Maybe I’m stating the obvious here, but most women don’t actually mention every single sexist thing that happens to them. Sometimes we confront it directly, sometimes we vent to a friend, sometimes we talk about it online, but a lot of the time… nothing.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, there’s the issue of everyday sexism being so normalised that it goes unnoticed in the first place. Secondly, we have lives and don’t particularly want to be here talking about sexism all day. Saying “this shitty thing happened to me today” isn’t always convenient – people aren’t always around, internet isn’t always available, you don’t always have the time or the energy to say something. Sometimes we mean to bring it up later; sometimes we forget.
Sometimes, we think to ourselves, it’s “not worth it”, which can mean a number of different things. Sometimes it’s just not worth the effort of starting the conversation or sending off a tweet; evidently, sometimes we just have to pick our battles, and when other people can’t fix the problem anyway it can seem a bit pointless to bring it up. Sometimes it’s not worth the energy spent on yet another same-old-same-old big argument about how we’re not being over-sensitive and hormones have absolutely nothing to do with it and this stuff does add up and is harmful and their intentions don’t erase the harm done and it shouldn’t matter what we’re wearing and other things we’ve already had to deal with a million and one times before. Sometimes it’s not worth being considered “a bitch” or “a killjoy” or “irrational” or whatever women who stand up for themselves are being called this week, especially as we’re called those things for bringing up even one feminist issue, let alone everything; and even when you don’t care what people think of you, there are still situations (such as in the workplace) where other people’s opinions of you matter and have knock-on consequences. Sometimes, especially for direct confrontation or in public forums, it’s not worth the harassment and the abuse we might get for speaking up.
Sometimes, we decide it’s too insignificant to mention. Sometimes it didn’t have much of an impact on us personally and we don’t really care enough to go out of our way to mention it. Sometimes it seems so small that we don’t think anyone else will care to hear about it. Sometimes we think it’s unlikely that we’ll be taken seriously. Sometimes the significance of whatever happened, only becomes clear in the context of a larger inequality, from housework to harassment, which can be really difficult to communicate to others, particularly to those who seem to be actively trying not to listen. Sometimes there’s no way to articulate this pattern without at some point mentioning that the perpetrators are men, and when we say that, many people completely ignore our initial point in favour of a mass of “not all men are like that” as if we didn’t already know that, as if a generalisation (where it even exists) by a few people has anywhere near the same power as the stereotypes and roles forced on us by society itself, as if semantics matter more than the problem we were talking about in the first place.
So when someone does speak up, remember they did so despite the huge number of reasons not to, which demonstrates the impact the relevant event had. It might have been particularly severe or obvious. It might have been one of several “little things” to happen in one day. It might have been the final straw for someone who was already upset or angry or anxious because of something else entirely. Whatever the reason, when you do hear about everyday sexism, it probably means the woman in question has seriously had enough of putting up with this stuff day in, day out, and keeping quiet about it.
And before you respond with “why are you making such a fuss” or “stop being so sensitive” or “not all men”, you should probably take that into consideration.