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Your stories! #CallOutSexism

Thank you for responding to our invitation to #CallOutSexism, and for sharing your personal experiences with sexism!

Naming sexism is an important first step. By discussing sexism openly we can better support each other and share ways we can stop violence, abuse and discrimination against women. So thank you again!

Here are the questions we posed:

  • When did you first realise that you were treated differently because you are female?
  • What are some ways we can call out sexist behaviour in our daily lives?
  • What have you done that works? Or hasn’t worked?
  • How did your experience make you feel?

(Read WIRE’s guidelines on posting comments.)

Your comments

Christine’s story posted on 16 July 2013:

My first awareness of gender discrimination was when my husband and I signed up for life insurance, and I was informed that if my husband died before me I would receive a smaller amount of money than he would if I died before him. When I queried the fairness of this  (1980s), I was told well that’s just the way it is.

Louise’s story posted on 30 June 2013:

When I was 19, I worked as a receptionist for a fabric importation/distribution company – for a short time. The boss of the company would routinely call his younger female staff by what he perceived to be their bra sizes, with a distinct preference for 12C over 10A. Really, we’d put a call through to him and he’d ask, “Who is it and what do they want, 12C?” (or 10A). Pig of a man.

Jennifer’s story posted on 27 June 2013:

When I wanted to join the air force & was told I wouldn’t be serving on the front line if I did so! So I didn’t join.

A’s story (extracts) posted on 25 June 2013:

I grew up in a working class suburb in the northern suburbs of Melbourne in the 1960’s. My mother was a teacher and at times was the major breadwinner. Even though mum had a career, she was the one who did the washing, ironing, cooking and housework. Dad worked very hard and when we were very little had 3 jobs. Mum retired at aged 57. It wasn’t until dad was retired that he did more around the house… As a woman it was either a teaching or nursing career. (Other girls had left school at age 15 to be a secretary or work in a factory). There weren’t many career options.

When I was in my early 20’s I used to go to nightclubs with my best friend (still my best friend after 42 years) and we would often chat to men. I remember meeting one guy who said he thought women were not as intelligent as men, and I said to him that he might just have met a woman tonight who was more intelligent than him. He could not be convinced and just couldn’t see it could be possible. It was probably one of the few times in my life that I challenged a man’s viewpoint…

When I returned to full time teaching, I had to take the kids to before and after school care, and look after the children. He used to use his working in the city as an excuse.  Me not working fulltime and looking after the kids meant I didn’t earn as much superannuation as my husband. I believe this is a huge issue with most women in Australia now… My sister has worked for 28 years without a break, but still had to do most of the domestics in all the 22 years of her marriage…

My ex-husband about 10 years ago ironed his own shirt one day. He said to me, “Say, Thank you Andrew for ironing my shirt,” I did not understand why I had to thank him for doing his job but he must have thought he was doing me a favour. After that I never ironed any of his clothes. I started to stand up to him and say no. We divorced 7 years ago as I would not put up with his verbal abuse and controlling any longer…

I am happy to have another man in my life one day, but he has to have his own house, his own money. My money will be my money for the rest of my life. I was left unemployed 3 months ago, but already I have a new job, I have started my own small business and I will start to build up my own money again. I will need to work for about another 10 years. I don’t think it’s fair that men can use money as power but I think we have a long way to go until women are seen as equal in society…

About a month ago I went to the police to report a breach of the IVO I have against my ex. It took me 5 police stations and a request to talk to a sergeant to get someone to listen to me. A senior constable finally interviewed me. As he was writing up my statement, he was very off putting during it and kept saying he didn’t think I had a case. Half way through I said, “I have another thing.’ His comment was, “You’re pregnant! “ I told him firmly, I am 53! I didn’t think it was a joke! I thought it was disgusting to be treated like that. After 2 hours, I felt totally humiliated and that my problems were minor and that I shouldn’t have been wasting his time. I didn’t tell him that, but it’s how I felt. No wonder women don’t report breaches etc, to police if they are treated like that!

Louise’s story posted on 25 June 2013:

My responses by the questions posed by WIRE to women around their experiences of being a woman.

Q: When did you first realise that you were treated differently because you are female?
A: It would have been pretty early; I always had a sense that it was better to be a boy.

Q: How did your experience make you feel?
A: It made me feel powerless and that, if I was to get what I wanted in life, I had to fit a certain role. In a sense, I was lucky that I was a tom-boy, it let me into the “boys world” and I feel that it has allowed me to be taken more seriously by men but it shouldn’t be this way. I feel angry that other women that I know aren’t taken seriously just because they don’t fit in with the boys. I don’t like that if I stand up against a part of that “blokey culture”, I will lose the respect and I won’t be taken seriously. I’m also angry that if men stand up against a part of that “blokey culture”, they too lose the respect and are not taken seriously.

Q: How can we call out sexist behaviour in our daily lives?
A: With good communication, tell people how their comment makes you feel in a respectful way. E.g. “When you make a joke like that it makes me feel unwelcome and uncomfortable”

Q: What have you done that works? Or hasn’t worked?
A: I’m often very confrontational and have been vocal in naming sexism which normally hasn’t worked in face to face situations. What has worked is baby steps and being a good example.

I try not to use gendered terms in derogatory ways (e.g. Dick, Bitch, You’re such a girl) or any kind of pejorative language (e.g. Gay, Retard) and when other people do, gently make a statement like “There’s nothing wrong with being a girl” or “I didn’t know that inanimate objects had a gender/sexuality” etc. I’ve found this is a great way to re-frame the use of language for others in a way that isn’t blaming them. It helps to offer alternative words that can be used, for example, when someone says, “You’re such a girl” I might suggest, “Do you mean a wimp?” It gives the other person an alternative without being too confrontational.

I’ve also found that discussing events and the way that they impacted me is very powerful. Being open about events from my life where I have been disadvantaged or miss-treated because of my gender has become a great learning opportunity for many people around me. People don’t have to believe in the patriarchy or agree with feminism to understand the way that I am disadvantaged or treated differently because of my gender. This can be really uncomfortable to begin with but can be very effective and I walk away feeling much more positive than when I am aggressive or reactionary.

CN’s story posted on 25 June 2013:

Many of us are all too familiar with the overt forms of sexism and gender discrimination against women in the public arena and in the workplace. But what about the covert forms? Who among us has felt powerless and invaded when a male colleague or manager has spoken to our breasts rather than to our faces? And what do we do about it – call it? name it? shame it? No, usually we accept it. I would love to invent a slogan for this common and covert form of sexism – my personal favourite is “boob talk”. Talking to boobs by boobies. Any ideas?

All stories and comments above have been published with the permission of the respective authors.

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