Tag Archives: stereotypes

Random Acts of Sexism

Lately I’ve been thinking about what specific incidents have led me to become a feminist and I really think I can attribute that to something I’d like to call “everyday sexism”. These acts are seemingly small but have long lasting impacts of the morale of a woman… I’m literally recalling incidents from over 10 years ago. One of the major issues that I’ve had is with my body; it has been over sexualized, criticized, hated, and loved. I’ve literally had people just come up to me and touch my butt because they “couldn’t resist.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is my body and if you want to touch it you need permission, objectifying me? NOT SEXY. Getting my consent? SEXY. Some of my girlfriends with larger chests have say strangers (men AND women) literally walk up to them at the bar and poke their boobs, like it’s a toy that can be played with – it’s frustrating!

 

But it’s acts that are even smaller than that:

 

It’s calling a girl that speaks her mind a bitch.

 

It’s calling a woman that has multiple partners a slut.

 

It’s honking at woman when you drive by – but actually though, can y’all not?

 

It’s blaming receiving unwanted attention on the clothes a woman is wearing.

 

It’s making a joke that makes fun of women.

 

It’s accusing an emotional woman of being on her period.

 

It’s when a dude buys you a drink and automatically feels some claim to your body.

 

It’s a guy friend who hates you for constantly putting them in the “friend zone.”

 

It’s a partner who doesn’t even think to ask if you WANT to have sex for the simple reason you’re in a relationship.

 

It’s not being able to twerk with your pals without some dude trying to push up on you at a dance party.

 

It’s feeling guilty because you said, “No.”

 

It’s laughing even though that joke about women not knowing how to drive just isn’t f*cking funny.

 

It’s body shaming.

It’s any and everything that has made you question your worth as woman or even a person in this world.

 

 

All of these things just perpetuate this hate of women that I feel is so unintentional it makes my heart hurt. But I really feel with conscious mind and heart, these obstacles can be obliterated.

 

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What’s in a Hero? Wendy. Davis.

Wendy Hero ReThink History: Hero Project

If you don’t know Wendy Davis, here’s the scoop. In my opinion she’s about as BA as it gets. She’s a democratic politician running for governor in the most notoriously red state in the country – Texas. Not to mention, she’s a woman. That alone takes an enormous amount of moxie (new fav word) and determination, and still it doesn’t even scratch the surface.

To her supporters and fans she may be a lot of things: a rags to riches success story, a ray of hope for Texas democrats, an abortion clinic guardian, a Harvard alumni lawyer and, of course, mom. The list could go on, however, what tends to be missing is the title Hero. So, what’s in a Hero?

☑ People who become heroes tend to be concerned with the well-being of others.

☑ Heroes are good at seeing things from the perspective of others.

☑ Heroes are competent and confident.

☑ Heroes have a strong moral compass.

☑ Having the right skills and training can make a difference.

☑ Heroes persist, even in the face of fear.

 MALE

She more than fulfills every requirement on typical qualities of a hero (spare you the details) except for the tacit and most basic of them all. Everyone knows a hero is a man. And not just any man, a strong, self-sacrificing man with a furrowed brow and a disciplined mind, ready to rescue the helpless, the unfortunate and the women.

Our image of who should be powerful and heroic extends beyond conceptual ideas and has very real consequences for Wendy and her campaign. For example, the majority of the oppositions attacks are not on her political stance, but her personal life and backstory. She’s not traditional enough, she didn’t even struggle that much, she abandoned her family, she didn’t dedicate every waking moment to her children while she was at Harvard law school… and so on.

A man going pursuing a degree in another state while the wife stays back with the kids is seen as a necessary sacrifice. A woman doing the same is seen as a unjustifiable atrocity. A male politician’s home life is barely acknowledged in most cases, while a female politician must be prepared to reveal and defend even the most irrelevant, personal details of her life.

Anyway, the election will be this November and I have no idea what to expect. I do know that the republican candidate Greg Abbott is outrageous and of course wants to cut pre-K education for only minorities, plans to vote against the equal pay act, continue the abortion clinic destruction and the usual. I 100% support Wendy in doing just the opposite.

#TeamWendy 4life

Check out the website: http://www.wendydavistexas.com/

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and tell your friends!

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Our Blindspot on Dating Abuse

Vegetable gunWhen we hear stories or statistics about dating abuse, we start to form an image in our mind about what it typically looks like, the typical abuser or the typical victim. We might even get better at recognizing a common case and maybe even doing something about it. However, the downside is that any dating abuse that does not fit this description is even less likely to be recognized or addressed.

In an earlier post, I pointed out that domestic abuse does not have to be physical and that emotional and psychological abuse are just as valid and just as damaging. Here, I want to introduce what I think is another overlooked and delicate topic.

