Inequality continues to pervade in women’s daily lives. Exactly how and where it permeates is still difficult to pinpoint, unfortunately, as it so intricately injected in the little fragments of our lives. Many instances of everyday sexism are subtle, and more often than not, they feel like a personal problem. Victims fail to see the problem at a larger level, which makes the battle against sexism even more difficult. Despite apparent progress, men are still assumed to be the breadwinners of the family while their wives stay at home to serve them. This has always been the American dream, and while the stigma may not be as extreme anymore, it still clings to many – what makes it hold on is our tendency to just brush it off and ignore its existence. Because of this thinking, sexism continues to shape our society. We adapt and conform to social constructs of gender roles, and although we continue to move forward, we’re far from where we’re supposed to be. Modern sexism has molded into subtle form, embodying itself cunningly into our society.
In the media
Sexism still runs rampant on TV, and streaming services are adapting quickly to these sexist ads, too. Although seemingly harmless, a person’s exposure to these ads makes them absorb the message in their daily life. Many of these ads impact young women today; each day, these messages urge women to value their beauty, youth, and sexuality over everything else. Their intelligence and agency comes after, an effect explored by a documentary entitled Miss Representation.
Act like a girl
This concept reinforces gender stereotypes, which are extremely limiting for both women and men. When you state someone to “act like a girl” or behave in a manner befitting of a “lady”, you are forcing her to submit to a female stereotype, which is often equated to weakness. Anything feminine or a “girl” behavior is inferior, which in more ways than one affects men. The idea this permeates that all girls should be “gentle, meek, proper” while men should be “strong, unyielding, powerful”.
There’s the discriminating pink task, of course, but women fall victim into other forms of toxicity, especially when it comes to how society perceives the female body. It’s harmful, even when it’s about something natural as menstruation. Although shocking, many large cultures shame women for having periods. Doctors in America also report patients feeling shame around normal body processes, like vaginal discharge. The standards are high for the female body and what makes this issue more toxic is larger society believing they own them.
Smile for me
Street harassment is openly toxic, a daily struggle for women in all corners of the world. It exists in various forms, and a subtle kind of street harassment takes form into asking women to smile more. Cat-callers often tell women to “smile”, which is harmful because it entails the idea that women should walk around with smiles on their faces at all time, regardless of their emotions. It’s both demeaning and infuriating; this is an idea that expects women should always be appealing and welcoming.
You should have it all
“Double burden” is a concept from sociology and gender studies, which explains how modern women are anticipated to perform both unpaid work at home as mothers and paid work in the office. It sounds good in theory, but confusing and exhausting in real life. Women are expected to perform their “natural” role as nurturers, caring for both husband and children, but at the same time, not be that much assertive and independent as to not step on and threaten the men around them.
This “double burden” can also be referred to as “double standards”, where people expect women to be two things at once, multiplied many times. For instance, women should be gentle yet assertive, and then sexy yet innocent. Women should wear makeup but keep it natural, and wear clothes that complement their bodies but not too much.
This constant pressure to create a balance between unfair expectations and impossible lifestyles affects women all over the world adversely.
Sexism: The Future and Beyond
From all things discussed, it is ostensible to say that sexism is by no means over in the modern world. Creeping into tiny forms, it has pervaded our everyday lives and many, not even women, realize this. It will take a great deal of unlearning in order to truly track down its roots, but fortunately both men and women continue to make strides against sexism. One example is the #MeToo Movement, the fête of International Women’s Day and of course, the powerful Women’s March celebrated across nations. There’s a long way to go, but people are now slowly being empowered to eradicate the clutches of sexism once and for all.