Are You Being Sexist Without Realizing It? - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

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Are You Being Sexist Without Realizing It?

Are you really a feminist? Take our 4-point test to find out!

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So you think you’re a feminist?

You’re very well equipped with all the Emma Watson quotes from her UN speech, you support your local girl gang, you’re a huge fan of Beyoncé, and you’re ready to pick up a fight with anyone who ever says, “you throw like a girl.”

But are you really a feminist?

Are You Being Sexist Without Realizing It?

More often than not, women pick on other women for doing things that they don’t want them to. We shame other women for doing things that might defer from our norm. It’s not because we want to be sexist or anything, it’s just because sexism has embedded itself so deeply in our society that sometimes the fine line between feminism and sexism gets a little blurred.

You might be rallying for women in the political sphere, but there are probably instances when you’re being sexist without even realizing it.

Here are five ways that you may (unconsioucly, of course) be being a wee bit sexist:

  • Are her clothes too short for your liking?

How many times have you seen a woman walk past you in shorts that were too short for your liking? And how many times have you thought less of that woman just because of her choice of clothing? Yes, she may be self-objectifying, but that warrants sympathy, not criticism.

Are You Being Sexist Without Realizing It?

You might not realize this, but asking women to cover up their body only fuels body shaming and rape culture. It stigmatizes the female body and soon it becomes all too easy for people to put the blame on the rape victim for wearing a “provocative” dress.

Why should we cover up? Why can’t we, instead, teach guys not to think of women as sexual objects?

Young girls have been taught from a very young age to be afraid of their own bodies. Having a mandatory dress code only for girls is completely sexist. It’s basically teaching young girls how to body shame — and how they are supposed to cover up their bodies so that boys can study in a distraction-free environment. Girls’ bodies aren’t distractions and if any of the boys are getting distracted by it then it’s their problem, not ours. So why should we cover up? Why can’t we, instead, teach guys not to think of women as sexual objects?

I understand that dress codes are necessary to maintain uniformity in a place. Dress codes are everywhere, in hospitals, schools and even at parties. But these dress codes should be mandatory to both girls and boys. Sending a girl back home from school just because she broke the dress code sends a message that the school values creating a distraction-free area for boys to study more than the girl’s education.  We all are allowed to wear whatever we want and we shouldn’t be judged harshly because of our clothing choices.

  • Is she wearing too much makeup?

The general standard of beauty has been so thoroughly shaped by men that we’re all falling for it without giving it a second thought. A lot of the time, women are taken less seriously because of what they decide to do with their face. If we put on too little or no makeup, we’re dry and boring. If we put on too much makeup then we’re surely unintelligent. It’s about time that we stop defining each other because of how we choose to look.

Are You Being Sexist Without Realizing It?

Resist the urge to judge her

If I could get a penny for the number of times I’ve been told to not do a certain thing because boys wouldn’t like it, I’d be rich.

  • Is her choice different from yours?

The twenty-first century is a good century to be alive because most of us have the liberty to own our reproductive choices. There are plenty of women out there who never want to have kids and there are plenty who do. But every time a young woman tries to tell someone that she doesn’t want to have kids, she’s shut down and told that “she’ll change her mind.” Do you really want to force your personal concept of a happy and satisfied life on another woman? Let’s accept that a woman’s womb doesn’t make her a woman and embrace each other’s unique life decisions.

  • Is she being too assertive?

For centuries women have let men tell us what to do (because we often felt like we didn’t have a choice). But, now that we finally feel like we have the right to be heard as well, we’re being told that we’re too loud. Women often restrain themselves from raising their voice because everyone’s almost too quick to tell us that we’re being rude. But how many times has a male boss raised his voice and gotten praised for getting work done?

If you see a woman owning her career and taking on a leadership role, go and support her. Don’t tell her that she’s being “bossy” just because she wants to get work done. I don’t hear anyone calling a man “bossy” because he’s being a good leader. We have to teach young girls that taking on actual responsibility and handling it like a boss doesn’t make them any less attractive to anyone. Only then can they grow up to dominate their career of choice.

