The Mixed Realities of Womanhood

Yesterday, August 26, marked the 100 year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment in the United States that banned women from having the right to vote. Although this did not grant Indigenous or Asian people the right to vote and African-Americans for decades still struggled with openly exercising their right to vote, this day was still momentous and a step towards equality. August 26th is also known as Women’s Equality Day and although there has been enourmous strides towards equality between the sexes in the last century, there is still so much work to be done. Sexism is alive and well still today. Many people fail to fully understand the complexities of sexism and the ways it intersects through race, sexuality, class and ableness. We reached out to a few woman and asked them to shared their experiences of sexism from their everyday lives. Below are some thoughful reflections that in reality only shows a small part of the many ways in which sexism presents itself.

Many people fail to fully understand the complexities of sexism and the ways it intersects through race, sexuality, class and ableness.

I know that I’ve been privileged in my life because I benefit from being a lighter skinned, cis-gendered woman. One thing I’ve been thinking about recently was from my time working at a major bookstore. They’re supposed to give raises every year, but to get it you have to undergo an evaluation. My evaluation was good and I was given a raise. However, my colleague, who is a dark skinned black woman and had worked at the bookstore longer than I had, was not. She was given a more negative review and I found out that she hadn’t been given a raise since starting there. Having worked with her closely nearly every day, I know she’s an incredibly hard worker who gave amazing service and often went above and beyond for a client. I naturally questioned what the problem with her work ethic could have been and to this day I feel sick thinking about management writing her off based on her skin color and stereotypical preconceptions. It was a moment that really put workplace inequalities into a different, very jarring light for me and has now made me even more conscious of my own position in society and consider more closely the ways that I benefit from lightskin privilege. -P

There’s so many double standards that exists where it’s acceptable for a man to do certain things that a woman cannot do without being seen a certain way. What comes to mind right now is this uncomfortable conversation I had with this guy who was trying to tell me that it was perfectly ok for men to speak and sleep with more than one person at a time, because they were men. On the other hand, he kept saying that women just couldn’t do the same thing and that it, “just wasn’t right”. He truly believed this too. I never spoke with him after that. -J

When I was 18, I got a job as a waitress at a restaurant where I worked among 4 other (male) waiters. My manager often asked me to do things my male counterparts were never asked to do, like extra cleaning tasks or staying longer than I was scheduled to “help him with closing”; which was just time he spent making inappropriate comments. My coworkers and I all worked the same position and the only thing setting us apart was gender. Being the only woman in the staff was insanely unnerving and it didn’t take more than a month or so before I quit. -SG

[TW//mentions of sexual harassment, assault] Having grown up in what could be categorized as an ‘inner-city’ environment, I can recognize my experiences with inequality can be understood by where I stood at the intersects of race, class and gender. As a working class, black, pansexual femme, being subject to the harms of sexism began as early as school age for me. I recall having my body weaponized before knowing what sex, or seduction even was, and being taught that how to keep a lover (specifically a man) was through his stomach, and cleaning. Being the most progressive out of my family subjected me to criticism as I often loudly rejected these harmful ideals, or better yet myths. From being catcalled at thirteen, to a victim of sexual manipulation in my early adult years, it is highly important to me that young black girls are protected. These experiences shouldn’t be our normal, we have to redefine normal and teach our girls agency, instead of censorship. -Kiyanta

As a dark-skinned black woman I’ve struggled internally with my identity and trying to discern what truly is me and what is streotypical beliefs that others have projected onto me. I’ve experienced being painted as violent and aggressive, sometimes this is diguised as jokes. I actually fear having any type of confrontation with men due because black women being seen as more masculine. I feel like my skin color makes people consciously or subconciously brush off the abuses I’ve gone through since black woman are constantly stereotyped as being strong and able to withstand any and everything. -NC

In my work place, i’m the youngest woman so I get treated with less respect sometimes and get micro aggressions spewed at me on the daily. I’ve even had someone be openly racist in my face! -G

