Dear men, you can treat us right

Almost every woman knows how it feels to be harassed in the streets; and there are plenty of videos that show situations where we are approached by men just because they perceive us as fragile or someone who will understand such approach as a compliment — women do not even need to be wearing clothes that reveal too much to have this unpleasant experience. I have passed through some situations that made me want to be a man when I would go out, and this is also a proof that sexism exists and affect us. There is a heavy weight on our back since the day of our birth, a weight that does not belong to us.

I carried that weight for a long time, and I am still fighting it. When we try our best to not be seen as sexy or attractive, when it is fear that shape our way of dressing, there is something wrong in it. Surely, no woman should have to be worried of the kind of outfit she will wear to not being harassed by a man acting like a predator. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to read or hear comments from women blaming on other women’s clothes for rape, affirming that women are responsible for the abuse.

We experience sexism everywhere: through media, at home, at school, in the streets, and at work. Living in a society where the majority of the best job positions are filled with White people, I comprehend that I have more chances to succeed than people of Colour; nevertheless, as a woman, to climb the career ladder towards a leadership position is something challenging — and that is the other side of the coin: being underprivileged because I am a woman.

Many years ago, I started to work in a publishing house and this was my first contact with a corporate environment, which would make me experience the burden of sexism in a more tangible form. Because I am far from being an “alpha woman” — when it comes to an aggressive professional approach — for many years in the corporate field, my pacific personality would be praised as an incommensurable female asset to my team according to my male bosses. By being a woman, my male coworkers would assume that I needed help with difficult tasks, those ones that “belong” to men, specially related to numbers and technology. Countless times, I would be asked to no hesitate in asking them for help. It is interesting to notice that, if a woman, in this case, refuses the help offered she can be seen as an ungrateful person. If it is the man who refuses it instead, he is not perceived in a negative way.

The everyday benevolent sexism that I faced taught me that I was not going to be given many opportunities of leadership, especially if there was a male coworker that had not been promoted yet.

On the other hand, reflecting on hostile sexism, the discriminatory attitudes were not so open; nevertheless, it could be observed in many situations. I could, specially, sense confusion in the eyes of my male coworkers when I would suggest effective solutions for difficult problems; I could observe their expression changing from a surprised to an irritated face, the discussion would be dominated by the male coworker in a patronizing manner, trying to deconstruct my arguments as if we were in a battlefield, reflecting his misogynistic standpoint. It is important to consider that the main problem was not only that ideas were not taken seriously, but that they were destroyed due to someone’s gender.

Although, much of the oppressiveness of those coworkers, and even bosses, could be seen as unconscious, when you are in an environment where sexism is the rule, you can face a real identity crisis, asking yourself what you did wrong, doubting of your own capacity. Some people can argue that there is too much talk about women being stereotyped, diminished, and that sexism is not so real, the political correctness is destroying relationships and women can be as succesfull as any man — the world, as they say, rewards the brave and not the gender. However, if this is the case, why are there so many men and a few women in leadership roles? Why is the gender pay gap still so wide? In fact, the discrimination and inequalities that mainly affect women in the labour market is a reflection of what happens in all the other aspects of their lives. By denying sexism as a reality, it will only increase it. As men played a crucial role supporting women’s suffrage, and much of women’s right is due to their commitment to the cause, sexism will only be eliminated if men recognize it as real and repudiate every small sign of it every day and everywhere, from the locker-room to the meeting room.