Women can be abusers too, they are not always the victim. It sounds obvious. Even though, statistically, the vast majority (92%) of domestic abusers are male and the victims are female, occasionally it does happen the other way around (this differs in same-sex relationships). Still, I would argue because it is far less common, often looks different, and goes against most of our gender stereotypes we are less able to see it for what it is.

Stereotypes associated with women such as weak, passive and nurturing are nearly the complete opposite of those that we associate with somebody who is abusive (e.g. controlling, aggressive, angry). Acknowledging and/or rejecting stereotypes about women does not, unfortunately, mean we are not affected by them. So my point is that abusive behavior by a woman is in direct conflict how they are viewed by other people, and even how they view themselves.

Gender stereotypes in relation to domestic abuse are harmful for both men and women. When women are viewed as weak and passive, it appears more “natural” for them to be the victim and easier for all parties to justify the abuse. Yet, women who abuse will never have to be justified because it sounds like too much of an oxymoron to be taken seriously. For that reason, men who are being abused by women are just as likely to be disregarded.

For men there is so much shame around reporting abuse that a large number of cases likely go unreported. “We tell boys to “man up” and be strong, and this means that they should not have emotions, never feel weak, etc. and continues a vicious cycle of men feeling unable to express themselves about hurtful experiences,” which clashes strongly with the image of a victim.

I was surprised to see how much the statistics evened out in younger groups. One study found that in dating abuse with teen couples girls were more likely to report both being a victim (41%) and a perpetrator (35%), which was surprisingly close to boys reporting victimization (37%) and perpetration (29%). This “leveling-off” was thought to due to recognizing more female abusers, rather than an actual rise.

Emotional abuse, by either gender, is now listed as a common form of abuse, but was under the radar for a long time. Belittling a partner or criticizing them in front of others can be written off as a joke. Having to “get permission” to do something might be seen as acceptable. The silent treatment or emotional isolation might just be their way of handling things. And it’s expected that your significant other should be a priority over all others or else it means that you “don’t love them,” right?!

If it’s harder to see women as abusers and to recognize emotional abuse, in combination it would probably be very easy to overlook. What makes this even more complicated to address is that oftentimes the person does not realize that what they are doing is considered emotional abuse. A whole range exists from mild to severe, and probably fluctuates over time.

What I do feel is a very important distinction between being assertive and being abusive. I’m a huge advocate of people (especially women) being able to communicate their needs and expectations in a relationship and not backing down just to avoid a conflict. Given that, there is a difference between expecting honesty and invading the other persons privacy. In the same way that wanting to be the center of their world and isolating them to make that happen.

As an advocate for awareness of domestic abuse (and dating abuse in younger groups) especially in diverse populations, I still have a hard time getting past the stereotypical case. The man as the abuser, the woman as the victim, physically violent, and blatantly obvious. We need to push ourselves to recognize all forms of abuse and that everyone, ourselves included have the potential to fall into either role.

Missing pieceWhether it’s mild or severe, your best friend or an acquaintance you should consider doing something about it. Don’t give up on a who seems to have isolated themselves. Talk to a friends if you suspect they could be abusive. Monitor how you treat you own partner. Still, remember that not usually straightforward or clean cut so use discretion 😉

Disclaimer:  I am aware that this post is heterosexist in that it uses a heterosexual relationship as the standard and does not address these issues in the context of same-sex relationships. I wanted to specifically address the assumption that women do not abuse men and the consequences of that.

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Feeling Invalidated as Women in The Work Place

This is a collaborative piece.

Having recently graduated from college and entering the working (“real”) world, we have begun to notice the gross reality of gender dynamics that exist in the work place. We’ve talked to other women about our experiences and feelings and found that many could relate.

Many argue that we have come a long way as a society in terms of educating and employing women. But if we get into professions just to be made to feel invalidated by particular male colleagues, then how far have we come culturally?

The purpose of this post is to share experiences that women face in the work place  that often go unnoticed, unspoken, and in many cases have become normalized. Four stories are shared below and the women who have opted to contribute have also chosen to remain anonymous for the sake of their employment. Fear is something that comes along with speaking out and the risk involved in saying something is a very real chance we take. We would, of course, prefer to feel safe sharing these stories openly, but that is not a place that we have yet reached, as individuals and as a society.

EXCUSE ME, Shut Up 

I’m not a fan of having to get dressed up for work. By all means, I like to look nice but if I could do my job in leggings and a loose tee every day, you bet I would. But I know that in my position, I gain respect from my clients by looking professional and put together. My clients need all the help and respect they can get in their lives so I take the dress code seriously balancing pencil skirts, blazers, heels, the ordinary combination of a professional female business wardrobe.

