• Ashleigh Harvey

Women's Day is Bullshit

Today, 9 August, is Women's Day in South Africa.


He should smile more


Smile, dude.


He’d be so much cuter if he smiled


He's too loud


You’re a good driver, for a guy


Come on, give us a smile


Men’s films, also known as dick flicks, are called that because they deal with men’s issues. No one has any interest in those things.


Men’s writing is a discrete area of fiction because men write about special men’s things. It’s of no interest to most people.


Should men embrace their natural grey hairs?


Remember to smile, guys. Women like positive men.


All women need a woman cave: a place where we can escape men, men's kids, men's mess, men's noise.


Should your working wife or girlfriend really be expected to help you with the holiday packing?


Men’s tennis is boring


Are you a new dad? There are so many ways your wife can be involved in your child’s life. You just need to encourage her to play a full and active part.


I’m going to interview a man about what it’s like to be a GP and a dad. What should I ask him?


Male author and male doctor are NOT offensive terms. It’s just a way to differentiate them from normal authors and doctors.


How can we commemorate men’s very worthwhile contribution to our past?


Your wife changes nappies? That is amazing!


Get your wife to babysit.


I’ve been commissioned to write an article for summer, called how to get your best summer penis ever. Where should I start?


Are you a working dad? That must be so hard.


Is it OK for dads to put themselves first sometimes?


I’m writing an article about men supporting other men. What amazing things can men accomplish when they lift each other up?


Don’t be so bossy


Don’t wear that to school, you’ll distract the girls


He's too ambitious


Let me tell you about how business works, luvvie


His contraceptive doesn’t work for me. Best he sorts it out or it's over


Men belong in the kitchen


Come and dance with me. Come on. Let’s dance. Why not? Why don’t you want to dance with me? Come on. Dance with me. Come on, man. Let’s just dance. Come. Wow. You’re such a fucking arsehole.


If guys want to wear shorts, they deserve to get raped.


He was asking for it


He's a fucking whore


Don’t be a slut, dude


No woman wants to have sex with a virgin


How much did he have to drink that night?


Well, what was he wearing that night?


Why does he get so emotional?


He's such an attention whore


He's really bitchy


He's so dramatic


It must be that time of the month


He’d be really hot if he just made an effort


He’d be much hotter if you smiled


Is that all you’re gonna eat?


You eat a lot for a guy


You drink brandy?


You like cricket? Wow, that's impressive for a guy.


His drive is kind of intimidating


Can men have it all?


He doesn't want kids? Isn't he worried he won’t be fulfilled?


His biological clock is ticking


You’re not taking your wife’s last name?


Is he planning on working after the baby’s born?


He's going to let someone else raise his kid after he goes back to work?


Does your wife mind that you make more money than her?


Are you really fulfilled as a stay-at-home dad?


Ssssh…the women are talking


Maybe he should calm down – this is why I don’t hire men


He's too old to be doing another degree, what about starting a family?


I know he's the most experienced person in the business, who’s done the most work, but we can’t make a man a Vice President. The other women wouldn’t be comfortable with it.


He's not just a pretty face


Oh, he works in mining? Is he a secretary?


I know you’re a partner in this board meeting can you please take the minutes and make the tea. Men are just better at that stuff.


Men are sly. They’re snakes. Men can’t be trusted.


I've heard all of these before, but always about women. Because we don't say these things about men. If we did...well, people would just look at us funny. Like we've lost our minds. Saying these things about women, though? Totally normal.



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It's Women's Day in South Africa today. Historically, this day is to commemorate the 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956 to petition the Apartheid government to end the pass laws. This legislation required people who were classified as Black, to carry an internal passport. The aim was to control the movement of these people in urban areas. It was a major moment in our history, worthy of remembrance and deep respect.


But Women's Day has become a bizarre experience in South Africa, that has little, if nothing, to do with this day in history. It's now extended to Women's Month (August), during which most companies, retailers, and businesses give women discounts on goods and services, the advertising for which is pretty and pink (always pink). It's insulting. It makes me mad. Sometimes companies get it so wrong on so many levels that you wonder who made that decision in the meeting and who actually signed off on the advertising campaign.


But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's get back to the opening of this blog. Because there is a point to it. And the point is Everyday Sexism.



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The jokes, the jibes, the insults above, are statements women face every day. From men we love, as much as from virtual strangers. Sometimes we laugh them off because honestly, it’s too exhausting to have to keep trying to explain how hurtful it is. We roll our eyes. Or we just pretend we don’t hear them. Often, we’re just shocked at what we’re hearing or experiencing and so we don’t respond because our brains are struggling to comprehend that this is actually happening. It’s also not my job to keep explaining how everyday sexism leads to the greater atrocities meted out to women in society.


