#Vagilante: A Few Observations on Sexism

I recently read and loved What’s A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne, where one of the characters starts a project calling out all sexism she sees. In honour of Lottie’s project, I wanted to write a little about my own experiences of sexisms in things that are close to me. This was originally going to be part of my What’s A Girl Gotta Do? review but it became too long and I decided to make it a separate post.

One is sexism with babies (yes, it starts that early!) This obviously means a lot to me, being a new mum. When I got pregnant we decided we didn’t want to know the sex and so were suitably happy/surprised when B-day came and we had a little boy. What surprised me were the comments beforehand, from family and friends, saying they couldn’t buy toys/clothes etc for the baby until they found out what it was. Which struck me as ridiculous. Nathan and I happily bought clothes, and not even ‘gender neutral’ specific ones, just ones we thought were cute and weren’t just pink or blue (okay probably a few blue but it’s my favourite colour so…)

Shopping for a baby is hard when you don’t want to dress it as a boy or a girl: you can walk into the baby section in most department stores and it’s split into pink, blue, and a tiny bit of white, mostly in newborn sizes for those who don’t know the gender. It seems crazy to me that in 2016 we still have to buy ‘boy’ clothes or ‘girl’ clothes, instead of just baby clothes.

I’ve also gotten annoyed with family members who have decided they’re going to take Little Moore to all the football games/golf/cricket etc, because he’s a boy and neither Nathan nor I are sporty so obviously we wouldn’t do that. But they scoff if I talk about taking him horse riding or dancing. For one, if he was into sport then of course we would support him, no matter what our own hobbies are. And two, just because he’s a boy, it doesn’t mean you have to force sport on him. He can like whatever he likes and I don’t want to label some things as ‘boy’ hobbies and others as ‘girly’.

Secondly, I have a quick bit to say about sexism in business. I work for a large company and really enjoy my job and the people there. I have to say, I don’t feel like I’ve personally been held back for being a woman (although I know one boss didn’t think it worth it giving me my current job because I was pregnant, but hey ho, I got it). But I have noticed other little things.

At Christmas, one of the company heads came round to say Merry Christmas to everyone. I watched him shake hands with two of my male colleagues, give kisses on both cheeks to my female boss, and then kiss me on the forehead. In business, hand shakes are a sign of respect that is not often given to women. I couldn’t help but think how bizarre it would look if he had kissed my male colleagues on the head/cheeks. So why was it okay to do that to me? I also felt like the forehead thing for me was because of my age, being about 20 years younger than everyone else on the team.

The hand shake thing has bugged me before as men don’t even seems to think about it. I had a meeting with a supplier who sent three men, who all shook my male colleagues hand a just kind of nodded at me. They also treated me like a secretary – I stress here that there is nothing wrong with being a secretary, but that was an assumption they made which I feel was based on my age and gender, when I was there in a professional capacity with my role in IT finance.

Last one now, and I’m looking at the other side of things. I know Nathan experiences sexism too, because he doesn’t like to talk about stereotypical ‘manly’ things. He says he finds that, because he has no interest in football, a lot of men at work etc don’t seem to be able to talk about anything with him. They also seem to find it strange when he takes a lot of interest in his son: being excited for weaning soon, for example, or wanting to take holiday to spend time with both of us. This just proves to me how sexism isn’t a one way street: men experience it too and it’s just as unfair and archaic.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on sexism you’ve experienced, whether similar to mine of very different cases.

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