I’ll admit, I do feel more the part when I’m dressed-up, a bit more powerful and confident about my ability, a bit more assured that my clients trust me to do my job and help them instead of write them off like everyone else in their lives. Most of my clients and colleagues are men.  I can keep up with the office banter, grant it it’s a good thing I play fantasy football and can talk the normal Sports Center and beer lingo, being from Wisconsin. I sometimes wonder how they would react if I randomly decided to go on a tangent about what color I’m planning on dying my hair, but that’s besides the point.

I’ve come to love my job, even the dressing-up; it feels good to look good I can’t lie. But I absolutely, full-heartedly detest, no, loathe the extra shall we say “attention” I receive for the way my body looks in my clothing. I’m curvaceous, I have quite the rack (brought to you by both sides of the family), but never do I try to intentionally flaunt this at work. One day I borrowed a roommates dress that was a little tight; not doing that again. The first guy I see in the office says to me “well that is quite the pretty necklace you have, which boyfriend of yours got that for you?” If you know me, you know I was contemplating smacking him. EXCUSE ME. Thoughts in my head:

1 – Yeah, you’re looking at my necklace, my ass. He was staring directly at  my rack and the dress I was wearing even went up to my neck. Subtle.

2 – I can buy my own fricken jewelry thank you very much, hell no do I need a man for that.

And 3 – To even imply that I would date multiple guys at once like some kinda gold digger is beyond insulting.

Sadly I’ve gotten use to the reactions I get any day I come to work looking a little too, let’s say appealing and my coworkers and clients alike, can’t help but issue a slew of “well ain’t you looking fancy today” or my personal favorite, “I see you white girl.” Shut-up.

My co-worker put it really well the other day. He said to me, “someone was talking to me about you the other day and the first thing that came out of the guy’s mouth was ‘she’s beautiful.’” My co-worker goes on to say how frustrating that is, that I’m chalked up to be a pretty girl, completely omitting the work that I do and the passion that I have for my job.

Compliments about appearance are nice; as someone who’s dealt with major body and confidence issues for a long while, sometimes it’s the morale boost I need. But if looking nice and professional comes at the price of being just another pretty girl in the office, peace out, I’m done.

I’ll continue to dress the part for the sake of my clients, but the next person that says “dang you look fine,” watch out. And for the love of women, can we design some professional clothing that aren’t created to make my butt look tight, my waste look small, and my legs look built!

Submitted anonymously

I Can Build My Own Damn Bike

Ooh, I bet you got a lot of whistles this morning.” This is what I heard when I walked into work one day. I was dressed in a black pencil skirt, flowy top, tights and some pretty sleek boots. I looked good. Felt confident. But of course I knew I’d be receiving a comment about it. Maybe it’s the feminist in me, raging more and more every day. But when I dress for work, for anything, I do it for myself. Not to get stared at by every man on the bus, the street, at work. And certainly not to get whistled at like a dog.

Now, this comment was a compliment. But it bothered me. Especially because it came from a woman. We’ve become subliminally trained to dress to impress. Because that’s how we draw attention. That’s how we hold power. By how we put ourselves together in the morning. True, I feel more confident when I look good. But I do it for myself. Anyways, maybe I’m ranting too much and not getting into the real thick of it. The things that really get beneath my skin because I am a woman in my workplace.

Whenever I need to move something or take on a task that’s not so ladylike, I  most certainly, without a doubt, will hear “Oh, you need a man to help you with that!”. Sometimes, I do need a hand, but I’ll be damned if I hand over a box or a task to a guy that thinks I can’t handle it. I recently got a new bike through work and planned to assemble it on my own. I can’t tell you how many pushy offers I received to have one of our male residents put it together. I’m a pretty avid bike rider, know how to fix a flat, and most importantly, know how to read instructions. So I felt like I was qualified enough to put a bike together. But at least 5 people didn’t think so.

Maybe it’s because I’m so headstrong, but I assembled that bike all by my damn self. I got stares of amazement. Many from fellow females who thought I should have handed the task to a man. This is what irked me the most. Where along the line were these women told they needed a man to help them? That they were less than capable. Perhaps I’m a raging, headstrong feminist, but I prefer to be thought of as a capable woman. Especially at work.

Submitted anonymously

The Skanky Shorts

I have begun a new job at a progressive, young, nonprofit organization. The man who hands me my check each month is friendly, flirty even. It honestly makes me feel uncomfortable but I have never said anything about it. I mean, I am new here, I am young, and he is in a position of power. So, I think, flirting is harmless and avoid him.

A few weeks into the job I make it out to a happy hour with a few co-workers. It feels good to finally get out of the work cloths and hang out with the people I am around all day. I show up in jean shorts and a tee shirt, my typical summer apparel. My uncomfortably flirty friend shows up and offers to buy me drinks. I’m broke so hey, why not? We all sit together and are enjoying each other’s company.

