There is nothing casual about Casual Sexism. The concept is directly related to sex-based discrimination against women. If a woman is treated differently than how a man would be treated in the same situation, the possibility is that an underlying sexist prejudice is working there. In this post, we are going to dive a into the concept of casual sexism and understand what it is, how it affects men and women, and how a woman can deal with it on a daily basis.

What is casual sexism?

Let us start with the definition. Just like racism, sexism is a form of prejudice and stereotypical thinking against a certain group or class of society– in this case, based on their gender.

Sometimes, these prejudices can be quite obvious and intentional while other times they are subtle and quite thoughtlessly or casually tossed off in a conversation.

Instances like rape, sexual assault or abuse are all too obvious forms of sexism that undermine and humiliate a woman.
Not-so-obvious forms of sexism that are parts of our everyday conversations are hard to be identified as sexism. Sexist attitudes and behaviors that are intentionally or unintentionally practiced and propagated in the society can be called casual sexism.

However, any form of a prejudiced thought, speech or behavior that undermines the equal position and rights of women in the society and has an undertone of discrimination against them on the grounds of their gender is fit to be termed as sexism against women.

Everyday Casual Sexism

Many times in family, at workplaces or social gathering, sexist comments are passed in an easy-going way without knowing that they propagate gender-based prejudice. These are often referred to as low-intensity sexism that include light-hearted jokes, casual remarks or comments. However, researchers have shown that they are just as demoralizing to a woman like any other form of harassment. After all, if a so-called joke is more offensive than funny, it is no longer a joke.

I thoroughly dislike the fact that Sexism is deeply ingrained in our culture deeply mostly because it starts at a very young age, the way we raise boys and girls differently.

Many girls are told by society that we should not be engaged in harsh sports such as horse riding or not to aim men dominating professions. This is a typical sexist assumption that undermines the girl’s ability to learn something based on her gender. Remember the blockbuster 'Dangal', where the very first organizer refused to recognize the girl (Geeta) as a real wrestler?

Another example is when a young girl is asked to help her mom at kitchen work but her brother and father can continue to enjoy watching TV or playing. The parent didn’t mean to degrade the value of parenting the daughters in any way but asking this to the girl and not the boy, does make it eligible to be called Sexism.

One social example is when a woman is automatically served a non-alcoholic drink or wine in a bar without asking and clearly based on presumptions. This is nothing serious but a common prejudice.

Take a look at some of the sexist remarks:

  • "Get married now, have kids and take care of your family. What else is there in life?"
    Who cares about career, right?
  • "You are already 30, it is so hard to find a good boy now!"
  • “OMG! Don’t tell me that you are one of those feminists!”
    As if being a feminist is a bad thing.
  • “Why are you so grumpy? Looks like it is that time of the month!”
  • Insisting that “Women should be home before dark.”
    Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to insist that men should stop troubling women who go out after dark?

These and many more such casual suggestions have become such an integral part of our beliefs and attitudes that we hardly recognize them as propagating a seriously skewed mindset against women.

Now, let me clarify here that sexism is not necessarily only and always against women. As I stated earlier, we raise our boys and girls differently so both the genders can be victims of such discrimination. For example, it is commonly believed in our society that men should not be emotional while it is completely fine to be so for women. This is a form of sexism against men. However, the types of prejudices against women are generally more atrocious and damaging than those against men.

How to deal with casual sexism

Similar to any other form of harassment against women, casual sexism is also triggered due to the mindset that presupposes that a woman is in some way inferior to her male counterpart. This mindset has developed over a long period. Although some natural differences in the physiology and psychology of a man and a woman to play an important role in the development of these prejudices, man’s ego and superiority complex have been feeding on these gender-based beliefs and prejudices. And that is the main reason why they are still present in our society even in the day and age of women empowerment.

So how do we deal with these subtle sexist attacks? 

The answer is – with courage and tactfulness. Let me explain.

Now obviously, you cannot change the mindset of your parents, relatives or co-workers overnight. You need to continuously work to change that either in a subtle way or aggressively (your choice).

However, when some of them throw a sexist remark towards you, how to respond to it is most definitely in your control.

These types of remarks are mostly made as a joke or a casual, non-serious comment. Take it like that – as a joke or a non-serious comment. Just laugh at them and say something like, “Are you serious?" or "Why do you think so?” or “How is that funny? Explain.” 

Don’t let your moral get dented by the sexist undertone in them. Always remember that it speaks more about their immature thinking and nothing about you as a woman. This way, you will be able to take away that subtle sting out of those remarks.

There are situations when your superiors pass a sexist comment unintentionally. Under those circumstances, politely asking them what they meant by the comment will make them think about it and possibly realize that what they said was more derogatory than humorous.

Whether the casual sexism is intentional or unintentional, women must take charge and stand firmly against it. Most people don’t even know they are practicing and propagating it. All it takes is to point out to the person that what they said is not funny or casual but can make someone feel like being treated differently just based on their gender. If you confront the situation gracefully, not only will you save yourself from feeling bad and disheartened by the comment but you will also force that person to reflect on his mindset.

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