Casual sexism. What does that even mean? How can we call something so serious casual? Well, it’s because it’s unfortunately so normal and accepted, that often don’t even realize when it’s happening to us. Casual sexism is the type of comments that make you feel uncomfortable, it’s the little things you hear every day, that your male colleagues do not hear, it’s the feeling of having to work twice as hard to get taken serious and the feeling that if you are acting outside of the female stereotypical norm (which is a made up construct women have been fighting to abolish decades ago and we’re still not fully there) you’re the odd one or the ‘troublemaker’.

An important step in defending yourself against casual sexism is identifying such a situation and knowing how to act on it. That’s why we collected a few examples of casual sexism and how you can speak up and defend yourself, no matter if it’s at work or in your private life. 

Being called aggressive

This happens a lot at work, in fact this happened to me just a few weeks back. If you’re being called aggressive by your boss or co-workers, especially male co-workers ask yourself: Would they tell you the same thing if you were a man? Probably not. Me are called confident or as a go getter. That is something you can bluntly tell/ask your colleagues and also your boss. If they are not the type of person to say this too, there is always HR. It sounds harsh, but it’s necessary to inform your human resources department when you feel treated with a double standard. If they don’t understand, explain it to them and make sure they know that it creates an uncomfortable work environment for you as a woman.

 Being told to smile more

This happens all the time and it’s NOT OKAY. Have you ever heard anyone tell a man to smile more? No. When women are focused or simply have a resting bitch face we tend to get comments. That’s problematic, because these comments are not about making us feel better, it’s about the man taking control and mostly about the woman having to look a certain way in order to please the male gaze. And this is not what we are here for. There are different ways to deal with it. I have a zero tolerance policy and a very much zero fucks given attitude towards this, so I just show them the finger and walk away if it’s a stranger. Or I just keep on walking. If it’s someone I know I make 100 per cent sure to educate them on the topic and explain why it’s not okay. It’s important to teach men why this is not okay and to speak on why it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Getting interrupted

Getting interrupted by your male co-workers is annoying, it’s old and we’re sick and tired of it. But it still happens, because men often feel superior in what they’re saying. Sometimes it’s not even on purpose, but it’s very likely that they’ve seen this so often, that they do it automatically and think it’s actually okay. So instead of letting yourself get interrupted, try to stay firm and say ‘I wasn’t finished’ or a simply ‘please don’t interrupt me’.

 Assumptions about motherhood

Not all women want children. Not all women can have children. Some are trying to have a baby and struggling hard. So assumptions about wether or not a woman is pregnant or if she wants to be a mom are wrong and potentially hurtful. If you catch someone gossiping about that, educate them to do better and stop it. Another thing, that is very common, is the double standard mothers and fathers get at work. Men get compliments for providing for their family and in general for ‘helping’ with the kids. A lot of women work full time, provide and take care of their children and unfortunately, instead of complimenting them for it, it’s often seen as a negative point in work places. It’s almost like women have to pretend their kids are a side project in order to be seen as more than just a mother, whereas men are glorified for bringing them to school in the morning. In order to change this standard we must hold all people around us accountable for what they say about women, motherhood and parenting styles and again: Educate, educate, educate. 

Being called “Sweetie” 

Or other names for that matter. It’s belittling and it often still happens at work and again – it’s not something men have to deal with, ever. This is also something you can report to HR, but try first to simply put them in their place with saying: “this is not appropriate” or “you’re making me feel uncomfortable”.

There are many more cases I could describe here, but for all of them, there’s one rule: Speak up. Don’t let them get away with it. Educate them to do better and to be better. Stay strong and firm, don’t let your glorious self be intimidated by the men at your workplace. There is nothing wrong with getting HR involved in difficult cases as well. It’s about self-protection and about standing up for yourself and the women around you.

It’s about letting them know, that you are not tolerating it, no matter if it happens to you or a woman around you.


by Jana