias is a big part of it.”
Gaudry explains that it’s not just blatant discrimination or violence that women constantly face. Rather, the uncomfortable everyday experiences which every woman has to suffer through. It’s the nervous laughter when the male boss calls us ‘sweetheart,’ or a ‘good girl’. The furrowed eyebrows when hearing a man refer to a group of women as ‘females’. The slow sinking into our chair as our male colleagues continue to talk over us.
These experiences are so common, they are also considered too insignificant to even bring up in conversation. But, speaking out is the first step in challenging the narrative of casual sexism that underpins women’s everyday experiences.
In 2012, Laura Bates established the Everyday Sexism Project, to allow women across the globe to share their accounts of both minor and major cases of sexism faced in their daily lives. Bates told Forbes Magazine that she “expected the vast majority of our entries to concern street harassment, but actually, the single biggest category that we have is workplace incidents.” The site now displays thousands of testimonies of workplace harassment, alongside smaller experiences like unsolicited graphic images or persistent advances following rejection.
“There are a million ways in which [women] learned from a very young age, firstly, that this is to be expected, and secondly, that if you do make a fuss, you should expect to be the one who’s blamed. This silences the problem.” – Laura Bates, Founder of the ‘Everyday Sexism Project’
Casual misogyny has reached a point where calling a man out on his actions would label us as ‘oversensitive’ or ‘unable to take a compliment’. So, why do we need to address these seemingly harmless interactions at all?