Simply by identifying as women, we open ourselves up to a hell of a lot of misogyny on a daily basis. This means there are many things that women hear about their appearance that men just don't. Those things might come from huge marketing campaigns, from your mom's old-fashioned ways, or via a throwaway comment from a guy at a bar. But no matter the origin, it's still sexism. It's usually the kind of careless commentary that runs through our entire lives, and that we don't even realize is damaging until we reflect on it at a later time. Or when a handy article points out all the microaggressions women should refuse to put up with anymore.
It's wise to remember that some of these comments aren't usually coming from a place of malicious intent. When your work colleague or an old friend says them, they almost definitely don't realize the hidden misogyny in what they're uttering. Although it's not your job to correct them, I'm sure that pointing out the problematic nature of their statements can only benefit both of you. Even as a vocal body positive feminist, I still get called out for saying things I'd never even considered to be misogynistic.
By recognizing these comments that women hear — and that men simply don't — and distinguishing them from compliments, we might just be able to help to eradicate them from our everyday language.
1. "Why don't you give us a smile?"
This is my number one pet peeve. Why do people never say this to anyone other than women? Why do I have to be constantly smiling? Why are the lines of my face of so much interest to total strangers?
2. "Oooh, ahh, (insert whistle noise)."
One might argue that this is more of a sound than a phrase, but I still think it's relevant. If I knew how to whistle, these noises would totally be returned. Last week, a man actually barked at me from across the street. What a lovely world we live in.
3. "That's not very ladylike."
I deserve to sit with my legs splayed out just as much as any dude, thank you. My posture doesn't define my gender identity.
4. "You look like jailbait."
Can we stop to consider the fact that men created a term just to refer to when they want to have sex with an underage girl, and then made that term suggest that it's the girl's fault for looking a certain way? Being sexually attracted to someone who is underage is never the underage person's "fault" simply for their appearance.
5. "You're a bit past it."
On the other side of the coin, we have the comment suggesting that women who are past a certain age are totally pointless. Why don't you ask Carrie Fisher about that?
6. "You're trying too hard."
I promise you that any woman dressed to the nines isn't likely trying to impress you or any man. In the words of the great Betsey Johnson, "Girls do not dress for boys. They dress for themselves and, of course, each other. If girls dressed for boys, they’d just walk around naked at all times.”
7. "Who are you trying to impress?"
Like I said, certainly not you.
8. "You know, men don't like..."
Men don't like it when women wear high-waisted shorts. Men don't like it when women wear red lipstick. Men don't like it when women wear too much black. Who gives a damn?
9. "Does your dad know you dress like that?"
Well, he's my friend on Facebook. And he likes all my tagged pictures. So I'm going to hazard a guess that he does. Luckily, my dad doesn't judge me for my appearance.
10. "She/you deserved it for dressing like that."
This is a rape apology. This is victim blaming. I could be totally naked, and that wouldn't give anyone the excuse to sexually assault me.
11. "You must be freezing in that."
As a professional level clothes-wearer, I can tell you that nipples can be your best accessory. If they're visible, I know they're visible. Pointing them out doesn't make you the kind of funny genius you must think you are.
Through recognizing and hopefully obliterating these kinds of phrases from both our and our friends' vocabularies, hopefully we can make living as a woman that little bit easier.
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