Are You Being Sexist Without Realizing It?

Support you sisters!

Kudos to you if you’ve never fallen into any of these societal traps. But, if you have, don’t beat yourself up for it. It’s not too late to get up, brush your knees, brace your shoulders, and walk around the world with your chin up and eyebrows on point like a true feminist that you are.

Paakhi lives in the United Arab Emirates and is an avid reader of historical fiction. She is a passionate feminist and blogs about politics and feminist issues. She likes to listen to music and document her life in a series of journals she will probably never show to anyone.

Reader Discussion: 19 Comments

  1. Sasha Smith

    Very well said Hillary,

    Loving and respecting women has nothing to do with whether or not your actions are sexist, and you certainly don’t have to hate women to be a sexist.

  2. Vangelis

    Okay, there’s no way I’m going to let that third one go unchallenged.

    A lot of commentators seem to struggle nowadays to separate criticism of structures of oppression with criticism of people within those structures of oppression (see also: “whorephobia”, often thrown at women criticising the violent and coercive nature of the sex trade to suggest that they’re criticising sex workers themselves).

    The hijab is a cultural tradition that stems from the idea that a woman should only show herself to her husband. A vitally important thought process that underlies it is that it is a woman’s responsibility to avoid provoking the sexual desires of other men by hiding her body. In practice, it’s brutally enforced across the world through both extremely strict social protocols, and through violence.

    It’s just lovely that your friend wants to protest against people seeing her as a sex object by wearing the hijab, and actually, what she wears is entirely her business, whatever the reason – in a liberal democracy, she gets a choice that millions of her sisters across the world don’t get to exercise. But it’s pretty lousy for you to suggest that being uncomfortable with the hijab as a concept is a sign that you’re a bad feminist. The practice actively hurts and limits women across the world (whether it limits women like your friend directly or not), and she should expect to be called out on it sometimes if she chooses to perpetuate that.

    • Thanks for bringing this point up; I hadn’t really thought about it from that perspective.

    • You make a very solid point. We removed the part about the hijabs. Thank you for bringing this to our attention!

  3. I think these unconscious ways of sexism that you mentioned are dangerous. I mean, at one moment, it will make you feel guilty. But at one point, you might realize that you’re doing them because they are ingrained in us by society and culture that treats them as normal… *sigh*

  4. Such an intelligently written article! This piece reminded of “microagressions,” a term coined by Chester Pierce. It’s about less-conscious little things people everyday that are harmful and oppressive particularly to marginalized people. Might be the result of stereotypes, presumptions, and internalized biases.

  5. Monica Conover

    I usually have a short attention span when it comes to reading blogs, but your article was just too good to skim through. It is encouraging to read an honest-to-goodness writing about unconscious sexism. Your writing resonates an actual and honest observation! Keep inspiring your readers!

  6. Juli Woods

    Thanks for always choosing such excellent topics. Most of the time, when women feel jealous of another women’s beauty, I can’t relate. But personally, I am very simple in my lifestyle.

  7. Trish

    Excellent, thought-provoking article by Paakhi Bhatnagar. So much of what we do is subconscious, and it’s so important to learn how to be an observer and aware of our actions and what’s behind our thoughts and actions. I’m going to lookup Paakhi’s blog to read more of her viewpoint.

  8. Melissa Princeton

    With sexism, one thing I notice is that, unlike men, women will often dislike another woman for no reason at all.

    • Francis Woods

      Oh well, female folks are quick to judge one another (even without basis), and they are less likely to become friends with someone who could is perceived as a sexual rival…

  9. Julia MacLean

    Most women are already poised to hate other women. “Aggressiveness” is taken negatively… In some ways, I pity these people who hate other women’s aggressiveness…

  10. Lana Urie

    Unfortunately, women are objectified by women *tsk*

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