5 Times Women Can Be Sexist To Each Other— Because We Aren't Immune Either
Sexism is everywhere — on the street, in the office, and in the bedroom — but while most women experience gender-based prejudice from men, other women can just as easily dish it out. Yes, girl-on-girl sexism is usually more subtle, but it is oftentimes more hurtful. Last week, one British female politician Edwina Currie commented upon another's cleavage on Twitter, and The Guardian called foul. While publicly drawing unwarranted attention to a professional woman's body is one way to knock her down a peg (even if done with a playful intention), the ways we comment on or discuss a woman's life choices can also be sexist.
Like casual racism, casual sexism is born out of ignorance and differing levels of awareness of how not to be a jerk. Some women might receive a comment about their boobs from a female stranger and love it, while another will be totally mortified if it's in the wrong context. That's the thing — it's all about context. What one calls sexist another will call a joke or just business-as-usual. Although you can't completely avoid offending someone throughout the course of your life, just because you've experienced sexism yourself doesn't mean that you are immune to being sexist. Here are five ways that women, too, can be sexist.
1. Assuming every woman will be a mother someday
Most women are born with reproductive organs and the ability to procreate. That said, not every woman who has one is going to use her womb for anything other than as an IUD hotel. Assuming a woman will calibrate her work or personal life so she can pop out kids is the definition of sexist. We have evolved as a human race and our sole purpose is not defined by biology any longer, so speak accordingly when you're discussing the future with your lady friends and acquaintances.
2. Sexualizing another woman's body
Sometimes it's OK to comment suggestively on another woman's body if she's deliberately self-objectifying for her line of work. However, even this can be dicey, because clothes do not give you permission to ogle, touch, or speak about someone's parts, either. Even if you'd enjoy the attention yourself, it doesn't mean that she will, and it really just reduces the woman in question to tits and ass to be consumed for your pleasure. There's a fine line between a compliment and a sexist comment in this case, so when in doubt, keep it to yourself when you're dealing with a stranger.
3. Using "he" as your go-to pronoun
Gender pronouns are a common part of feminist discourse today, so why not take it a step further and stop using "he" as a go-to when you're not sure? Just the other week I accidentally asked about a scientist I hadn't met whom I erroneously assumed to be male. I referred to "him" and my feminist (male) friend totally called me out. Everybody makes mistakes, but at this point, a pilot, truck driver, and scientist can just as easily be a woman. Words matter and create cultural context (and cultural divisions), so try your best to slip in "they" whenever you're unsure.
4. Only asking men for help
Different people have different skills, regardless of gender, but social norms still dictate that men are the "fixers" — of machines and of problems. You might be passing up some excellent assistance by not seeking out a female friend or female stranger for help when you need it. My mom can assemble an Ikea desk and fix a flat tire like nobody's business, is all I'm saying, so you're only diminishing the women around you if you don't at least consider them as an option when you're in need.
5. Slut-shaming other women
If you've uttered the "s-word" in any way without a a whiff of subversive flair, you're doing a disservice to women everywhere. I don't care if the girl in question slept with your husband or is wearing ass-less chaps or is a sex worker: just. don't. do. it. Women normalizing "slut" as an insult only maintains sexual double standards and makes other men and women more likely to use it to bully and abuse your friends, sisters, mothers and daughters.