A Culture of Casual Misogyny
Recently I came across casual misogyny in reference to my dressing style. I like to dress for comfort, so my wardrobe is full of non-form fitting clothes and baggy trousers. This sparked a conversation in the office about dressing more “lady-like”. I had one question for them ‘Why the hell are you projecting your idea of what ladies should be wearing on to me?’ Surely the autonomy lies on myself to garnish my body with the ill-fitting material that I so choose.
I wish it was easier to be able to call men and women out on casual stereotyping but sometimes it’s hard because you feel like a nitpicking arsehole. Please don’t let this stop you, if something that someone has said makes you feel a certain type of why then it most definitely should be addressed. (It doesn’t always have to be there and then).
Sometimes casual misogyny can be used as a test, ‘Oh, a woman should cook and cater to her husband’ – if you attack that idea, especially speaking from the perspective of a first generation Nigerian Brit then you are setting yourself up to fail. The test being – What will your worth be in marriage? Imagine that, such a seemingly passive comment actually holds a lot of weight on how you are perceived and how well you fit into certain ideals.
Women should be great cooks, friendly, build you up, have all the babies, have long ravishing hair. All of the things. In Dear Ijeawele, Chimamanda briefly mentions this topic and her advice is
‘Do not ever tell her (Ijeawele’s daughter) that she should or should not do something just because she is a girl’.
Casual misogyny is dangerous as it is so embedded in our culture and society that sometimes you question yourself to see if you’re wrong.
Why is it that we live in a world where casual misogyny is the norm?
Where it is okay for men to make derogatory comments about women and everyone nods and smiles like this is okay?
Where women walk down the street and are told, “You should smile more, love.” and then get abuse when they refute these comments?
I work in a call centre, and at least 7/10 of the male customers I get call me “sweetheart” or “darling” purely based on the fact that I am a woman. What is that? Recently I was told, “I hope you’re not taking my money to buy yourself a pair of shoes, haw haw haw.” Haw haw haw, go die. (I literally did the most sarcastic laugh I could muster and the man went silent. Too right.)
I was told once by a male relative that a woman’s hair is what makes her a woman. Not her intellect, no. Her HAIR. Sometimes I’m just watching the news and male relatives will make passing remarks about how a female newsreader has “put on weight, hasn’t she?” or “Oh, her hair could be a bit better, couldn’t it?” and it gets me mad. As if these things actually matter?
Casual misogyny is part of a culture of violence. Simply reducing violence to physical only lets men continue doing what they’re doing with no consequences to their actions. We need to start calling out the male co-worker who chooses you specifically to go get coffee, the men in the nightclub who think they’re entitled to dance sleazily behind you in the nightclub, the ones who use terms such as slag, slut, bitch, whore so casually, so flippantly.
But the way in which we raise our boys into men is not helping. If we continuously say, “Well, boys will be boys” this allows for boys to grow up thinking it is okay doing what they’re doing. “Boys will be boys” will eventually turn into “Men will be men” and anything they do will just be dismissed because it is simply expected of them.
A boy pulls a girl’s pigtails and the little girl is told, “Ooooh, it’s because he likes you, sweetie.” NO. NO. sTOP THIS RIGHT NOW. We should be teaching boys that it is okay to say they like someone, and showing your emotions does not make you any less of man and you do not need to use physical violence to portray this.
I was watching Just Kidding News the other day, and they covered a story about a woman who awarded a guy because he was the first man she encountered who had given up his seat for her on the subway because she was pregnant. Why do we live in a culture where this is rewarded? It should just be common courtesy that you give up your seat for a pregnant woman.
We should look to our boys and how we raise them. We should look to erase this construct of toxic masculinity that has developed. Answer me this: have you ever heard, “Well, girls will be girls”? Yeah, didn’t think so.
“He throws like a girl.” He must do it fucking amazing, then.
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Misogyny is everywhere, sadly. Women are stereotyped everywhere. Women are not treated like human beings, instead being judged for their appearance, what they wear, their traditional roles.
