Casual, Low-Key Sexism of 2012

This article, “Twitter’s Tales of Sexism”, sent from Amazing Women Rock, by Linda Grant, lends to our conversation last week about the segregated M&M’s and how a marketplace thriving on unquestioned gender stereotypes in childhood lead to a cultural acceptance of low-key, casual sexism.

Read the article to unfold the incredible story of what happened on International Women’s Day on Linda Grant’s twitter stream. It is 2012, for goodness sakes! The women who fought for and won Women’s Rights should be able to watch their granddaughter’s generation growing up free of this limitation and oppression. (Cue music of the Indigo Girl’s ‘Galileo‘…)

I encountered a great deal of sexism while working in the criminal investigations field in my 20’s. I expected it, being a young woman in a mostly all-boys club made up of mostly older men. But it was an experience I had in Africa in 2003 that had the biggest impact on me. I was talking with a group of men in a shanty town outside of Cape Town, when one of them asked if I had gotten my husband’s permission to travel so far from home. I told the men it had never occured to me to ask for it. They told me I was trouble, I assured them I was simply a grown woman exploring her world.

This is why I fight gender stereotypes and childhood sexualization, because of the sexist (even misogynist) culture it leads to. When our status quo leaves half of the population “less than”, we need to seriously start questioning what it is we believe in, support, and left unchallenged for too long.

Leave a comment and share a recent time you’ve encountered sexism…and does it seem almost ridiculous to you, that in 2012, we and our daughters are still dealing with this??

Image via Ms. Magazine



  1. This is small potatoes, but here’s my favorite recent story. About 5 years ago I walked into a Toyota dealership looking to test drive a new Toyota Corolla. The male sales associate, who was about 10 years older than me, said, “I’m sorry ma’am, we only have one on the lot for test driving, but we don’t have any for women at the moment.” I was confused. I asked, “So are you saying you don’t have anything on the lot to drive, or are you saying…what?…are you saying I can’t test drive what you have for some reason?” He replied, “We do have a Corolla, but it’s a standard shift. We don’t have any automatics, so you’d have to try another dealership.” Aghast, voice rising, I said, “So you are assuming women only drive automatics…” “Yes ma’am,” he said. “I then lost my cool. “I have driven stick shift all my life. You just lost a sale, and I will tell everyone I know never to come here to buy a car because the sales staff is sexist!!” And I did.

  2. I’m the geek teacher on campus. Most people in the tech area of my district know me because I’m always pushing the envelope. A while back we had a tech from hell assigned to our campus. I reported a problem with a computer with detailed notes because it was an intermittent problem with the fan sounding like a 747 taking off. The tech from hell came turned on the computer the fan made no abnormal sound, tech patted me on the shoulder and explained that he understood women didn’t get computers.

    I went straight to the principal and informed him I wasn’t putting up with this type of treatment. My principal’s jaw dropped. He is a technophobe – and he got that you would have to let the computer heat up before you heard the weird noise.

    We had a new tech within days. We love love love this tech. He always reads my notes. For intermittent problems he takes the unit to the office were the help desk people can keep an eye on it till it malfunctions. (Interesting to note Our CITS are 50/50 men and women. I asked if they did it on purpose and was told no it just happened)

    In HS the person I took Driver’s ed from was a jerk. He would give out these coupons for free ice cream from the DQ next door for certain questions. Thing is he only called on boys. It killed him when he asked a question about the internal combustion engine and I was the only one that knew the answer. HE held us 10 minutes past our break time because the boys couldn’t answer the question.

    Senior year I took a programming class. The “teacher” (actually the guy down the road that owned a computer store) told us girls we were in the wrong class, computers were for boys. He scheduled the computers so that the girls’ work was always late because we didn’t even get to use the computers till after the due date. The principal put a stop to that. I convinced my parents to buy a computer – we walked into his store. I told my Dad, who he was. Dad told me to go take my sister to the car. Dad informed him why we would not be buying from him. I got my revenge – 2nd semester I EARNED a 100 average. He tried to take off for a flaw in the paper he gave me for the final exam. I Said fine – lets go talk to Mr. H, my grade level principal. While we are there you can explain why you gave me the 3 hour exam. I’m a senior taking senior exams and they were supposed to be 1 hour long. (Long story state made senior finals mandatory but the ruling came so late that scheduling senior finals was a huge hassle. )

  3. Last week, another female attorney and I were meeting with two male attorneys on a case we are all working. The older man started talking college hoops with the younger one. After a few minutes, the talk turned to IU’s latest win. The older attorney suddenly turned to me and the other woman, and, laughing, said, “well, Laura and Jessica, what are your thoughts on IU basketball?” It was clearly a joke based on what he deemed the hilarious juxtaposition of women and sports. Luckily, I follow college basketball, “I’m just happy to see that IU finally has a program again.” He stopped laughing.

