Sexism is alive and well, my friends, and don’t even try and tell me that it isn’t. Somehow America (and the rest of the world) is still struggling to deal with large scale cases of gender inequality like the wage gap, an ambivalence toward sexual assault, and a total disregard for a woman’s right to have control over her own body. They’re big deal problems feminists are always trying to push in the right direction, but these aren’t the only day to day issues to keep on your radar. For every macroaggression women face, there are microaggressions from guys to match. If you aren’t familiar with these terms, a macroaggression is one of those big issues I mentioned above.
Meanwhile, a microaggression is a small, everyday action people may not even realize they’re doing, but that still puts across derogatory implications or slights toward a minority. Microaggressions against women may seem small, but they still largely contribute to the huge, complicated mess of institutionalized sexism in our society, and they can still make you feel worthless or infuriated or hopeless. No one should have to put up with that, so here are 10 microaggressions from guysto watch out for and put a stop to the next time you find yourself or a fellow woman in the crosshairs.
If you’ve heard of microaggressions from guys, you’ve probably heard of mansplaining, as it’s the one most commonly talked about, and exhaustingly prevalent in our society. If you aren’t familiar with the term, this pretty much sums it up:
The practice is based on men assuming they know more than women. Usually when it occurs the woman in the situation says something, and the man corrects her on it, whether he’s just picking at a small detail, restating what she already said, or making a conjecture that seems more “right” to him, even if he knows just as much or little as she does. Other times it’s just guys assuming that a woman is wrong and doesn’t know about something, while they on the other hand do. And it most infuriatingly occurs to women who are experts on whatever they’re discussing, but are still being corrected by men who, you know, aren’t experts. It’s a painful experience, never to be tolerated. This doesn’t mean men can’t explain things to you. They just shouldn’t be explaining things they’ve automatically assumed you don’t know about, or using particularly condescending tones, words, or simplified explanations.
2. “Trying to Help”
The other day my roommate was filling up her tires at a gas station, something she does on a regular basis. A man came over and offered to do it for her, saying he worked at a tire store. She politely declined, thanked him, said she knows how to do it. But he insisted. He kept offering, and, despite the fact that she said no each time, eventually he just took the pump from her hands and started doing it himself. So yeah, maybe this guy was thinking he was just being nice or trying to help, but that supposedly nice thing ended the second he became pushy and eventually took something out of a stranger’s hands. I don’t care who you are, you don’t get to take things out of people’s hands. That’s something we all learned a long time ago. You don’t get to force control over someone else’s situation . You don’t get to just do whatever you want to a woman, especially after she said no. That’s a terrible and sexist assumption. And women, you do not have to put up with a guy doing something you don’t want him to just because he does it “trying to help,” and you’re worried about offending him. This is one of the really annoying microaggressions from guys.
3. Hitting on You in Uncalled for Spaces
I’m not totally against people hitting on each other in public spaces. Meeting people you might want to date is hard and sometimes you just have to go for it. But the thing is there is still an appropriate time and place for this kind of thing. The second women can’t go anywhere or do anything without being hit on for no good reason, there’s a problem. It really is crazy, y’all. You can’t even sell things online without some guy being like if I buy this can I get your number. And that’s really uncalled for.
Sometimes you just want to be able to live your life without having to worry about guys hitting on you and approaching you. So don’t be afraid to tell someone to step off if they invade your space when you’re trying to just be a person, separate from dating. You don’t have to crush their spirits. (I mean obviously you can if you want.) They took a risk. But you also don’t have to fake interest. Most girls put off signals if they’re really looking to be hit on. The rest are just trying to shop, or eat, or exist, so there’s nothing wrong with you telling him to read the situation better next time and kthxbye.
4. Innately Sexist Language
There are these words we only describe women with, words like bossy, nagging, clingy, or needy. They’re used to immediately put women down for doing just completely normal things, like making a plan or speaking up. When my friends and I talk about our relationships, we get scared of being too needy, which basically just means the totally normal practice of having needs. We don’t want to need too much from whatever guys we’re seeing because then they’ll see us as “needy,” but this idea is sexist in itself. Oh, you as a person need things? Like certain levels of attention or affection from your significant other? Wouldn’t want to show that. If your guy needs something you’ll do whatever for him. But women have to quell their own natural needs like for words of affirmation or quality time in order to avoid that sexist label. Women back down from and apologize for taking charge in situations because they don’t want to be see as “bossy,” when men would be commended for doing the same and seen as leaders. Don’t let people put you down for totally normal and even empowering actions and feelings. This is one of the microaggression from guys that is super common and super annoying.
5. Judgements Based on Double Standards
Our society runs wrought with double standards. Women aren’t supposed to be sexually active, or date a lot of guys, but guys are celebrated for sleeping with a lot of people. If a guy walks around without a shirt it’s no big deal, but women are supposed to dress conservatively, and don’t you even dare show your nipples. Those normal body parts attached to you that actually have a meaningful function in the life cycle are dirty. Women need to settle down and have kids by a certain age. Men are just “eligible bachelors,” if they stay single later in life. This is seriously so annoying and one of the microaggressions from guys I cannot stand. Pay attention to when you’re subjected to criticism for things that men aren’t judged for, or maybe are even respected for. Let them know whatever they’re saying is based on the idea that women don’t get to do what men can do, and that’s kind of the definition of sexism. Definitely one of the microaggressions from guys that no one wants to put up with!
