It’s been a long time since I’ve written, but this is something which has been simmering for a long while. Since starting uni eight months ago, I’ve been exposed to more sexism than during my seven years at an all-girls school.
I want to show you a glimpse of the magnitude of the everyday sexism experienced by women (particularly in an environment designed for education) because the weight of these comments has an impact on girls and can affect how they perceive themselves and their worth.
My question was ‘have you had any experiences of sexism at university?’. These are a few of the stories I’ve collected from girls studying at universities across the U.K. (names have been omitted for anonymity):
• ‘(I hate) being penalized for kissing/sleeping with boys but guys ‘score’ when they get a girl.’
• ‘Not at uni, but first thing that came to mind was an estate agent telling us to get boys to mow our lawn & we were like hell no we can do that ourselves thanks’
• ‘One of the Pilates instructor I had was saying about how I’m sure you are all good at sewing etc’
• ‘Well firstly (a male friend) always tells me not to drink as much… but with guys if they throw up or whatever it’s the sign of a good night’
• ‘Men automatically assume I can’t do as much as they can in terms of cardio/circuits’
• ‘If a girl sleeps with someone she is a slut but if a guy does it he is a LAD’
• ‘When boys take your weights at the gym from your rack (it’s) like assuming you’re not strong enough to lift it’
• (About a female lecturer) ‘they were a lot less patient with her than the male lecturers & made comments about her being pissy’
• ‘Oh obviously on nights out. Like butt grabbing. And general creepiness.’
• ‘I’d be constantly told “can you manage that?” or being laughed at by some of the men for wanting to help with lifting’
• ‘I’m wearing a pretty plungy dress to summer ball and this guy asked who I was trying to pull’
• ‘Hot weather + less clothing = large increase in cat calling’
I am writing about this today because I am tired of how familiar all these stories feel even though none of them are mine (I could give countless examples of my own but I feel like that would take from the anonymity).
I am definitely not suggesting that all men are at fault but with so many instances of sexism on a daily basis I think that we as a society need to hold ourselves and our friends accountable for our actions. We need to learn to call out inappropriate behavior so it becomes less tolerated because for those who do not experience regular sexism, it can seem like a big joke, and those who complain about it are perceived to be too sensitive.