I was late to wake to everyday sexism. During my teens and childhood it washed over me. I would always have been outraged if a woman had been treated unfairly or had fewer opportunities than a man but I was missing a key piece of the puzzle. There is more to sexism than large legislative changes. On paper sexism is on its last legs in this country but theory and practice don’t always go hand in hand as any scientist will know.
To me everyday sexism is the prejudice that women face in day to day life. Potentially small things, perhaps not considered worthy of complaining about- but make no mistake these “small matters” do damage. Once you become aware of everyday sexism there is no escaping it. It becomes clear as day that there is a subtle but unavoidable undercurrent to our lives to enforce gender stereotypes.
I spent my Sunday morning watching Stargate, I’ve been Sky plus-ing them and catching up at the weekend while I worked on my new website. I’m new to Stargate but have been enjoying it- thought that is an irrelevance here. As I only watch recorded television I fast forward through adverts but this morning I let them run.
The first that caught my attention was a young woman getting ready for a stressful day. She was using Nivia-don’t-sweat-when-stressed-something-or-other. Her stressful day turned out to be watching her partner win at “who wants to be a millionaire?”. She was delighted by the outcome, who wouldn’t be?! However I couldn’t help but wonder why they set up the main character to be an audience member.
If I was making an advert and I was having someone prepare for a stressful “who wants to be a millionaire?” encounter I’d likely let them win rather than watch someone win (penis or no penis)
Now some of you may be scoffing already. So the clever man won the prize, it was a 50/50 choice by producers. So ok, I’ll give the optimists a freebie on this. Let us give the benefit of the doubt to Nivia and say they weren’t enforcing a male intelligence and provider stereotype and move on...
Next up we had e.on. It started with a man preparing a bottle for his baby (hurrah) but then where did we go? We had a woman doing the dishes. Then men sitting at a table while a woman hands out the cutlery.
He is so smart! And I didn't even sweat, phew.
No, you stay where you are dear, you've been lugging that penis around all day
No we’re unlikely to be in the streets over a woman giving cutlery and doing some dishes. Let’s keep watching.
Next up an advert for a toothbrush, as used by dentists. Of course- the dentist is a man. Then we have a wonderful compact vacuum cleaner as demonstrated by a young woman.
He may have a dentistry degree but she has a dyson
Coincidence I hear you cry! Give us more.
Next up an advert for frozen fish. Its “gourmet fish made easy” this roughly translates as “developed by a (male, of course) chef so you (a woman) can spend more time swishing in your favourite dress and checking yourself out in the mirror. He did the hard work and made it lovely and simple for her.
One has a career one has a lovely polka dot dress
Then there was an advert for James Bond, before I was back to Stargate.
The next block had an advert to tell “mums” about kids cereal; mum making bisto and a few others along similar lines.
Let’s take a tally of how we have seen over the two ad breaks I watched:
Millionaire competition winner
Eater of food
Congratulates man, doesn’t sweat
Likes dresses and cooks simple food.
And that- is everyday sexism.