The flirting coworker’s next move changed my mood for the remainder of the night. The man who hands me my pay checks looks at me, to poke fun, and in front of our entire group says “She can’t be trusted, just look at her skanky shorts.” My face just went blank, I was confused, shocked. The first thought that popped into my head was, first of all, how dumb his joke was. It made no sense (so if you are scratching your head wondering what the point of the joke was, there was none). It felt like it was just a random opportunity for him to say something about my clothing choice.  That in itself confused and infuriated me.

Because he pointed out my clothing in front of a large group, I naturally felt everyone’s gaze. I just sat there, feeling exposed. I tugged at my shorts as if I could disprove his statement, maybe avoid the potential judgement of my colleagues who’s attention was now on my lower half. I didn’t want to stand up for the rest of the evening out of fear that everyone would look at my ass and judge the clothing I had chosen to wear. He, in that one statement, caused me to feel embarrassment, anger, fear, shame. I questioned how long he had been looking at my shorts, thinking they were skanky. Was it when he bought me a drink? I felt angry. He embarrassed me. I felt violated by his analysis of my outfit.

I sat in my own silence turning the comment over and over in my head. Why the fuck was he even looking at my shorts? Who gave him the right to draw his own conclusions on the style of clothes I choose to wear out? Weather it was in or out of the work place, he has no right to call my clothing skanky. What was he saying about me in that comment about my shorts? I don’t wear those shorts out anymore. He continues to flirt at work. I wonder if he thinks about what his simple words and actions have the power to make me feel.

Submitted anonymously

The Questions Behind My Silence

I feel two simultaneous jabs on either side of my torso, just below my ribs. You know, the type that you might get teasingly from a significant other, or pesteringly from a little sibling. The kind meant to get a rise out of you, meant to make you jump, giggle, and turn around to teasingly slap the person who did the jabbing. This is not one of those times. I’m at work.

I’m caught off guard by the pokes. My body tenses involuntarily. My head whips around and my mind races. What was that? Who touched me? Why?

In the few split seconds that it took for me to turn around, my mind had not decided how I felt, let alone come up with how to react. I was surprised but not quite offended, confused but not quite angry. Mostly, I was just shocked and weirded out.

My eyes caught a glimpse of one of my male co-workers walking behind me. His head turned back to meet my bewildered glance and he smiled. I immediately knew then that he had poked me on my sides.

A hundred questions flooded my mind.

Is this normal? Should I be mad? Am I offended? Is this harassment? Should I tell someone? Why would he even do that? He’s married. Is he trying to bug me? I would never do that to anyone. Ever. Especially at work. He is a man and he is much older than me. I know he would never go up behind another male co-worker and do that. Is this a gender thing? An age thing? Do people even take me seriously? Or am I just some kid they can pick on? Is it a cultural thing? Is this teasing okay in some places? What am I supposed to do? How do I react? They never tell you what to do in these situations. Am I being silly? Should this not be something that bothers me? Does it bother me?

They, you know, the teachers, youth leaders, parents, and counselors, they always tell you to report sexual abuse. They tell you to let someone know if anyone verbally or physically harasses you. But what about all that grey area. What about when a male co-worker sneaks up and teasingly pokes you in your sides? What about when you don’t know whether it’s something inappropriate or if you’re just being too sensitive? What about when that person who makes you uncomfortable is one of your bosses?

I still don’t know exactly what I should have done in that situation. I told a few of my female co-workers that I trust about the incident and I was surprised to hear that they have had similar, and some worse, situations and stories involving that same male co-worker. One co-worker even reported one of the incidents, but apparently nothing really changed.

So what is my solution? For now, I avoid being alone with him. I respect him less. Sometimes I’m rude to him. Sometimes I rehearse in my mind how I will react or what I will say if he tries something else or says something inappropriate. Is that the right answer? I don’t really know, and I think the not knowing how to asses these situations bothers me just as much as the fact that these things happen in the first place.

 Submitted anonymously

So the days come to an end. The weeks pass by. The comments are made and then they fade. We get stares and whistles, snide comments, uncomfortable feelings. We hope for an end. Some of us will speak up. Some of us won’t. Some of us will get angry and take action. Some of us will be scared. We will stand up for ourselves and for women as a whole, for equality and for liberty.

We will speak and act for the future and for hope. For now, we hope that you join us in this effort and raise the awareness and share your own stories. Listen to other’s stories and listen to yourself.

We hope that the accounts you read and the real women behind them stirred your hearts. We hope that you will bring this challenge and this awareness into your own communities, families, and workplaces, and give someone else hope.

