Actress, Ashley Judd recently spoke of a situation she encountered while going through security in an airport. Singled out by a male employee with an uncomfortable greeting of, “Hey Sweetheart,” Judd replied to the employee that she was not his sweetheart, but instead was a paying customer. Undeterred, the employee went on to make inappropriate comments while touching her as she proceeded through security.
Taylor Swift was also involved in a harassment situation where a popular DJ thought nothing of grabbing her ass as the two of them posed for a promotional shoot. Being a self-assured woman, and understanding that young women across the world look up to her, she filed a lawsuit for $1, took the man to court for sexual harassment, and won. She needs to be applauded for her actions.
You may be rolling her eyes at these two scenarios thinking that these two women should lighten up, but while both instances aren’t earth-shattering, they are perfect examples of what Judd calls Everyday Sexism—sometimes so subtle that we brush it off as harmless and even expected from an older generation or men in general. It is everywhere, with women being just as guilty of the same bias, and more likely to apply sexist labels to themselves in a self-deprecating manor.
A reminder of past sexism stands today along South Westnedge in Kalamazoo, where a longstanding restaurant still touts Businessmen’s Luncheons on their outdoor signage—a throwback to the seventies when men routinely conducted business deals over a 3-martini lunch. Sadly, the owners apparently have no problem with the message it continues to send to women and girls today
Further south, down the same street, stands a restaurant that is part of a national chain that shamelessly showcases sexism hidden behind the eyes of a cartoon owl. How sad is it for a so-called family dining establishment to subject their wait staff to ogling patrons who pay for this special view with the purchase of hot wings. Sadder still, is many young people laugh off the notion that Hooters destroys decades and centuries of progress made by brave women with demeaning uniforms and management style.
A friend of mine has learned to tackle Everyday Sexism head-on with gusto in the instance of standing her ground, as she discovered that women are more apt to step aside when men are coming toward them on a sidewalk. “This part of the sidewalk is mine,” she explains. If a group of people are walking toward me on the sidewalk, it’s their job to move over so that they’re leaving at least a little space so that I don’t have to step aside. I’ve learned to lower my shoulder and stand my ground.” More than once she has bumped into a surprised man who assumed that she was going to move aside. “It’s a fun game of mine, but it is sad that it’s a game at all,” she says.
Here’s a thought… As we encounter Everyday Sexism on the street with strangers, with our co-workers, and even our friends, let’s remind them that it’s not OK. We owe it to ourselves.
Heidi McCrary / Author