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11 Forms of Casual Sexism at the Office

ken and barbie displaying office sexism
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We didn’t leave office sexism in the Mad Men days. Double standards and latent discrimination are woven into office culture, and it isn’t as explicit as you’d think. The truth is, even the most progressive and modern office is subject to these examples of casual sexism. It’s easy to grow accustomed to and dismiss these 11 things — next time you identify them, don’t put up with it.

1. Office Dress Codes

Male dress code: Business casual.

Female dress code: Wear professional, flattering (but not TOO flattering) attire; sensible heels are permitted, the ones you wore to the club last Friday are not; professional (not nappy) hairstyles only; skirts must not be higher than the width of a dollar bill above the knee; makeup permitted — but don’t get too crazy, girls!

Even if your office is blue-jeans casual, you’ll notice that women wear slightly nicer outfits than their male coworkers. Maybe you’ve been chalking it up to a more “fashion-forward” aptitude, but just wait until the summer rolls around. Nobody will say anything about the dudes in shorts. However, you wouldn’t be able to get away with it.

2. Mansplaining

For some reason, men love to explain things for no reason–even if they’re talking out of their ass. This tendency to over-explain, which I’m referring to as “mansplaining,” is rampant in and outside of the office. Next time Kyle tries to show off the expertise that you already possess, don’t let him.

3. “Was she hot?”

Ah yes, nothing like casual objectification of women around the watercooler. Are the guys talking about the new IT intern? Are they guessing the bra size of the visiting female exec? Chances are, they’ve discussed both.

4. “Would you take the notes?”

You’re about to start a meeting with your peers, when one of your male co-workers turns to you and asks you to take notes. Sure, it’d be one thing if the task was rotated among everyone, but John asks you to keep minutes every single week. And while he might have a point — you take some damn good notes — he should really stop asking you to play secretary.

5. Golf

Need I say more? Golf embodies the pinnacle of the good ole boy network. Men invite other men to a day on the green, and regardless of whether you love or hate golf, you won’t receive an invitation. You’re missing out on prime networking time, and the guys won’t fill you in when they return to work.

6. “You’re so emotional!”

Because when a man is vocal about something, he’s passionate. A woman is emotional. And if you speak up about something that upsets you, then you’re complaining at best — and a bitch at worst. “You’re so emotional!” is right up there with “Whoa, calm down!”

7. Small Talk

At your next work-related party, keep a tally of how many times you’ve been asked about your job. Then, count how many compliments you receive on your outfit or how often you’re asked about your date.

8. Salaries

You’ve probably heard of the gender wage gap by now; white women earn $0.77 to a man’s dollar, Black women earn $0.63, and Latinas earn $0.54 on the dollar. As a female employee, what can you do about this disparity?

Talk about your wages.

You were probably told not to discuss finances (particularly your finances) with anyone, but being savvy about the average pay rate is crucial when asking for a raise. Ask your co-workers, particularly those in the same role as you, how much they make. You might be surprised at what you learn.

9. Cleaning up After Everyone

Washing your coffee cup instead of leaving it in the sink is A-OK. Loading (and unloading) the dishwasher with every last half-assedly rinsed coffee cup sitting in the sink is not. Housekeeping tasks like taking out the trash, making coffee, or doing the dishes are often put off until a woman can get to them.

Whether she’s a leader or an intern, a woman is expected to take care of others. I’d say, “female co-workers aren’t your moms,” but let’s be real. My mom stopped cleaning up after me as soon as I could reach the sink.

10. “David’s mom passed away. How about we get him a card and some flowers?”

And by “we”, they mean “you.” If this isn’t a part of your job description, then you shouldn’t be expected to do it. Thanks to the stereotypical role of compassionate caregiver, you’ve probably been asked to coordinate an office party for a retiring coworker or stop whatever you’re doing, run to Hallmark and buy a sympathy card for a grieving coworker. Although the sentiment is nice, why doesn’t the guy who came up with the idea buy the card?

11. “You’re just not as committed to the company.”

There are many reasons why you might hear this line. Have you stopped cleaning up after the boys? Didn’t make purchasing a sympathy card your highest priority of the day? Were you too busy taking notes to contribute to the meeting? This flimsy criticism is also often directed towards mothers and expectant women. For some reason, you’re the only one who gets called out for your “lack of commitment,” regardless of how many late nights and flawless projects you’ve done.

Last modified on December 15th, 2016

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