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A Little Short-change Matters

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The other day, I had one of those moments when I was particularly aware of being a woman. Even though it was a minor event, I felt so frustrated and unsettled afterwards that I want to put it out there in case others have had similar experiences.

I was at a gas station getting some transmission fluid and imagining everyone thinking to themselves “what is she going to so with that?” There was some mild stereotype threat, (psychology fun fact: fear of confirming a stereotype about your own group), so of course I couldn’t seem hesitant or like I didn’t know what I was doing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_threatThe situation reminded me of an article about a poll that asked women which activities made them feel most aware of their gender status. The most common responses were things like walking into a car dealership or going to a sports bar – in other words, designated male activities (if anyone knows of this article please post it!). The point was to show the discomfort that many women feel while doing daily activities because of gender stereotypes.

Next, a strange series of things happened. First, even though there was a long line, another cashier came out of nowhere and asked me specifically if the transmission fluid was all I was buying, and if so, he could help me next. Second, the cash register didn’t show the price. Third, he clearly short-changed me. It was $3.99, paid with a $5 and got 50 cents back. Fourth, when he handed it back to me the price tag was missing. Fifth, I walked outside and immediately found a quarter on the ground, (not really part of it, just coincidental good luck!)
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I knew the change seemed wrong when he handed it to me, but I didn’t think to say anything until I had already left the store. Normally, I wouldn’t have cared about such a small amount of money anyway (PS I did factor in tax). What really got to me is that I couldn’t help but to feel like he targeted me because, hey, I probably wouldn’t know how much transmission fluid costs anyway.
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I walked all the way home in a fury until I of course started second guessing myself. “Maybe, it rang up wrong…maybe he does that to everyone… maybe he figured the difference was to too small to matter.” After all I probably only concluded this because I was already feeling self-conscious.
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I will never know if his short-changing me had anything to do with me being a woman. Thinking about it more, whether he did or not, the whole incident leads back to the larger problem that the poll I mentioned earlier brings to light.
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From the moment I entered the store I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable and the negativity only progressed from there. I’ve had countless experiences like this in my daily life and I doubt that I’m alone in that.
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Our lives should not be dictated and defined by gender and we shouldn’t have to feel out of place because of it. Next time there’s a girl in the weight room or a guy in the makeup isle high five them for being there 😉
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Have you ever felt that you didn’t belong or were not welcome somewhere because of your gender? What are your thoughts when you see someone doing something not typical for their gender? Have you ever done anything to question these stereotypes?
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Note: gender ≠ biological sex, I just used gender for simplicity
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Our Struggle is Real: The Women of Real Life Athena Share Their Stories

The women of Real Life Athena have come together in this post to share stories of struggles that they have been confronted with as women, as feminists, and as human beings. Stories may be graphic and unsettling, but our goal was not to evoke any preexisting trauma. We hope to raise awareness to issues that occur everyday.

This post does not seek to be an exhaustive account of all the issues women face. This post is not claiming that only women experience the topics covered here. This post is not a comparison of struggles; every struggle is valid no matter its severity. Rather, this post seeks to humanize the issues we face by putting a name and a face to real life accounts. This piece is a means of awareness through storytelling.

The women involved in this collaboration have graciously and bravely come forward to give their testimonies. Our struggle is real and we are in this fight to end it.

Trigger Warning: Some pieces in this Real Life Athena post may be triggering or troublesome, and we encourage you to know your own limits and feel safe to refrain from reading as needed.

The Normalization of Abuse

Throughout my life the reoccurring issue of sexual and domestic abuse is something that has surrounded and affected me as a woman. Although, I am not a victim myself, I’ve seen the affects it’s had on many women, including my mother, grandmother, aunts, cousins, and close friends. Because I grew up around it, I struggle with the way it has become normalized to me.

When I think of abuse, I envision a perfect house, where no one truly knows how ugly it is inside. Because my mother was a survivor, she became very protective and wouldn’t let me stay with anyone until I was able to speak up. Throughout my childhood, I constantly remember my mother sneaking family members out of their homes and allowing them stay with us. I will always remember the day when I came home from school and saw my aunt laying on our couch covered in blood and bruises; finally understanding what abuse was.

As I grew older, I became an observer that held things in. We never openly spoke about the abuse that went on. As a family, we only knew to be there for each other, no matter the situation. Because of my mother, when I see any sign of potential abuse, I immediately become protective. Still to this day I will never understand why the majority of my family members have been sexually and domestically abused. What I do know is that all the women in my life are strong and didn’t allow themselves to be labeled as victims. They are survivors.

