I asked the women of the BuzzFeed Community to tell me about a time they experienced subtle sexism, and my lord, I was not ready for the huge amount of responses. The world sucks for women!
Here are 34 of their experiences.
1. "When I was pregnant, I was treated like a vessel. No one cared about my pain or feelings. I went to the hospital for pain and they didn't even check the area my pain was in. They only checked the area the baby was in."
2. "When I was in college, I did a STEM internship one summer. At the end of the internship, we presented our research findings in an event that was open to the public. A photographer from a local newspaper was covering the event, and four of us interns ended up with our photos in the newspaper, two men and two women. At first I was so excited to have my photo in the newspaper, until I looked at the story in more detail. The two young men's photos were of themselves standing confidently in front of their poster boards. The captions said that they were 'showing off' their projects and 'explaining' their findings to the audience. For my photo, the photographer chose a shot of an audience member pointing to something on my poster board, and my caption said that I was 'getting input' on my project. The other young woman’s photo was of her hugging her dad, and her caption basically just said that she was standing in front of her project with her dad."
"It was so very subtle, but it was upsetting to see how the men were portrayed as being so active and the women were portrayed so passively. I felt like my caption about 'getting input' made it seem like my project was worse than those of the men who were 'showing off' and 'explaining' theirs. It made me feel embarrassed and sad because I worked really hard on my project and I was really proud of it, but all people would see was that I was 'getting input' on it."
3. "My parents, both people with doctorates, regularly get mail addressed to 'Dr. and Mrs. Smith.' Mail from banks, schools, and energy suppliers. My mother has never given 'Mrs.' as her title to these people, as she has been Dr. Smith for decades."
"They just assume, and keep doing it after they're corrected."
4. "I was on a video call with a client when he asked about my upcoming wedding and said, 'You look like you’ve slimmed down, is that for the wedding?'"
"First of all, no, it’s actually my crippling anxiety not allowing me to eat, and second of all, how dare you think it’s okay to comment on my weight?"
5. "One afternoon my husband and I were walking our dogs around the neighborhood. I was wearing a hoodie with The University of Alabama logo on it. As we passed a neighbor he asked, 'Are you a Bama fan?' I said yes and then this man said 'Well, I'm an alumni,' and we all kept walking. About 30 feet down the sidewalk it hit me that this guy thinks I'm just wearing their gear, that I'm just a 'fan' of the school and in his mind, there is no way that I too am an alumni."
"We are two thousand miles from Tuscaloosa, AL, this isn't just a fashion statement. I have two degrees from UA!"
6. "In my school, we have class ranks, which my teacher writes on the whiteboard, and I am always on the top. My name happens to be gender neutral, so whenever a male substitute teacher comes, he always assumes my name is a guy and says, 'Now where is this boy at the top of the class?'"
"In group projects, no boy ever asks for me to give the answer, even though I always have it, and they interrupt me when I start to talk. Then, my male teachers constantly stop me from answering questions, saying, 'You've talked enough,' and, 'Give the boys a chance.' It is so unfair."
7. "My former boss used to refer to me and my younger female colleagues as 'girls.'"
"In my late 20s, I was in a senior staff position leading a major multimillion dollar program at my company. I heard my much older (also female) boss describe me as, 'That girl next to the man in the green shirt…' when pointing me out to someone while I was standing next to my male colleague, who was younger and much more junior in the company. Institutional sexism y’all. Women are guilty too!!!!"
8. "My fiancé and I went to the grocery store and among a few other things, we picked up a pregnancy test. I have irregular periods, so it wasn't so much a pregnancy scare as it was to just make sure. Anyway, we're checking out and the young male cashier turns to my fiancé and says, "What are you hoping for?" Excuse me??? First of all, why are you discussing the rental status of my uterus right in front of me, to someone else, as if I weren't RIGHT THERE?"
"But also, what a nosy question????? I've bought pregnancy tests alone before and NO ONE has ever asked me 'what I'm hoping for.'"
9. "I started to notice that while walking, I was always moving out of the way of boys. I stoped moving out of their way and you wouldn’t believe how many men walk full speed into me as if it’s customary a woman moves out of their way."
10. "I always call out bad behavior at work. Racist comments, sexual harassment that isn't being addressed, you name it. If I bring up these issues with my boss, he usually agrees with me, but he ALWAYS responds first by saying 'calm down.' This might be appropriate to say if I was screaming and breaking things, but I could be whispering and he would still say, 'Calm down.'"
"I have never seen the same thing happen when a man brings up an issue they have at work. Of course, as a white woman, I am very privileged that my passion has never put me in danger at the workplace, and that I have only gotten formally reprimanded a few times."
11. "Took my in-laws for a holiday abroad. Father-in-law would always crosscheck the route info I gave him with others. Never did that with my husband."
12. "My husband and I both work full time. When I was pregnant, literally no one asked him what we planned to do for childcare, but everyone asked me who was going to watch the baby when I went back to work."
"Me and a male colleague both had babies around the same time. When I tell customers I have a baby at home they ALWAYS ask who's looking after her but my male colleague never gets asked."
13. "Every time a guy says, 'I’m just a naturally flirty guy' after you tell them you’re uncomfortable with their flirting."
"(1) They don’t say this to other hereto-cis guys (2) You're trying to gaslight me and (3) I’m not going to let you normalize making me uncomfortable because you won’t respect my boundaries around flirting. Boundaries are what we need to be comfortable. If they can’t respect my boundaries, that’s a red flag right away. Trying to then debate me on my boundary cause you won’t accept I don’t have any interest in you and you think I owe you 'a chance?' See ya!!!"