Sadly, even my own mother has been at fault. When I used to dress like a tomboy, I was still finding my style and what worked for me, and how I could define myself as an individual. I liked games and technology and my parents didn’t discourage me from that. But about my clothes, my mum would always comment that I “look like a boy” and “you should be more elegant” and even more recently commented on my developing muscles since hitting the gym and said I “might start looking like a gay boy”. It hurt. Sure, I get misogynistic comments and boys hitting on me and staring at me from time to time or making sexist comments, but to get some shit from your own mother sucks.
But I mulled this over and I realised that people just don’t get it. My mum, and other people in that generation and generations prior, are stuck in the past. They are stuck in a world where for woman in the Victorian era, it was normal for her husband to rape her. It was normal for them to cheat on her and see prostitutes and it was OK. It was never OK for her, she was a horrible fucking devil if she cheated, and, SURPRISE SURPRISE, it was never the man’s fault! Fuck you. Fuck society.
Fuck long hair. Fuck it all. I can’t wait to cut mine off. I’m sorry to your male relative. I can do what I want with my hair. After 25 years of having it long, and 14 years of growing it down past my ass because my parents thought it was lovely, I think I’m fucking done yes? Yes.
I went to an International Women’s Day summit on Friday, and there was a panel with a woman who had a young child, and said that her husband was a stay-at-home dad. “People tell me, ‘Oh you’re so lucky’. No I’m not. He’s the lucky one”. Why is it so outstanding that a man decides to stay at home for his kids? Similarly, why is it so amazing when a woman does something? I spoke about this in one of my earlier talks (and also wrote a blog post on this), and told people the story about how I got into web development. I said, “My parents never told me that computers were for boys. They never discouraged me from doing what I wanted to do. There is nothing unusual about a woman in tech. It was not until my friend and I were the only girls in our computer class that it was pointed out, and when it was pointed out, it was like it was something unusual. Um no?
Men – well, actually, boys – need to be educated from a young age. Excusing their behaviour as “boys will be boys” is fucking pathetic. Tell them from a young age to respect girls and treat them like equals. Tell them it’s essential to be friends with everyone. Tell them that everyone has talents and is smart and good at different things. Tell them they need to respect everyone to be liked and respected by others. Tell them to fucking ask permission before touching a girl. I read an article about this – and yes, even ask permission from grandma for a hug, cos she needs to be respected too. ?
Sadly this kind of thing is still around. You would think most people would learn that it shouldn’t be like this. I think most women could come up with examples of things that happen due to this. But not all men are like that. There are SOME that try to treat women with respect. Just seems rare.
I am hoping that there will be a point in time within the next century when misogyny won’t be a thing. We see all of these “definitions” that is supposedly set for women and if they don’t follow it, they’re treated as less than a human being- which is not right. There’s more to the world than JUST cooking and cater to the husband. We’re worth more than that. We can innovate further and conquer the world.
A woman’s hair length does not define her intelligence. The same goes for a woman’s weight. I’m sure men wouldn’t like the same comments. Who do they think they are trying to seem superior with these remarks? I feel like they have low self-esteem and have to attack other people (women in specific) to feel better about themselves.
Someone once told me that he doesn’t like how his wife makes more money than him. I asked what is wrong with the woman making more money and didn’t really get a convincing answer. If anything, it should benefit the guy that his wife can make more money because they can go buy awesome things together with more cash…
Trying to make excuses to allow boys to be jerks is not right either. This is how they grow up to be that guy who practices misogyny. I’m just hoping that the next generation of parents will teach their boys respect for everyone regardless of what describes that person.
Casual misogyny isn’t cool period. It sucks more when other women do it to women! My mum and a lot of people from her generation are guilty of it. It irks me when she and whoever tells me that I’m supposed to dress and act ladylike because I’m a female. She goes even further saying I have to smell like a lady, which apparently is floral and roses . . . WTF? I love my mum, but this is where we butt head. I have no problem with female dressing and acting ladylike if they do it because it’s them! For me, dresses and heels and make-up or whatever are not me at all. I embrace my natural beauty and prefer baggier clothing and trousers and hoodies. I want to be comfortable, and me wearing the so-called “masculine clothing” is what I prefer. One thing I cannot do is being fake to myself, and the times when I do dress up, I feel like I am actually betraying myself, as ridiculous as that sound. I just want to be real and true to myself, and that’s how I want to express myself to other people. And if those people have a bloody problem with my choice of clothing and appearance . . . well, they can sod off!
