"Everyday Sexism" 101
The term "everyday sexism" has been in common usage for a number of years now, but still causes confusion. It is easy to see why this is the case; after all, surely everyone knows that any sexism is bad - so why the need for the "everyday" stipulation?
What is "everyday sexism"?
The term "everyday sexism" is attributed to Laura Bates, who started a movement seeking to focus on the small, recurrent ways in which sexism presents itself in society. The purpose of the project was to detail how common sexism still is in society. To learn more about her motivations, Laura Bates’ TED talk is particularly illuminating:
However, since the project began - and the term entered common usage - the necessity of a focus on everyday sexism has been questioned. It may seem difficult to believe, but there is a feeling - in some sections of society - that sexism is no longer an issue. Feminism, these people argue, has achieved its aims, sexism is confined to history, and women have achieved true equality.
The vast majority of women know that this is absolutely not the case.
Everyday Sexism, as a movement, seeks to throw light on the issue, bringing together the experiences of hundreds of thousands of women, and showing exactly why sexism still needs to be taken seriously.
A secondary meaning
As a project, Everyday Sexism was conceived to detail ongoing occurences of sexism. Over time, the meaning has changed somewhat, with the "everyday" being emphasized. This side of the movement focuses on incidents of sexism that may, in the grand scheme of things, be rather small - but which still contribute to a society that is hostile to women.
Focus on smaller occurrences of sexism is particularly necessary, as while individual minds may have changed, societal attitudes have not. Take, for example, the below-the-line comments on any news article about a female pilot or bus driver. These tend to be packed with a classic trope of everyday sexism; the suggestion that "women can't drive".
Superficially, this kind of comment may seem trivial, but it provides an insight into a mindset that positions women as inferior - even when statistics fail to corroborate this assumption. Just using this example, we can see that men are responsible for four out of five DUIs, and are far more likely to suffer car accidents. Given these facts regarding prevalence of accidents and DUI offenses, why is there a stereotype that women can't drive?
Simple: it's not about facts. The thinking behind this - and all other instances of everyday sexism - is that women are inferior. This applies even if, statistically, the exact opposite is true.
These attitudes are inherently damaging. For example, women are far less likely to be Uber or Lyft drivers, and only 6% of airline pilots are female. Would these figures be the same in a society that didn’t push the idea that women can’t drive? Almost certainly not - and this is but one example of how everyday sexism can be genuinely harmful. An attitude doesn’t have to be “big” or “violent” to be problematic; small incidences, and continued social reinforcement of stereotypes, have a big impact.
While the concept of everyday sexism is somewhat nebulous, it nevertheless has a role to play in an important social movement. Everyday Sexism focuses on the acknowledgement that the battle against sexism hasn't really been won, and there's still plenty of work, and awareness, required to achieve the aims of feminism.