I hate the fact that hearing about abuse cases doesn’t affect me like it affects most people. I have heard it so many times, you could say I’ve become immune to it and have gradually learned to brush it off as a coping mechanism. I first become extremely angry, but when I realize that there isn’t much I can do, I try and let it go. That’s why I am so passionate about Real Life Athena; I want other people like myself who feel like there’s nothing they can do, to realize that if we all come together, we CAN make a difference.

Written by Akeena Bronson

Misconceptions of Feminism

There are many trials and tribulations that go along with calling myself a feminist within our society. I believe most if the issues all of us feminists face today lie in the misconception of one word: feminism. The day I realized I was a true feminist was many years ago while attending a discussion forum for sexual harassment. The guest speaker running the discussion asked all the feminists in the room to raise their hands. In a room of about 150 women only 15 raised their hands, not including myself. She went on to define feminism as simply believing the sexes should be treated equally. I was so ashamed of myself for not claiming to be a feminist at that moment. However, looking back on that moment now and thinking about why I might not have claimed to be a feminist has become clear. There are so many awful stereotypes that need to be cleared up. I am not a bra-burning, man-hating lesbian. I do not want to kill babies. I am not a hairy, dirty hippie. I am not angry all the time, only when necessary. And I am not a cunt or a slut (as Rush Limbaugh may say). I am a human who believes it is time for sexist oppression to end and time for the sexes to be treated equally. I am a human who believes that half of the population is just important as the other half.

Written by Danielle Hefferan

Violated and Blamed

One of the most important things in our community is self-expression and most of us express ourselves through fashion. Clothes that we choose to wear say something about us and it says even more if you’re a woman. If we dress provocative, we’re sexy. If we dress too provocative, we’re slutty and looking to “get some.” Once a few summers back I wore a tube top to a house party and one of the guests thought it would be funny to pull my top down and expose me. My embarrassment and shame was probably the highest it’s ever been. The worst part about the whole experience was when I was telling my then boyfriend about it, his exact words were, “Well maybe you shouldn’t wear such tempting clothes.” It was like all of a sudden this traumatic event that happened to me was no longer about the how I felt my body had been violated, it was a matter of me dressing inappropriately and getting the attention my clothing choices “deserved.”

Written by Alexis Bourgerie

Why do I Feel the Need for Male Validation?

I have very comfortably and confidently labeled myself a feminist since I was young. I am independent, outspoken and understand the injustices we face as women living in the bodies that we do. However, something that I struggle with living in the reality of our patriarchal world is this feeling of the need for male validation. This struggle is definitely intrinsically connected to patriarchy and I often try to combat this feeling. I have been socialized to believe that certain characteristics and actions of mine should be validated by male friends, romantic partners, co-workers, etc… This has been something as small as the importance of a male friend of mine saying what great taste I had in music or something larger such as myself feeling unattractive because of a lack of recent male attention. Even recently with the Ratchet Molly Party situation, I was talking to a friend on the phone about needing to reach out to male friend X and male friend Y, she says to me “No, we dictate this conversation and then we tell them to spread what we are saying.” She was totally right but I felt that our perspective was not complete without some sort of male affirmation.

I spoke about this idea of male validation with a couple of my friends who date women and they also echoed similar sentiments in their interactions with men. Even in non-romantic settings of male-female relationships, many women have this feeling (conscious and subconscious) of wanting to be validated by males. I see this as such a sad symptom of a world where male domination and power is something we are too comfortable accepting.

Written by Sarah Brammer-Shlay

How Harassment Feels

In the middle of nowhere I try to find a taxi to take me home, but every time I stand out on the sidewalk, I get called a prostitute, or someone honks at me and startles me.

I walk to a street that I can’t pronounce and I call someone, drunk, and crying for a ride.

Someone approaches me to tell me how pretty I am.

At a train stop I tell someone to leave me alone after a minute of their compliments.

He yells that he’ll fuck me. He’ll rape me. Stupid bitch.

The train station workers tell me I can’t pass. They tell me I’m too pretty to let pass. There is no-one around for about a 1/4 of a mile. I start to panic. I walk around this guy. He starts to laugh with his buddies and they try to block me so I can’t walk through.

I hear them laughing behind me when I run away.

When I finally get to my friend I am crying. I need a hug.

She says: “guys are just like that sometimes. You just have to ignore them, you know?”

I don’t like to go out anymore.
Whose world is getting smaller?

Written by Madelaine Kluesner

Stereotypes and Sexist Assumptions

A few years go I met with my male professor to have my midterm evaluation in one of my drawing classes. I thought I was just going to be judged on my drawing ability. However, he had another agenda–after commenting on my drawings he, out of the blue, told me that I had a pretty face but if I wanted to find a husband it was necessary that I learned how to cook. The conversation continued for about an hour, with an absence of questions such as if I actually wanted to get married, if I wanted to marry a man, if cooking was important to me, or in general what was really important to me, not to mention that the conversation was completely unrelated to my performance in the class.