  4. This happened just yesterday at the park nearest my home. A woman was there with her 3-year-old granddaughter who was watching a group of older kids climb about on the equipment. I didn’t catch what the little girl said, but the grandmother responded with, “Yes, boys are good climbers. Your little brother will probably be a good climber, too.”

    How unempowering can you get? And out of the mouth of a WOMAN. It made me really sad, especially since everything about the girl’s body language spoke that she wanted to try it! This particular structure is hard for a 3-year-old (I know because my own 3-year-old plays on it!), but to tell her that it will be hard because she’s girl and further to discourage her from even making the attempt can’t be healthy. The hardest part is that I don’t think the woman had any idea what she was really telling her granddaughter.

    • Such a good observation because I would agree with you, that kind of subtle sexism is so ingrained she probably didn’t even realize it.

  5. I’m an au pair for three kids. The girls are 13 & 6; the boy is 10. The boy has said more than once he wishes he had a younger brother, which I totally understand. (I grew up with two brothers; I would have loved a sister!) But the other day when he said this, he added that if he had a brother, he could teach him how to play sports. I don’t remember his exact wording, but it was very specific in that he couldn’t teach a girl sports, but he could teach a boy. I very quickly pointed this out to him, and it took a long conversation for him to articulate that he had *tried* teaching his little sister sports, but that she didn’t like them. I pointed out the problem with his initial wording so he knew not to think/say things like that. I also added that not all boys like sports, so having a brother wouldn’t guarantee him the chance to teach sports.

  6. About a year ago I was at Costco with my daughter, and I let her pick out a bathrobe for her upcoming swim classes. She picked out a blue one with fish on it, because fish swim, and at the time, blue was her favorite color. She had started to notice the segregation of clothes and we had a conversation about how ALL clothes and ALL colors are for all people.
    We get to the register, and the woman putting our purchases in boxes compliments her on her pink shirt and pony tails in her hair. She compliments the pink monkey jammies Moira also picked out. Then she gets to the bathrobe, and says “You don’t want this! This one is for boys!” I looked at her completely flabbergasted and then said “This is the she picked out. Girls love fish.” As we were leaving the store I talked to her about how silly that woman was, and how wrong that was. I have a friend with a teenaged daughter Moira idolizes who only wears turquoise and loves fish, so I had a specific example. I was just so angry, and Moira was so sad that she had picked the wrong thing. We actually had to have the whole conversation again when we were packing up for swim class because she didn’t want to take her robe. I wished I’d made a bigger deal of it to the woman.

  7. Gabrielle says:

    I have a dear friend with two daughters who are very “traditionally girly” – they wear lots of pink, their playroom is filled with princess stuff and babydolls. My friend understands that my daughter isn’t so limited, so for Hanukkah her girls got My Little Ponies and my daughter got Cars. They were all happy with their presents and played with them all together. Then at dance class the other day, she mentioned that she likes to stock up on presents for birthday parties when she finds something good. She told me about something she got “for the girls” and “for the boys” she got a kit for making and painting a bird house. I had to bite my tongue really hard not to embarass her and say, “Oh, you mean like the bird house Sparky built at Home Depot and painted herself”? Then she and her hubby started talking about what was worse, stepping on girls’ beads or boys’ legos. Arrgh. This time I was at least able to make a comment about stepping on both, since my daughter has both. It’s so hard, I love this woman and her family, and she’s so bright, she works in a law office, but sometimes she says things that I really don’t agree with.

    On the flip side, I was thrilled to get a Saturn for my first car, when they had only been out a few years. They did NOT show my diminutive 16yo self the vanity mirror – they showed me the safety features and the engine. They talked to me, since my parents indicated the car would be for me, and not my dad. Very positive experience.

  8. I had a breakfast playdate at my house ofr 7 preschoolers. I couldn’t seat all the kids at one table, so there were 2 tables out — one to seat 5 and the other with 2 seats. One of the parents saw fit to put the girls at one table and the boys at the other. :-/ I came in, realized what was happening and declared that it was quite silly; perhaps we should find another way to arrange things. But it was too late the children felt as though they had been assigned. However there were 3 boys and 4 girls. Rather than sit at the “girl” table, the 3rd boy sat with his mom.
    Later that day, when one of these boys tried to push past my daughter to get to a slide, his mom (the same who orchestrated the breakfast seating) gave him a word of caution, promptimg him to begrudgingly mutter, “OK, girls first.” (Nevermind that she was actually ahead of him!) I looked at the mom, quite surprised and she misunderstood. “It’s never to soon to start teaching them,” she said. I didn’t do so well in the diplomacy department. I said, “Never to soon to teach them to be sexist?!?!” I don’t think either of us were impressed with the other.

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