7 Sexist Things Feminists Have Said to Me

We feminists say sexist things all the time and we don't even realize it.
Publish date:
April 18, 2016
sexism, gender bias, anti-feminism, Feminism In Practice

I never meant to be a feminist. It's just something that's come with being a young woman who wants to be heard and to matter. When I think about the need I have — the beating desire I feel in my heart — to stand up and say, in so many situations, "I am a feminist!" or "That is sexist!" it, more than anything, makes me sad.

I wish we didn't live in a time in which there still exists the need for this movement. I wish it was over already. But it's far from over.

This election year, like 2008, brings with it so, so much sexism. While the focus was once Sarah Palin's hotness vs. Hillary's coldness, it's now Hillary's evilness vs. Bernie's Bernie-ness. It's insane to me how Hillary can't catch a damn break. She invented universal health care, or "Hillarycare," in 1993, yet she's treated by Democrats in 2016 like she's George W. in drag.

She's the first woman in the history of the country who's managed to run for president (twice!) and she's been able to do that by taking the same road as every male politician before her who also ran for president, yet she's publicly discussed like her doing those same things is somehow, now, for the first time ever, unbelievably wrong. That attitude is sexist. And it's coming from a lot of feminists.

We feminists say sexist things all the time, and we don't realize it. I've said sexist things and held sexist beliefs about myself and all women, and sometimes didn't understand for years and years that my line of thinking was unfair toward and harmful for half the population — the half to which I belong. It is because we fourth-wave feminists are born to and raised in a world that is still sexist. Part of our life's work is learning to question everything society teaches us about ourselves, to find out what is actually true for our experiences as women and what is not. It's a lot to do, and it opens doors for lots of mistakes and missteps.

Here's an example: It has been interesting and encouraging to witness so many female pop stars realize they are feminists in the last year or two, but if these women really wanted to do something for the cause, they might consider denouncing their sexist hits of yesteryear instead of continuing to preform them for audiences of tens of thousands of impressionable girls. Easier said that done, of course. There's money to be made from those songs. There are people benefiting from sexism. It's going to be very hard to make it go away for good and to end the need for feminism once and for all.

The only way I know — at this point in time — to burn the shreds of sexist cannon that still remain in my mind and soul is to recognize them when they surface, and then analyze and discuss them until they're gone.

Living this way makes me very aware of sexist things that are said to and around me. It makes me especially sensitive to sexist things said to me by fellow feminists. Here are a few for thought:

"You date talented men, so you'll be fine."

This was said to me by a professor in graduate school a week before graduation. The professor was an accomplished man who was married to an equally accomplished woman. The professor was also someone who said he admired my work in college and made it possible for me to attend graduate school with a fellowship. Yet when school was ending, my future success in the real world came down to the type of men I dated in graduate school. This slime has coated many of my thoughts about my ability to succeed ever since he said it. I wish he hadn't.

"I didn't put three years into this relationship to be left alone at 27."

This was said to me by an awesome and badass friend while she was retelling the story of a fight with her live-in boyfriend to me over dinner. She's accomplished so much on her own that I was surprised that she too fell prey to the ridiculous idea that a single woman in her late-twenties and beyond is somehow a woman who's worthless.

This is one of the most impervious thoughts regarding women we have in today's society — that being single, or unmarried, or alone, while aging (something no person, regardless of gender, can escape) is bad. This thought has led friends of mine to marry before they're ready, have children before they're ready, and give up on their dreams before they tried to achieve them.

"You better find a guy who can pay for the life you're accustomed to."

This was said to me while I was in high school by a female family member who's succeeded again and again in her chosen field, which has led her to great financial success. When I first heard it, my instant thought was, "Don't you mean I should work really hard to pay for the life I'm accustomed to, like you did?" Her words still pop into my head all the time. I wonder why her first instinct wasn't that I could be a breadwinner like her.

"It's too late for me to start over in a new career at 29."

Along the same lines as the above comment, this was said by another badass friend of mine who's living alone in New York City, something that's insanely hard to do in and of itself. It is true what they sing; this chick made it there, she can make it anywhere doing anything, any time she wants. The only thing standing in her way is this crazy thought.

"There's more at risk in your story if it's a girl who goes missing."

This is a note that was recently given to me by an awesome female writer who creates complex, strong female protagonists. I was totally taken aback when I read the note. Why wouldn't as much be at risk if a little boy went missing? Why was it better for the story if a girl was the victim?

"I mean, if I had a boyfriend, I'd think about getting pregnant."

This is something I said to one of my best friends last Christmas while we were driving around Portland, talking about the future and whether or not we'd want to have kids. She did, and she said she'd have them on her own sooner than later if her boyfriend wasn't interested. I said the line above, and she told me I didn't need a boyfriend to get pregnant. That's true. What I meant was that I didn't think I could raise a child on my own, and that thought is laced with sexism. Me saying it aloud was an eye-opener to me. (Amiga, if you're reading this, I'm sorry.)

"I should have heard he was dating you from you."

This is something one of my ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriends said to me in graduate school. This woman, who I barely knew, was upset that her ex-boyfriend of nine-or-so months told her he had a new girlfriend...Only because she thought I, the new girlfriend, should have been the one to tell her the news. Why did she take the responsibility off her ex-boyfriend and put it on me? Why do women constantly do this to other women?

This list is brief, at best. Perhaps there are even sexist things I've said in the above text that I don't even realize are sexist. Are there any sexist things feminists have said to you, or you've said to other people?