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The first time I experienced sexism was when I was in the seventh grade.
I overheard a conversation between my male teacher and one of the male students in my class. I don’t remember his name, so I’ll just call him Thomas. He wasn’t doing well in the class and my teacher had enough of it. The teacher then made it known to Thomas that a girl had the highest grade in the class. That girl, no surprise, was me. The look on the Thomas’ face as those words left the teacher’s mouth is engraved in my mind. His mouth fell open ever so slightly, just enough to know that he surprised, but still closed enough to know that it didn’t really matter to him that a girl had a better grade than him.
I was only twelve and I had no idea what it meant by him telling Thomas such a thing. I still had the innocence of thinking that maybe, just maybe, a girl isn’t supposed to be smarter than a boy. That girls can’t like or do the same things as boys. It felt like it was etched in my mind that girls can’t compare to boys in anyway, even though my mother always taught my sister and I that we can do anything we set our minds to.
. . . . . . . .
My next experience was with a man who thought football was just a “man’s” sport.
I was simply minding my own business, filling up my car for an hour drive home from Ball State to Indianapolis on New Year’s Eve, when I had the unfortunate run-in with a man. I was dressed head to toe in Indianapolis Colts gear because they’re my favorite football team. As I was returning to my car after retrieving my receipt from inside the gas station, out of nowhere, I heard laughing. At the pump next to me stood a man. I just assumed he was laughing at his passenger. I made it all the way to my car when I heard him say, “Honey, do you even know what a football is?” I looked around, and I was the only other person at the gas station. And then he said, “Sweetie, I’m talking to you. Women shouldn’t be able to wear football gear if they don’t know what a football is.” I shook my head, said a few choice words, got in my car and locked the doors.
The way he said “honey” and “sweetie” was so demeaning and degrading, that for a split second, I was ashamed of being a woman who enjoyed watching football. As I drove off, I ripped my Colts sweatshirt off because I felt like I shouldn’t be wearing it. It took me a while to realize that it’s wasn’t me who had it backwards, it was him.
. . . . . . . .
I was at my place of work when this next experience happened.
A Congressman was holding a talk at the bakery I worked at in Muncie, and we were so busy, my head was spinning. On my way back to the back to help my manager with something, a man barked at me, saying “get back here,” so I could help him, even though there were three other girls working in the same area. I helped him. I was polite. I finally get his doughnut on a plate and his milk out of the fridge. At the register, I told him to have a nice day, and he said to me, “Okay, you can go back to the kitchen now.”
It was like a slap in the face. He seemed to think that I needed permission to do my job correctly, when in fact, I didn’t. I remember being so overwhelmed with how busy it was and the shock that came from his words that I actually had to a take a few minutes to compose myself. Tears slipped from my eyes uncontrollably, at first because of his words, but mainly because I let some man’s words impact how I felt about myself. That day, I vowed to never allow myself to feel that way ever again.
. . . . . . . .
These three scenarios aren’t the only times I’ve experienced sexism, but they are the ones that have shaped me as a person. I no longer stand for it, I fight it. And I am not the only one. Women are coming forward against men who think they can do whatever they want to women, when they want too. Women are coming forward against not getting paid the same amount as men FOR DOING THE EXACT SAME JOB (and probably doing it better). Women are fighting for reproductive rights & basically the right to our own damn bodies. It’s going to be a long and hard fight, but us women have the strength, intelligence, and patience to fight until we get what we deserve.