6. Expecting Happy to Be your Only Emotion
If you don’t want to smile or be outrightly happy in one particular moment, you don’t have to. Hey, if you don’t ever want to be outrightly happy, you don’t have to. It’s exhausting to always be bright or bubbly, and sometimes you’re just not in the mood. And yet, for some reason, there is this idea that women are always supposed to be in the mood. Next time the guy at the office tells you to put that smile back on your face, tell him that’s a very sexist idea. Ask him if he would expect a man in the office to always be smiling. Tell him yes, you are a human being, and therefore you may not naturally smile the majority of the time. It’s not a resting bitch face. It’s just how my face looks. And how I carry myself really doesn’t have to do with you or your messed up expectations. Not sorry about it. This is one of the microaggressions from guys that is so frustrating.
7. Being Too Female
In the time that sexist actions aren’t spent trying to fit women in little cookie cutter boxes of oppression, they’re being used to accuse women of being too female. What does this look like? Basically being told that you deserve to be treated less seriously because you exhibit physical or verbal cues that are seen as “female.” For instance, being told not to use vocal fry because you’re less likely to be listened to. Some feminists took up this fight awhile back, telling young women to reclaim their strong voice, rather than speaking in that lower vocal register associated with people like Kim Kardashian. But that comes with the assumption that a woman like Kim Kardashian deserves to be listened to less, which is pretty messed up. She speaks in a way that’s associated with being female, and therefore isn’t worth your time.
The thing is there is no right way to be a woman. Women should not be punished for acting how they want. Being told by guys it’s a good thing you’re “not like other girls,” implies that there’s something wrong with being like the typical girl. Like there’s something wrong with being a girl at all. It’s a sexist idea to be rejected at all fronts. You can act as stereotypically feminine as you choose. It is irrelevant to how you should be treated as a person.
8. Addressing Women in Lesser Terms
My mom used to roast my dad for calling the women who worked in his office together “girls.” She wouldn’t let him talk about grown women like they were something less, like they deserved to be treated less seriously then their male counterparts. Because that’s what his language was suggesting, regardless of how he truly felt. Don’t let anyone speak down to you. This can happen in really small ways you wouldn’t expect. When a guy asks you and your friend just normally chatting what you’re “gossiping about” in a condescending tone, as if that’s all women ever do. It’s so rude and one of the microaggressions from guys all girls have to put up with.
When someone assumes you spent your afternoon shopping, like you don’t sometimes have other things to do with your time. When I told my boss in casual conversation that I didn’t need the thrill of riding a motorcycle in my life, he said very offhandedly, “Yeah,when you want a thrill you could always just go buy a new dress.” Without you doing anything, you might just be confronted with someone speaking to you in a “lesser” way due to the fact that you’re a woman. And when that happens, point it out to whoever spoke to you. Ask them why they made that assumption, or why they used that language with you and if they thought about the implications it had. People may not know, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell them. This is one of the microaggressions from guys that every women has had to deal with and that every woman can’t stand.
9. Assuming You Can Do Less
There’s just this insane notion that’s been planted deep inside so many of us that because someone is a girl or a woman, they can do less, on all accounts. Know less. Think on lower levels. Run less. Lift less. Endure less. And it’s all BS. A common microaggression you’re definitely going to run into once you start paying attention is this assumption people are going to have of you. That no matter how much experience you have, you still know less than a male counterpart. I have played ultimate frisbee for 3 years. I’m not amazing at it, definitely not the best, but I know how it works. And yet anytime I, or any other experienced girl, plays with a guy in co-ed ultimate, we get pretty basic things explained to us, or basic throws not made to us. There’s just an unstated assumption that we can do less, despite our experience, and it’s super frustrating. You know what you’re capable of. Show that and refuse to be treated like you amount to anything less. Don’t put up with these microaggressions from guys.
10. Pretending Women’s Rights are Already Equal
When in the history of the world has it ever been okay to tell someone to “calm down” when they’re upset? To tell them that their “overreacting?” It’s true for anyone: if you’re already upset, it’s freakin’ infuriating to be told your feelings are invalid and that you should calm down. And these days in our current administration I’m upset nearly all of the time. Whenever I remember that the prosecution of rape has a statute of limitations. Whenever I think about how women can be unsafe just walking down the street.
Whenever I am reminded that we freely elected a president we all know thinks it’s fine to sexually assault women because there will be no repercussions. And he’s right isn’t he? Because there weren’t repercussions. We still elected him. So don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re overreacting. You’re not. No matter how “small” microaggressions from guys seems, it’s contributing to a terrible problem, and the only way we can confront such an issue fully is by being aware of its full parameters and actively working together against the oppression women face on the large and small scale.