There is something so compelling about The Everyday Sexism Project that I find myself reading anecdote after anecdote in a compulsive fuzz of empathy and anger. It’s the little things. The little things that viewed singularly can, and often are, dismissed as aberrations, but when viewed as a whole clearly make up the fabric of our lives.
What is so devastating about the Everyday Sexism Project is that each little snippet shared by the women who contribute is uniquely horrible and yet completely standard. They are the consistent punctuation’s to our lives. To be borne often without comment, to be internalised with shame and self loathing. I can barely even described how it feels to see stories that run so parallel to my own, lived out by women I have never met. The quiet, unassuming little stories that so often slip by without our noticing. The little pinches.
I have been thinking a lot recently as to something else that could come out from the Everyday Sexism Project. Shared experiences of everyday resistance. Those times when sexism has been addressed, responded to, called out. Through a little comment or full blown campaign, I want to read those stories too.
I used to work for this guy who made comics. One time last year, I was at the after party of a promotional event I had helped organise for his newest comic book series. It was in a bar, I was running around selling comics, talking to people, etc. In bright and breezy work mode, I started chatting to a guy who helped put on the event. He immediately started to barrage me with questions about my interest in comics. What did I read? Who was my favourite comic book artist? But not in a friendly, ‘let’s chat about comics we both read’ way. In a suspicious, ‘what are your credentials?’ kind of way. He then went on to ask me if I considered myself a ‘geek girl.’ Confused by the implications of this term I replied noncommitally with a ‘maybe? I guess you could say that?’ he sneered back at me ‘ You self proclaimed geek girls are all the same, you love having the pick of the guys.’ Which is when I politely excused myself.
I couldn’t say anything to the tongue pierced little pustule because I was working. Or maybe I just didn’t feel able to say anything. Either way, I was humiliated and furious.
On the journey home that night at about 11pm I was sitting alone on the train to New Cross from London Bridge. My carriage contained a few people, mostly business men making their boozy way back home from central. I happened to catch the eye of one such business man as I sat down. The train was a couple of minutes leaving, and I could see this guy staring at me from across the carriage. I was using my book as a prop in an attempt to ignore him, but sure enough the arsehole decided to make his way over from his seat and come and sit next to me. I had fucking had it. I turned to face him. I said in a surprisingly calm voice ‘What exactly do you think you’re doing?’. He looked at me blankly and burbled something. I continued.
‘You have been staring at me.’
‘Staring I wasn’t staring…’
‘Yes staring at me from across the carriage, and now uninvited you have come and sat next to me. If you want my advice, you will stand up, walk back over to your seat, and sit down.’
His gluey eyes were open wide.
‘Now. Are you going to take my advice?’
He got up and shame faced, stumbled back to his seat.
The two events are of course linked. If I hadn’t felt so wound up by the evening events, I may very well have shuffled uncomfortably when this guy sat next to me, and attempted to pretend it wasn’t happening. But instead, I reacted immediately, and faced his behaviour head on. It may not seem a big deal, effectively telling a drunk guy to leave me alone. But it is one of the only instances where I feel I have been able to assert myself against a form of everyday sexism that has been directed at me, in a way that actually worked.
When ever I feel shitty about feeling too ashamed, or scared, or just not strong enough to respond to the sexism I encounter, I reflect back on that interaction on the train. It gives me hope.
I want to hear and read the tales of other women’s victories. So I can carry these stories with me through my life, and take courage from them. Sexism is everyday, but so also is our resistance to it.