One night a while back, at work our supervisor was out for the day so the manager put me, and another employee in charge. The other person was white and male, we were near the same age. This person had been working there a bit longer than me and made it obvious they didn’t like sharing authority. That night they made it their mission to give me a hard time. They had a connection with the manager who was there and used it to their advantage. The person went to our manager that night and told them I didn’t help out how I was suppose to and that I was lazy. In reality it was me and two others that pulled the weight that entire night. But the manager believed them, so they sent me home early. Nothing I said to defend myself mattered to them at all. -JJ

I basically study and work in a field that is mostly men (finance/investments), women barely represent 20%. Over the last year, I have witnessed a lot of my female coworkers and friends, including myself, not being taken seriously. For years, people like to act like women can’t manage money or make some, even though we know how to chase the bag. -Désirée

Years ago I was elected onto an all-white board of directors at a local organization. There was one other woman on the board besides myself, and she was treated as sort of a token as well. Since the organization was in the inner-city and the board consisted heavily of charitable individuals from wealthier areas, me being a black woman from the community, I feel, was good for optics. The other woman and I during things like organization of an event, would be relegated to tasks such as being in charge of the refreshments or other “womanly” type duties. As I am not only a woman but also black, I also associated these tasks as being ones of the help. -C

As a young black woman, I either feel super exposed (not necessarily seen or understood) or hidden. Simple activities like walks down the street in the daytime, metro rides at any hour, grocery runs, a night out on the town can all be terrifying experiences on the inside just wondering if you will make it to and from your destination safely. It’s horrible to say because I do not want to make light of the gravity of the situation at hand, but staying 2 meters away from each other may be one of my favourite rules introduced into our society. I finally feel like I have a bit of a personal bubble. I just want to know who protects and supports black women in this big and scary world? -JP

I studied cinema and I mean, that alone can really give you an idea of the shit I had to go through. It was a lot of: my ideas get tossed to the side because my male peers thought theirs was better, only to have the teacher come around and suggest (you guessed it) my idea and OF COURSE that would be the only time said peers even considered it. I had been looking for a 2nd job & got hired somewhere. Day 1 I had them breathing down my neck, showing me how to use literally the most important program in my field. I couldn’t do my job without said program, like didn’t you JUST hire me based off my portfolio, you know I know what I’m doing so what is with the baby lessons?

I’m so grateful for all the female led business (like NobodyAsked aha) and classrooms that are popping up all around the country because it is definitely tiring constantly being around people who subconsciously or consciously think, speak & act like they know better than you; whether its intentional or not. –MJ

I would definitely say that being a black woman navigating through social life can be more than unequal at times. People just don’t ever seem to see me for me; like I’m not my own person with my own complexities. People meet me and often treat me according to some harsh stereotypical trope that they’ve projected on to me.

I’m a black woman, so I’m initially coined as a bitch because I don’t smile every five minutes. This somehow grants people the right to interact with me aggressively, because for whatever reason, they see a sign that reads ‘loud’, ‘mean’, and ‘dramatic’ across my forehead. Before I’ve even gotten the chance to open my mouth, I’ve been told that I “seem ghetto”, so I look unapproachable (yes! An old coworker actually told me that).

On the other hand when I do finally get a chance to say anything, those stereotypes are traded in for new ones. Now it’s that I’m soft spoken, so people want to tell me that I’m nicer than they expected. They feel more entitled to my time and personal space. Men and women cross boundaries with me all the time because they don’t think I’ll defend myself. I can’t even count the amount of times people have inappropriately touched or spoken to me in both public and private settings because they understand the privilege they hold over me. They feel comfortable enough to do these things because they understand that the black female body has always fallen under the category of subhuman; people don’t care about black women. They don’t see me as their equal, therefore don’t feel the need to treat me as such. -Rambo

We’d like to thank all the wonderful women who were comfortable enough to share their experiences of sexism with us, we’re extremely grateful. Sexism happens everywhere from the workplace to school and on the street when strangers catcall. It happens in our personal relationships and in our homes, during our childhood. There’s so many ways in which woman and girls can experience inequality without even having to consider the added discrimination of being a racial minority, a queer or transgender individual, or a woman of a lower economic class. We all have a responsibility to lend a hand in shifting these negative ideals and ways of being into ones that reflect the world in which we want to live.

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