I am lucky to appreciate so many more rights and privileges than the women who came before me. We progress forward in the fight against sexism every day and every time someone stands up to or even just brings attention to injustice. Movements like #MeToo have given women a new source of confidence to speaking up about their personal experiences with sexual violence, inspiring many who may never have shared their stories to come forward. I am lucky to live in a time where we are actively chipping away at the sexist structures that have oppressed women for so long.
Movements like this, while bringing hope for a better future, also highlight that sexism is alive and well. Women experience sexism in their everyday lives in countless ways, often so normalized that we shrug them off as if they are a given. No matter how easy it is to overlook or ignore, sexism is always a problem. There is no acceptable amount of it. The older I become and the more experiences I have, the more I notice key differences between my life and the lives of the men around me.
More than ever before, I find myself asking “if I were a man would this be happening to me?” The answer is almost always a resounding “no.” The ridiculousness of this question grows more apparent every time I ask it. If I were a man, would my coworker say “tits get good tips?” If I were a male lifeguard, would the patrons stare at every part of my body except my eyes when I inform them of pool rules? Does my manager call my male coworkers “gorgeous” or “honey” instead of using their first names? Are my male coworkers denied tips for refusing to give out their phone number or informing customers that they aren’t single?
Every time these questions come up in my life it seems more and more preposterous how used to sexist comments women are expected to be and how omnipresent they are in our lives. The Everyday Sexism Project focuses on this very issue and functions as a platform for women around the world to post, anonymously or not, their everyday experiences with sexism. Going on the site, it is clear that women everywhere experience the same creepy and inappropriate treatment from men every day.
Why should we expect people to stop enforcing sexism when so many in power are sexist men? Most of those in power are men and hundreds of them have some degree of sexual harassment or assault charges or allegations against them. What kind of example are we setting for our citizens? Donald Trump said “grab ‘em by the pussy” and has multiple credible accusations of rape against him and was still elected president of the United States. Joe Biden has had several sexual assault allegations made against him and he now holds the same office.
It isn’t only politics where the trend of male dominated industries teaming with occurrences of sexual misconduct. It's hard for me to binge watch iCarly without thinking about the allegations of inappropriate relationships with young female Nickelodeon stars made against Dan Schneider. Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies, but when Harvey Weinstein’s name flashes across the screen in big, bold letters I am reminded of how widespread these issues are.
The women that come forward about their mistreatment and assault are belittled by comments about their claims being false or a way for the women to get fame or money. Countless famous comedians and ordinary men who think they are funny have made jokes about rape. Chris Rock controversially made a joke commenting on the MeToo era about women “crying rape.” It's comments like these that make their way into our everyday lives and keep sexism strong and central to society. This only undermines the progress that brave women everywhere are accomplishing by overcoming the assault they have experienced and a world trying to keep them silent.
I think it is time we start being more vigilant. Making sure we are aware of the little ways in which sexism is perpetuated will help stop it on a meaningful scale. Ending the normalization of sexism wherever we can will make a better environment for women everywhere. I am tired of accepting catcalls and commentary on my body. It does not happen to men, so why does it have to happen to women? These things are not and should not be considered normal or okay by any means. It is time we stop shrugging it off as something that happens and start demanding to be treated like human beings.
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Lauren (she/her) is a political science major from Baltimore.