Everyday acts of sexism, like telling a woman to smile, asking them to make the tea when they hold the same rank as you, telling them they should be grateful when men whistle at them as they walk down the street, like you would whistle at a dog, are repeated signifiers to society that we accept that women are less than men. These acts normalised. They’re funny. They’re just a joke. In fact, when women talk about them, we’re told to stop making a fuss. Women are equal now. We’re overreacting. We need to lighten up. We're uptight. We’re frigid. We're prudes.


But daily acts of sexism start young. We tell little girls what to wear. We punish girls for wearing things that might distract boys at school. Girls are taken out of class for wearing strappy tops and distracting boys. And so his education is prioritised over hers.


Everyday sexism teaches young girls that the burden of responsibility is on them. Girls mustn’t tempt men. Girls mustn’t tease men. Girls mustn’t intimidate men. Don’t distract the boys. Don’t make the male teachers uncomfortable. We don’t want the boys to target you or intimidate you. That skirt is too short. Your bra straps are showing. You have a nipple stand, cover up. Don’t be bossy. Don’t be too loud. Don’t make a scene. Don’t answer all the questions in class. Don’t be a know it all. Don’t be a show-off.


This sends an incredibly powerful message to children. We teach children that girls are dangerous, powerful, and we sexualise their bodies. And we teach boys to objectify and harass girls. And then we’re shocked when one in five women is sexually assaulted at university. And we’re shocked when a woman is gang-raped.


It goes beyond this, though. It speaks to a much deeper hatred of girls. Why do I say this? Boys have been banned from school for having hair that is too long or for dressing too effeminately. Why? Because they look like women. And society hates women. You scream like a girl. You run like a girl. Don’t be such a girl. We hate girls.



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If you're a man reading this, and you've said any of the things above (that open this blog), boo to you. Your wife, your daughter, your sister, your grandmother have heard these things, and worse, every day of their lives, for their entire lives. Little wonder then that if you put four of your most beloved women in a room together in South Africa, statistically, one of them will be raped. I don’t know why people are shocked when they hear this statistic. Why they feel such revulsion. If we accept that everyday sexism is a symptom of a greater hatred of women, and rape is, by its very definition, an act of hatred against a woman, this statistic is as obvious as it is that the sun will blind you if you look into it.


Here are two ways that everyday sexism have become potentially abusive and violent situations for me:


Everyday sexism: An ex of mine believed that women who were raped were asking for it. He also called women who had ‘too much sex’ bicycles. Didn’t say that about men who slept around.

Everyday sexism turns violent: He would also lock me in the bedroom and scream at me because I didn’t want to have sex three times a day. I’d have to get into a hot bath in the middle of the night to stop shaking.


Everyday sexism: One night at an arts festival, I pretended to be asleep when a guy and his friends came into the room my friend and I were renting. They spoke about our looks. Our ages. Whether we were sexually active. You know, just boys being boys, right?

Everyday sexism: I was cornered in the bathroom the next day by one of these same men, and I had to promise that I’d hook up with him later, so that he’d let me go. I was scared he’d rape me. And I knew I wasn’t strong enough to fight him off.


Everyday sexism is not nothing. It blurs a line. A line that should be crystal clear. A line of basic human dignity and respect. Everyday sexism contributes to a greater hatred of women. Of shaming them. Of violating them. They are small acts of ‘socially acceptable’ behaviour, that desensitise us to the humanity of women.


We are always thinking about how we’ll get out of a rape situation. We’re always thinking about that. Every time we step out of the house. Every time we hear a noise in the night. Every time we feel someone following us in a shop. Every time we put on that dress. Or that lipstick. Men do not give their movements or their wardrobe that kind of calculated thought.


So, the next time a friend makes a ‘barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen’ joke, or a brother-in-law degrades feminists, or your dad makes a bra-burning joke or your brother calls a woman a slut or says the woman must make the tea or change the nappy or your son says that someone ‘runs like a girl’, and you don’t say something, you laugh, you let it slide…please don’t act shocked and surprised next women’s month in 2022, when you hear the rape stats. Because you will. And they will be worse.


Happy Women’s Day. A pointless, useless, weird day, where we demonstrate a fickle care for women, but a day that actually, in the very fibre of our society, changes nothing.




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Ashleigh is a copywriter who helps women find their authentic voices, so they can weave it into their business and their branding, and rise. Boom. For real conversations, join her Facebook group here - Make a Song and Dance: Female Business Owners, RISING



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