7 Invisible Forms of Sexism

7 Invisible Forms of Sexism

Last update: 12 December, 2017

A lot of times it’s hard to recognize sexism. It’s often camouflaged in behavior that seems harmless. Culture itself feeds it and gives it to us in small daily doses. But these small doses add up and create a whole worldview that continues to treat women questionably.

Nowhere is safe from sexism. It’s such a normalized behavior, transmitted over and over so unconsciously. Every day, women face insinuations or biased attitudes that may go ignored by most, but absolutely are attacks.

“—So, why were they paid less? “Well boy, it’s obvious,” said the baker, shrugging. They are women”.

-Juan Gómez-Jurado-

Although women have achieved rights they didn’t have before, we still have a long way to go. It is well-known, for example, that in general women earn lower wages. And in many jobs they have to prove that they’re even better than excellent to get promotions.

The battle of the sexes is also waged on the streets. Cities all over the world were forced to set aside public transportation exclusively for women so they can travel safely. In the 21st century this is, to say the least, worrisome. There are also other forms of everyday sexism that are worth examining. Let’s take a look at them.

1. The sexism in saying “What you need is a boyfriend”

People say this to justify your moods. If you’re really down, for example, the conclusion is that you need a man. It’s assumed that women become unbearable if they don’t have a man. So if you are worried, tense, or stressed, they’ll very condescendingly say, “What you need is a boyfriend.”


sexism symbolized with a maze

This phrase is very harmful. It implies that the woman is “missing something” and concludes that a man is all that she needs to be better. It’s one of those ideas that comes from the notion that women are the “weaker sex” and need a man to be happy.

2. You have to care about how you look, if not, who’s going to look at you?

You must always wear make-up, have a hot body, look nice. Otherwise you’re condemned to invisibility. In other words, to non-existence. It’s assumed that physical beauty is the only attribute that gives women social presence.

The problem with saying things like this is that they hide a very aggressive yet disguised threat. They limit a woman’s social role to that of seduction. They undermine a woman’s security and self-love. And they reaffirm the idea that women exist for the pleasure of man and no more.

3. On your wedding day…

In certain cultures, it’s something that parents, and especially mothers, tirelessly repeat to their daughters. They talk about, “On your wedding day…” as if it’s a woman’s final destination. In the end, what they are saying is that a woman’s life must point to marriage. And to be some man’s wife.

Women have done incredible things in science, politics and culture. However, it is very common to hear these types of phrases in homes. Perhaps some still think that other women can do great things, but their daughter or sister cannot.

4. You should be more feminine

Cultures see gender roles differently. There is no biological law that says that a man cannot be sensitive, or that a woman can’t be direct. It’s just that our cultures have spread the idea that woman should be delicate creatures. Maybe it’s to prevent women from rising up or confronting men.


old time newspaper ad about women

Hearing “you should be more feminine” means the woman should soften her manners, while also being a reminder to not question her role. To passively accept what her culture imposes on her. At the same time, it implicitly defines roles that are considered “improper” for men.

5. Catcalling

It’s very uncomfortable to be catcalled on the street. And more than just being uncomfortable, it makes women feel like they’re in danger. But many men feel that they have the right to say what they want, as long as they clarify that they’re not saying anything offensive or using crude words. But that doesn’t justify it.

They may tell you that you look like an angel, that you are very pretty. But it’s abuse that doesn’t give women room to speak out against it. Women who oppose this kind of sexism are labeled  “bitter.”

6. Don’t be a prude, but don’t be so easy

The message of society is: You should look pretty, be nice, and behave seductively. But don’t go too far. Don’t show too much skin or you’ll look like a whore. We’re told t he secret is showing that you’re desirable and at the same time out of their league.


a woman standing on a man's bicep

Modesty is implied. The rest is the man’s job. He’s in charge of winning you over, and you’re in charge of accepting after a while. Women taking the initiative is not part of the equation. If you do, they lose all interest. Giving an occasional glance and being nice is what we’re supposed to do.

This just enforces the idea of ​​”women as prey.” Women are just a prize. “The prey” for the advances of men. In general, if a woman takes the initiative or finds empowerment in her sexual life, she is seen as a threat.

7. Don’t delude yourself, love is a fantasy of women

Sexism warns you that love is unattainable. It only occurs in fairy tales. You’re not a princess, just a mortal with dreams and illusions. Men can’t be romantic and, therefore you have no right to expect them to be romantic. “Feminine” love is nothing more than naivety.

They assure you that reality is very different. You’re lucky to have what you got. If you wait for your “prince charming,” you could end up alone forever. Catch the first man you find or he’ll get away. It’s better to have a man than be alone.

All these forms of sexism hurt. Not only women, but also men. Nobody looks good in straitjackets. Each person is unique and gender roles are still way too narrow. It’s time to raise awareness of these harmful formulas and eradicate them forever.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.