This is one of those topics that I’ve endured all of my life, so it boils me whenever I hear misogynist comments. For both men and women, actually! Like the whole “pink is for girl and blue is for boy” thing — NO. Historically it was the other way around, so it drives me batty when I see people still catering to that stereotype! If a boy likes pink or a girl likes blue, then fine! Heck, they can like any other colour as long as it’s not based on their gender! If a guy wants to wear a skirt, fine by me! If a girl wants to wear trousers, go ahead! We’re all individuals, and we have the right to express our own unique individualities in however way we want as long as it’s not offensive and hurtful to anyone. Bottom line, gender stereotypes need to piss off!
AMEN TO ALL OF THESE, SISTERS.
“Boys will be boys,” is such a dumb excuse. Boys should and will be held responsible for their actions just like everyone else.
I agree, teaching boys at an early age on how to “act manly” is the first step in encouraging a culture of casual misogyny. They’re taught not to cry unless they want to be called “a girl,” and so they bottle up their feelings and project it in “a manly way” which is almost always violence. Right parenting is teaching your children that there’s no difference in how a girl or boy should behave. They should be kind to each other because the world needs better persons.
Judging someone by the way they dress and the way their hair looks like is just plain stupid. Actually, no one should judge anyone by their physical appearance. There is no wrong or right way for a man or woman to dress. It’s 2017, how is it that there are still gender stereotypes?!
Sadly, objectifying women is such a norm nowadays that people are surprised, even outraged, when you call them out for doing it. My friends call me a “feminist” disdainfully whenever I call them out for objectifying women or stereotyping them. People frown upon “feminists” because they can’t distinguish them from extreme feminists. They think all feminists just hate men and that is the sole purpose of the movement. Well, buddies, I’ve got bad news for you. Feminists fight for equality amongst all genders. It just so happens that women are the most oppressed in this day and age.
Hmm, this is interesting. Hear me out.
I have not experienced a lot of this casual misogyny FROM MEN. Maybe I am just lucky to be surrounded by good, respectful, and well-mannered men as friends. Even my male teachers in high school (who were the only males in my life besides my relatives, since I came from an all-girls school) were part of this, they taught us not to tolerate shit and how to treat women properly through their examples. It’s the same thing with my professors, my colleagues, my boss, my boyfriend… They all saw me for my capabilities and not once made comments about how I should act, dress, speak, or whatever.
The women in my life, however, are another story. Some have told me that I’m not feminine enough. Some have [harshly] commented on other women’s bodies, making me subconsciously criticize mine. Some have told me to “soften up” and to “not be too choosy” so I would be more attractive to men. Some have told me that I cannot play certain toys because it’s for boys. Some have told me to stay away from degrees “for males”. And many more. Actually, I think I’ve received more misogynist comments from the women in my life than men! So while I agree that we really should think about how to raise kids right to stop this kind of attitude, I think it’s not only boys that should be educated and “raised right”. It must apply to girls as well, because this also affects how they treat themselves AND their peers.
You really hit the nail on the head! I soooooo agree with everything you’ve written. Casual misogyny and the double standard shouldn’t be the norm. It drives me crazy how much people focus on a women’s look, but they don’t apply the same standards to men. For example, I hear people comment about how some women are too old to act in certain roles, but no one seems to care about the age of male actors? It’s also frightening how much violence there are against women for simply saying “no” to men.
I really, really hate the saying “boys will be boys”. That isn’t teaching them the right things or how to respect people. It’s no wonder we have a problematic culture. Quite honestly, I’m always shocked at how we still have to deal with this in this day and age, and how we still have to fight to be seen and treated equally.
