Everyday Sexism

I shared a link to a video on my Facebook last week, that a friend had shared on theirs. I didn’t get a single like or comment, which isn’t usual. It made me wonder if the issue of sexism is something that people my age are just uncomfortable with, and that they’d prefer just to sweep under the carpet and forget about. Admittedly the video was on the Grauniad website, so some of my friends might well just have seen that and decided it couldn’t possibly be for them, I’ll try again with a direct link. As a matter of fact, this video is for everyone, male and female alike. It’s an understated little film by French director Eléonore Pourriat, that sums up perfectly the way that sexism isn’t seen by the majority of a still male-dominated society. It shows the everyday sexism faced by women around the world (particularly in Western countries that are considered “more advanced” in matters of gender equality,) in a way that makes you notice it.

If it’s the only film you watch this week, watch this. Go on, it’s 11 minutes of your life that you’d only be spending on Facebook anyway! ;)

What I find compelling is that the point is made so well by not over-doing anything. In fact, change the genders of every character, and you’d be left with a thoroughly unremarkable situation.

My boyfriend once said to me that a friend of his had told him that women like to be whistled at in the street, because it makes them feel that they still have the ability to attract the opposite sex. While I am sure this may be the case for a minority (because society dictates that we women should judge ourselves on our ability to attract, who cares if you’re the world’s most successful brain surgeon, we can’t see that by looking at you, and that’s what counts,) if you haven’t come across The Everyday Sexism Project, then head over there and read some of the stories. Some of them are things that any person living in this century would find shocking. Others are situations that, as women, we have probably all experienced at one time or another, and, besides feeling uncomfortable at the time, haven’t done anything about because it just didn’t seem that important.
What The Everyday Sexism project shows is that women (and, indeed, men) are starting to realise that these little situations are, in a way, almost as shocking as the more news-worthy stories, precisely because of that. That they are accepted as the norm and we are expected to ignore them and carry on. Something that is a recurring feature of many of the stories is the feeling of helplessness, and the intention to respond to the “attacker” (physical or verbal,) but the inability to do so in the situation.

No-one should be made to feel helpless like this, or uncomfortable about what they are. This is more and more accepted in the cases of things like sexuality and race, but because we are not in a minority: we make up 50% of the world’s population, it is not considered such a problem.

My sister once said to me “but you can’t be a feminist, you have a boyfriend.” (I gave her an earful after that, poor lass!) But unfortunately that is how the term “feminism” has come to be seen. Feminism is not a militant detachment of hairy bra-burning women who kill their partner after copulation (that’s just praying mantises, as far as I’m aware!)
Feminism, for me, is nothing more or less than expecting the same attitude and respect that is shown to the male half of the population to be shown to the female half as well. In an ideal world, that wouldn’t even need a name. That would just be common courtesy.

Right, now, I’d better cover up my soapbox with a pretty tablecloth and put a nice flower arrangement on it before someone comes in and realises what it really is! (Hah!)


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