“Get back into the kitchen.”
“Aren’t you too ambitious for a girl?”
“You know about gadgets a lot for a female.”
“Have you seen how she dresses at parties? Fucking whore.”
These are the type of sexist comments every female has heard at least once in her entire life, either directed toward her or other females. And the worst part is when this becomes an everyday thing. Such casual sexism has been laughed off so much; you’d think it’s almost normal. That it should exist.
Growing up, I was told to strictly follow the norms of the society. I was told that the way I talked, walked or dressed defined my character.
And like almost every female in our country, the society made it a point to remind me, time and again, that my existence is only relevant in reference to the men in my life.
This is exactly the kind of environment which leads to normalizing sexism.
Here’s what I have learned about casual sexism over the years:
- That it is shitty. There’s literally no other way to describe it.
- That it is nothing but misogyny. Because why else would you want to demean someone based on their gender?
- That women themselves love doing it as much as men do.
- And that it has been internalized way too much.
Such casual sexism comes in the form of WhatsApp messages that are aimed at degrading a woman’s character, or in the form of Bollywood song lyrics that objectify women, or in the form of abuses that are so nonchalantly hurled or it may be your colleagues or group of friends who are so proud of their sexist jokes and comments that the next thing you know is they have penned them down in a book and have published it while having the audacity to title the book: “Times I was proud of my sexist jokes.”
Some people may ask: “Does casual sexism really have a detrimental effect?” Yes. Yes, it does. It is exhausting and can cause potential emotional harm. In some cases, it also breeds shame and leads to anxiety. Which is why we should stop entertaining and perpetrating it. Call it when you see it. Because casual sexism is like a plant that grows without your knowledge. You don’t know who planted it or how it came to being but you keep watering it, nonetheless.
Photograph: Alessandro Zuffi March 2015