Ah, I absolutely love this post. I think women deal with casual misogyny at least once a day, if not more. I can’t tell you how many times I get “wow, you do that well…for a girl!” about some kind of whatever. It’s unbelievably annoying. Women are far more than that! We deserve more than that! I can’t even begin to explain how frustrating it is when men say these things, especially when they say them as customers because I, as the employee, can’t say very much in return without possibly upsetting the delicate customer/worker balance since it’s so easy for them to complain these days.
Sometimes, I don’t know if I want a son or a daughter in today’s society. I’d like to raise a son to be respectful of women, but I’d also like to raise a strong, independent, and passionate daughter. Truthfully, both would be great. I just want kids that respect other people and treat them like they are more than their gender!
I love this post so much, I was nodding and – internet – clapping as I read it! ??
In the past, I too have been told that I shouldn’t wear baggy clothes because it doesn’t make me look like a girl. I remember I had this drilled into my head to the point I only wore skirts and dresses for years in public. I was always told that wearing baggy jeans wouldn’t make me look “lady-like” Looking back now, I wish I could tell my younger self to snap out of it and tell her to wear whatever the fuck she wants. Baggy hoodies, jeans, and caps if she wanted to. Fuck what other people say.
I am so triggered by that hair comment.
People in my family have said this in the past especially when we went back to The Philippines, I heard comments like this all the fucking time. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing but my other Filipino friends have said that comments like that pop up in gatherings all the time, especially when talking about a girl. “If her hair wasn’t so short. She’d look better. Look less like a boy. More like a girl.” I hate that omg. I hate it so much. I hate how society/culture/certain individuals judge directly on a women’s appearance and use that as a determining factor on how to treat them. Dig deeper guys, her brain is a pretty big deal.
I love my brother to bits and my family <3 But casual misogyny is something I have tried to have conversations about with them, especially my parents but they don't understand. I get upset when my dad says, "well that's what boys do" or "you're a girl Pauline. a woman and you can't do this????" stereotyping roles for each gender. UGH. I remember talking to my mom when I was younger about my coding and computing interests and she urged me for years to go find a hobby that wasn't "too scary" "too hard" "too boyish" for me. Nah thanks, mom I'm good, gonna continue playing this game now ok bye
Casual misogyny is so difficult because it happens every single fucking day. At least once. Getting to the root of it is difficult and comes up from socialization ultimately. We need to raise awareness to the future generations to come for change to happen <3
I used to wear baggy clothes all the time when I was a teenager. I lived in jeans and hoodies, and didn’t particularly enjoy clothes shopping. I remember some of the girls in my dance class being incredibly shocked that I didn’t own a dress and asking why I didn’t want to feel “girly” and “feminine”. I don’t think what you wear should make people see you as less “womanly”. No one asks blokes why they always wear jeans.. It’s ridiculous.
The cooking for a man always bothers me. Me and Andy both work full-time and work different hours, so I cook my tea, then he does his when he gets home. If he expected me to do it when we both work the same amount of hours I’d be so annoyed. And we share the cleaning too. There’s no chance I’m doing that alone!
I’m so glad my parents have never put any restrictions on me because of my gender. I’ve always been allowed to live life how I choose, and it’s sad that some people aren’t as lucky. I’ve never been told to dress or act a certain way and I’m so glad.
I hate the whole abuse as a form of flattery thing that kids are told. It just sets people up to think that sort of behaviour is okay, and that dominance/submission is expected in a relationship. I’ve been reading a lot about sexism in romantic films, and realising how wrong the majority of them are. All this stuff with men “romantically” stalking a girl to get her attention, or forcibly kissing her, or not finding her attractive until she’s got rid of her glasses and done her hair. It’s all so incredibly sexist and yet it’s so acceptable in popular culture.
People need to start educating children/teenagers on stuff like this at school. I was never taught what was acceptable in a relationship, and I didn’t know anything about feminism until I was around 18. And it’s so important!
The worst kind of misogyny is when it comes from women as well. Women tear each other down and men are just plain misogynistic and don’t beat around the bush but passive aggressiveness from other woman? Get it all the time with other woman and hate it. That’s why I stopped hanging around with females and it’s sad that we gotta tear each other down when we are supposed to be together against misogyny.