Sexism is so embedded in women's daily lives that its effects can last from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. In fact, there are a number of ways sexism may sneak into your morning routine without you even noticing. Women can get used to these daily struggles and view them as normal, but the truth is that men often don't even have to think about them, and the fact that women do is a form of inequality.
Most of these aspects of sexism fall under the category of microaggressions — problems that are not as grave as, say, child marriage or state-sanctioned rape, but which nevertheless contribute to women's feelings of inferiority, shame, and pressure on a daily basis. When these issues affect many people over an extended period of time, "small" things like worrying about looking "slutty," experiencing pressure to look perfect, and get catcalled really do contribute to a society where gender-based discrimination, sexual violence, and limitations on women's freedom are routine.
Here are some aspects of your morning routine that may be more influenced by gender roles than you realized — and why they're more insidious than they may seem.
1. Sleep Deprivation
People of all genders are sleep deprived from time to time, but there are some gender-specific reasons why women might be more often. First of all, according to a survey by Stylist Magazine, nearly half of women are kept awake at night regularly by guilt, and 92 percent of people agree that women experience more guilt than men. Secondly, according to the National Sleep Foundation, women tend to need more sleep than men due to the numerous demands frequently put on them throughout the day, including work and childcare.
2. Getting Ready
According to a survey by TODAY, 78 percent of women spend nearly an hour a day working on their appearances, and 60 percent of adult women but only 36 percent of men have negative thoughts about their looks every week. There's nothing wrong with enjoying fashion or makeup, but when women feel like they're supposed to spend time getting ready in the morning that men spend sleeping or doing something they'd like — when women feel like it's a requirement, whether or not they actually want to do it — that contributes to the objectification of women and sets us back from achieving other goals.
3. Slut Shaming
For many women, getting ready in the morning involves not just the attempt to look attractive, but also the attempt not to attract unwanted attention. Nobody's physical appearance is consent for sexual advances of any kind, but unfortunately, we're taught that short skirts, low-cut shirts, and visible makeup are "asking for" sexual harassment. Many women spend time in the morning figuring out how to balance their desire to dress appropriately for a hot day or a fun outing with their desire not to be sexually harassed.
4. Sexual Harassment
Speaking of sexual harassment, many women face this problem on their way to work in the morning no matter what they wear. As She's the First co-founder Christen Brandt pointed out in a viral Facebook post describing her own harassment, it's commonplace for women to be catcalled and followed even in the winter, when they have a lot of clothing on. Being objectified and having your privacy violated before you even arrive at work can negatively impact your happiness and focus while you're there.
5. Pressure Around Breakfast
For many women, throwing breakfast together or making a coffee run is an extravaganza. The media is full of advice based on celebrities' elaborate breakfast routines. According to some advice, we're "supposed" to have some sort of nutrition-packed smoothie incorporating coconut oil and avocado and chia seeds and goodness knows what else, or we're supposed to have low-calorie, low-carb everything with a dash of lemon juice or whatever the trendy weight-loss trick of the moment is. And when it comes to coffee, we're supposed to have our coffee with non-fat milk, or, even better, soy milk, lest we break out. Or maybe we're "supposed" to forgo breakfast to save our "calorie budgets" for later... it's so confusing! Before we even start work, all the thought that goes into breakfast can really drain our mental energy. (Of course, all these dietary trends are useless — intuitive eating is the best approach — but that doesn't take away all the pressure.)
Between pressure to look good, pressure not to attract unwanted attention, and pressure to come off the right way to others, women can spend their walks, their commutes, and even their time alone monitoring themselves. According to Caroline Heldman's TED Talk "The Sexy Lie," the average woman monitors her appearance every 30 seconds. "How do I look?", "Should I make eye contact with him?", "Am I smiling enough?", and "Was that smile too friendly?" are some thoughts that might go through a woman's head as she heads out and sees other people on the street. This isn't vanity; it's the opposite: crippling anxiety over how we come off to others, and that anxiety starts the moment we wake up.