His assumptions that just because I am a woman and I should learn how to cook, or need a husband to be happy does not encapsulate me as a person. I’ll admit during the meeting I was confused and even laughed about it afterwards. However, as I reflected on the situation I realized how typical and stereotypical these types of assumptions and statements are in our heteronormative society. It’s the simplest conversations like this one that made me realize the importance of talking about sexism even if it is small, or said with thought of good intentions.

Written by Megan Leys

Without My Consent

I was lying in bed with a man. It was late into the evening. We were watching a movie and proceeded to turn the movie off. We began to kiss. By this point, we had started hanging out more seriously in the past few weeks. He began to remove his clothes. I didn’t protest. He removed my clothes. I didn’t protest. We had consumed a few drinks earlier that evening. I had entered his apartment, his room, his bed. We were on his bed and we were kissing and nothing was said by either of us. My clothes were removed and nothing was said. With nothing said, he forced himself, unprotected, inside of me. He didn’t have a condom on. I finally said something; I asked him to stop. He stopped. I left and have since removed him from my life.

I was ashamed. I didn’t want to go that far. But I assumed that it was my fault. I was tipsy, I entered his apartment, I entered in his bed, I let him kiss me and take off my clothes–so I thought it was my fault. A lot of shame and blaming of myself has come along with experiences like this. Through support and love I am healing. I am coming to accept that he never asked and he never put a condom on–and that was wrong. They say, “Consent is Sexy.” But consent is not just “sexy,” it’s necessary.

Written by Jenna Vagts

The Fight to be Taken Seriously

A constant struggle I face as a woman is the fight to be taken seriously when discussing topics and issues that have traditionally been designated to the male sphere–politics, philosophy, economics, etc. A while ago, I engaged in a long political discussion with a man whose views differed significantly from my own. The conversation got pretty heated as we delved into the finer points of the policy in question. The man’s response to our exchange? He asked me out. He told me he thought it was “cute” that I was so passionate in challenging his rationale. Why does it have to be cute that I have a mind of my own? Why is it that when a man speaks about something important it’s considered intellectual but when a woman speaks on the same topic it’s considered trivial? I’d like to say this was an isolated incident, but I can think of countless other situations in which a man belittled or made light of my opinions solely based on the fact that it was a woman who had them. And this experience seems to be especially tied to my speaking out about something related to women’s rights: “Oh, you got riled up over that blatantly sexist movie? How adorable. You think women deserve equal pay for equal work? Precious.” It may seem small in comparison to the many other challenges we face as women, but this type of reaction from otherwise intelligent and educated men is exactly why we still need feminism. Because I shouldn’t have to work twice as hard as a man just to be taken seriously, and I shouldn’t have to have my thoughts and feelings discredited simply because I am a woman.

Written by Sarah Mintz

Dismissals, Slurs, and Objectification

A couple years back, an argument arose on Facebook between some friends of mine about a sexist ad, portraying a nearly naked woman on a motorcycle. My friends who spoke out, merely calling it “gross,” were insulted. I screenshot the entire conversation, and the following comments were posted:

“Watch out, there’s a rogue feminist on the loose. Better call animal control”
“Go back to hell you spawn of Satan.”
“Can you tell me, definitively, why sex should not be the role of a woman in society? If you really think about it I know you will realize it’s a difficult question. Support it with facts and evidence, try not to use your opinion.”
“Unwarranted outspokenness is arrogant and disrespectful.”
“I feel like at some point, you would have to stop and think ‘maybe this is just how the world is’ and accept sex as a marketable asset”

Facebook arguments don’t often lead anywhere positive, but I got involved and tried to stick up for my friends. I was called a “worthless whore of a human being,” and was also told that because of my history with a male friend, I was an object:

“All you women have done more than I ever could to perpetuate the stereotype that feminists are outspoken and belligerent and in Safia’s case that women are objects.”

I was extremely hurt by these comments and it took a while to brush them off, even knowing this person was uninformed and intentionally mean. In a progressive community it can be easy to think these things don’t happen anymore- but dismissals, slurs, and objectification became real for me after this event.

Written by Safia El Hmamsi

Social Pressure and Physical Appearance 

An issue I have been struggling with recently is the extreme contradiction I feel when it comes to attempting to improve my physical appearance. I feel contradicted because it bothers me that the importance of physical appearance is often an external value that women in particular are expected to live up to. Still, I can seem to separate myself from this value. Sometimes I avoid putting extra effort into how I look, but this doesn’t change that my perception of how I look is tied to my confidence and how I feel that day.