14. "I was giving a presentation on new sexual assault evidence kit laws in my state to law enforcement. One guy was ignoring me and talking over me to a guy several seats away. I stopped my presentation and asked if he had a question. He said he did not but he was answering the other man's question. I stated that the new practices may be confusing but my agency is available to answer questions and help and I’d like to finish my presentation and would then be happy to take questions. Later my staff in attendance overheard a group (which included women) saying how rude I was."
"If a man had been presenting, they never would’ve talked over him, as it would’ve been seen as rude. And even if someone did talk over him, responding with behavior like mine would not have been 'aggressive,' just justified."
15. "I decided to go back to school next year to complete my degree in education and every time I told a relative or a friend I had news, everyone assumed I was either pregnant or getting married! I have a full life that doesn't revolve around my gender expected roles!"
16. "I’ve been in the same job for three years. A male co-worker never seems to get any of the female staff’s job titles correct yet he can get all the male job titles right."
17. "I went back to my college for an alumni event last year and everyone assumed I had gotten married because the name tag the event coordinator printed off had my first, middle, and last name on it. Nope, my middle name is my grandmother’s last name. It’s literally the same name I had in school. First, middle, and last names were required to register for this event (not sure why), and only the women that were considered married had their middle names printed out on their name tags."
"Pretty sure this doesn’t happen to either of my male cousins who have their mothers’ maiden names as their middle names."
18. "I worked at a cemetery one summer where the girls always got the job to take care of the flowers and the boys mowed the lawn. One day they needed and extra person on the lawnmower and I said I could do it. They said, 'Are you sure you can handle that?' and kept asking me all day if I needed someone to take over for me and if I was tired. They never asked the boys that..."
19. "I was always expected to cover my tampons in the trash in case my brother or father might see them. Apparently men are sensitive to tampons."
20. "When an older woman noticed my engagement ring, she asked how long my fiancé and I had been together. After I answered 'ten years,' she responded that it was good 'he was FINALLY ready to get married.' It never occurred to her that we’d waited so long because I wanted to get my degree first and was more focused on my career than having a wedding."
22. "I just had a baby and I am constantly getting comments, from STRANGERS, even male strangers, telling me I look great for having just had a baby. I know it's meant as a compliment but I honestly hate having my body viewed and judged on how it looks after it just did a pretty amazing thing."
23. "In middle school I was in a history class that did a lot of poster board type projects. I was kind of known around the class for making presentations with colors and decorations, and that also had the best content. Whenever we did group projects, I was asked to just 'print the pictures' and 'make them look pretty,' even if I knew the most about any given project. Most of the class was guys and girls were split up amongst the group so there were only one or two girls per group. We were all given the same 'job' whether we knew more or not."
"Always getting picked to make the presentation 'look pretty' in an otherwise all-male group for school projects."
24. "At my old hospital, a doctor wanted to break protocol. It was something we were absolutely not allowed to bend on. He said, 'Your supervisor will know better. Tell him to call me.' I responded, 'Well, sir, it’s 2am and she is probably sleeping.' She was a scary Russian lady who tore him a new one the next morning."
25. "My parents’ friends come over to the house and ask me to make them coffee. If they just waited, I'd offered (because I have manners) but the fact that they just expect it of me? Guarantee they would never ask my older brother to do that."
26. "I was creating a new engineering team so I was occupying the only desk in the roughly 10-desk bay. I went to India for work and when I came back, they had hired a man and placed him at my desk. I had to put in a work order to have my monitor moved to a new desk and had to ask him to retrieve my personal belongings. I then had to apologize to his boss (a man) because IT came during the workday to move the monitor and it embarrassed the new guy."
"If I had it to do all over again, I would have sacrificed my job over apologizing for something so completely asinine."
27. "I’m a 32-year-old woman and I’m still single. People are constantly asking me, 'How are you still single?! You’re a cute girl, is there something wrong with you?'"
"Of course there’s something wrong with me. People asking me stupid questions and it pisses me off. That’s what’s wrong."
28. "I took this one class in high school that explored the existence of extraterrestrial life. We were split into groups to discuss something and this guy starting going on and on about black holes. What he was saying was interesting, so I asked him some question about what he had said and his response was something like, 'Oh, well it's very complex and blah blah blah.' I said back, 'Right, far too complex for my tiny female brain to comprehend...' He didn't say much else after that."
29. "When I bought a car, the sales guy kept telling me what a smart purchase it was for me based on my credit and income. Like, yes, that is why I’m buying it..."
30. "I am expected to know EVERYTHING about anything involving my children. No one ever asks my husband (who has been step dad for 12 years) or my ex-husband anything. It literally does not matter what I'm doing, I must stop everything and deal with all kids related stuff and have all answers immediately."
"I am BURNT OUT."
31. "Telling a family member how I'm feeling a loss of appetite after increasing my medication for a chronic illness, they respond with, 'Well that’s good!' Better to conform to beauty standards than have a normal appetite, right?"
32. "When I was in middle school, I was being bullied by this boy. I went to the vice principal multiple times, and every time he brushed it off. Once he said maybe we had crushes on each other."
33. And, "I have a Doctorate of Educational Leadership. The DAILY struggle of students calling me Mrs., Ms, or Miss...or Dr. and my first name. My last name is not long or complicated, but apparently Dr. LAST NAME is too formal for a lady professor."
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.