How old were you when you first experienced sexism?
It’s hard to remember the first time you experienced sexism. Maybe it was when you were told you couldn’t play football, because it ‘wasn’t for girls’. Maybe it was when you were laughed at for cutting your hair off, ‘like a boy’. Maybe it was when you were told you needed to wear a longer skirt because you were ‘distracting the guys’, or when a group of men wolf whistled at you when you were 14, and didn’t understand what they meant. Maybe it was when you were assaulted at a party, or when you were called frigid because you wouldn’t kiss another kid in your year.
Maybe you can’t remember, because there are so many moments, they all blur into one. Maybe it didn’t feel like sexism at the time. Maybe it just felt like life.
But when it starts so young, no wonder if you think it’s ‘just the way things are’.
That’s why the new #wheniwas campaign by @everydaysexism is so important. Because every single woman in the world has experienced sexism and discrimination of some kind over the course of her life, whether she realises it or not. And unless we identify those moments – and eliminate the shame that surrounds them – it’s hard to break free from the cycle.
Started by ES founder Laura Bates, the hashtag has seen over 20,000 women from all over the world come forward in the space of two days.
‘Many people are shocked and unaware that sexual harassment, violence, discrimination and abuse start from an extremely young age,’ Laura wrote on Twitter to kick off the campaign. ‘Help us raise awareness of how early the problem can start by tweeting about your early experiences using the hashtag #WhenIWas.’
#WhenIwas 12 I was told that having my shoulders exposed on a school home-clothes day would distract the male teachers
#WhenIwas at secondary school, a female teacher told us girls that it was our own fault for being harassed if we wore skimpy outfits.
#wheniwas 19 I was raped and denied it because I was never taught about Consent. I only found out after a bunch of YouTube scandals
#WhenIWas 16, on a school trip to Europe a man slapped my ass. My teacher continued to blame it on me for “walking behind the group.”
Black Friday 2021
#WhenIWas 16 on a school trip I was drugged by a man at a hostel. He attempted to rape me. Police said I was old enough to know better.
‘[The response] really blew me away,’ Laura explained later. ‘It’s so widespread but its so often dismissed or disbelieved…These things start when girls are as young as eight or 10 years old, and it’s important to recognize that these things have a lifelong impact.’