20 Sexist Things I've Heard as a Woman—and How I Could've Persisted in Response
On Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren attempted to read a letter about Sen. Jeff Sessions, the now-confirmed nominee for attorney general on the Senate floor. The 1986 letter, written by the late Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, was submitted in opposition to Sessions’ nomination at the time for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. (You can read King’s full letter here.)
But Warren was interrupted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who formally silenced her with a little-used rule that prevents senators from verbally smearing colleagues. Though Rule 19 is intended to promote decorum during civil debate, the incident took on a broader stance after McConnell noted that Warren “was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Whether you agree with Warren’s actions or not (and there are plenty of strong, controversial reactions and opinions being shared on conservative and liberal sides!), #ShePersisted took the Internet by storm, and for good reason. Why? Because women have been told forever to behave a certain way—i.e., be quiet, agreeable, helpful, small, pretty—and we’ve experienced enough mansplaining for a lifetime.
And you know what? We persist.
We persist in the face of unrealistic expectations. We face “warnings” and “explanations” on a daily basis. And yes, sometimes we break rules to get shit done or make our point—usually because we are fed up. In that spirit, here are all the tiny, sexist things I’ve heard as a woman over the years, and what I wish I’d said in response, instead of falling silent.
1. Is it that time of the month?
Yo, men, any time you suggest that a woman is incapable of handling her emotional state because she’s on her period, you need to think again.
2. Can you stop interrogating me already?
I once asked a dude at a party what he liked to do in his free time, and this was his response. Lol, yes, because women who want to make conversation are SO DEMANDING.
3. May I speak to your husband?
No, because I’m the one whose name is on the account.
4. You’re such a bitch.
Heard this one in graduate school after I told an ex-boyfriend, “No, I’m not going to give you a ride home after class.” (He proceeded to get in my car anyway.)
5. Oh, so you're really smart, aren't you?
Yes, I am. Maybe don't sound so surprised.
6. I can’t believe you’ve slept with that many people.
If I don’t have sex, I’m frigid or a prude or inexperienced; if I prefer to be sexually active, I’m a slut deemed damaged goods. Since I can’t win, I think I’ll just do what I want—which is none of your business.
7. When are you getting married?
Already did. Sorry, you weren’t invited!
8. Aren’t you cute?
Things that are cute: puppies, valentine's cards, mini-sized anything, and chubby babies. You might be trying to flatter me, but calling a grown-ass woman cute is condescending and infantilizing.
9. Oh, you take your kid to daycare?
Nah, I just leave him at home all day by himself . . . Yes, I let a stranger care for my child all day, but I don’t mind because I really love my career.
If I had a penny for the number of times a random guy told me to smile for no reason whatsoever, I could pay off my student loans. My resting bitch face actually has nothing to do with you. Surprise!
11. You won't like that job; you’ll have to be focused on technology.
Oh, right. Girls aren’t good at math or science or tech-y things. I’ll just stand over here in the corner and play secretary.
12. Wow, you're cool . . . for a girl.
You do realize that the "cool girl" stereotype is simply a phase where women think they have to like everything men like and never, ever complain, right? Thank god I'm over that.
13. But you're better at [insert household chore]
Yes. I am. Because I do it all the time—your turn to become the master.
14. Act like you’re having fun!
Not here to entertain you, #notsorry.
15. What did you wear?
Clothes, like everybody else.
16. Is your husband baby-sitting?
He’s parenting. Can you believe I let him do that sometimes? I mean, he made half of the kid, so I figured I could let him.
17. You’re sensitive, huh?
Feelings are the worst. Ugh. I’m sorry, I should have pretended to be a robot so we didn’t have to share any emotions.
18. Feminists are angry about everything.
If I’m angry about anything, it’s the fact that women are typically paid 80 percent of what men are paid in nearly every occupation, and the pay gap is even worse for women of color.
19. Can’t you take a joke?
Let’s break down what just happened: you were a total jerk, and I called you out, and you got super defensive. Now, if you were funny, that'd be another story.
20. You're bossy.
Other words for bossy being decisive, assertive, powerful, competent, demanding and firm—and I'm happy to be called those things.
Sarcasm and politics aside, I’d put #ShePersisted on my tombstone in a heartbeat. (Even though McConnell may not have meant it as a compliment!) Let all women persist in their passion, their fierce power, their intelligence and their effort to make change.