The worst instance of this was a few weeks ago when I was getting ready for a meeting as I normally would until I realized that my primary preparations were physical – the right clothes, cleanliness, makeup etc. This goes against what I feel is more important, like what I could contribute or what questions should have prepared. It may be true that my appearance does influence people’s perceptions of me, but when I fix my appearance am I only supporting and maintaining the expectation? I feel that the only way out is for more people to acknowledge and challenge these implicit values that guide our thoughts and actions.

Written By Lexis Manzara

Street Harassment

While I was waiting to pick a few kids up outside of Anthony Middle School a car full of teenage boys drove past me. It was a lovely spring day so they had their windows down. As the car came closer I started to make out the hollering I could hear from far away, “Bitch, slut, mother****** bitch, get out of here you slut!” I had to helplessly watch the car drive past and make eye contact with the men as they yelled at me. I had no time to react, and was too flabbergasted to think of anything to say back. I felt small, alone, and insignificant. They had won.

Written By Sonya Kuznetsov

Objectifying and Sexualizing My Relationship

As someone who has started dating another woman throughout the past few months the number of comments and propositions that have been made by men about sleeping with the two of us are more than I am comfortable saying.

Flattering–to some maybe. Uncomfortable–extremely.

I love men and I love women. I don’t however love women so that men can watch us when we’re together, or stare at us dancing together, or sneer or grin or make subtle or not so subtle comments about us together, or have them thrust their bodies and wink.

I’m not in a relationship for men to give me attention. I’m not dating a woman for men to dance with the both of us. I want to express myself, hold her hand, dance, and kiss her as any heterosexual couple would do in public. Why shouldn’t I be able to?

Think about it. Have you ever been approached by a total stranger who you’ve never met before and told that your loved one is hot? Have you ever been approached at a bar and had a guy put his hands on you and your significant other’s waist at the same time and then make a snarky comment about how he wants to get with you? How did you feel? How would you feel if that were you?

My struggle is real. To some maybe it’s cute or flattering or hot or sexy. To me it’s uncomfortable. To you, maybe you roll your eyes and say “oh yea…Maria that must be so hard…” in a sarcastic tone. To me I feel violated. I feel sexualized and I feel humiliated. I feel like a joke and I feel objectified. My struggle is real and I want it to stop.

Written by Maria Schneider

Experiencing Sexual Violence and the Process of Healing

When I think about a struggle that has deeply affected me as a woman, my mind wanders to events that I have tried to ignore and block out for years. Along with blocking out these memories, I put up walls to my family and loved ones. Because my mind wasn’t fully matured at the time, I thought I would be a “burden” or in fact ruin the boy’s life and happiness who did these things to me. In doing so, I lost my happiness and self love.

For a few years of my childhood, I was molested continuously by a boy who was the son of my dad’s friend. The boy (let’s call him Jake) was a few years older than me and we would have play dates and sleep-overs. I remember the first time it happened. I had a bed set up for myself on the ground next to his bed. Jake’s mom tucked us in and got us ready for the night’s sleep. After she left, he came down to the floor with a “Calvin and Hobbes” comic book. I wasn’t yet reading fluently at the time so I had no idea what he was reading me. As Jake read to me, he would say all these big words and then ask if I knew what they were or meant. Of course I would reply with a “no”. At first he would explain what it was on the body (even though I’m pretty sure they were made up words or not really in the story). After he explained a few words to me, he then went on to show me where they were located on my body. The last thing I remember of this event was Jake touching me between my legs, along with a sharp and deep pain. I managed to block everything after that out, and to this day, haven’t been able to recover the end of the story. I know this wasn’t the last time it happened. I think it was too painful for me to be present in those moments, so I have blocked them out of my memory.

It has taken me years to be able to talk about this, but it is taking longer to fully heal myself from it. Over the years I have been dealing with sexual addiction issues, self love/body issues, trust issues, relationship issues, and depression. For those who know me, this might come as a surprise. Over the years I learned how to hide how I was truly feeling at times, or even numb my feelings. That also has affected me in a negative way and this is one reason I am deciding to open up. I share this with you because it is helping my healing process, and hopefully it can help anybody else who has been through something similar.

Written by Amy Miles

Our stories are frustrating and unsettling; our struggles are great and they are small. The real life accounts shared in this post cover a variety of different issues that require further discussion and explanation. The women of Real Life Athena will be continually working to expand on these topics, in hopes to connect the emotions we feel from reading personal stories to more in-depth analyses of the issues at stake.

The women in this collaboration were brave and gracious to share their experiences. Sharing our stories can help to raise awareness of issues that occur everyday. Our stories can inform others of how their actions deeply impact those around them. Sharing our stories has the power to help us, and those around us, to heal.

Our struggle is real and we are in this fight to end it.

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