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Cross-posted from my article in Everyday Feminism.

Morning: a man shuffles out of a cab in last night’s rumpled suit, holding a pair of dress shoes in his hands that have begun to pinch. The neighbors stare. This is the walk of shame.

Afternoon: a man skips lunch and pops three aspirin before heading into the waxing salon, preparing to endure searing pain for a clean, hairless nether region. This is the beauty routine.

Evening: a man leaves work to attend his kid’s school play; his all-female management team judges him for “putting parenting before work” (even though many of them have kids too). This is the double standard.

…Just kidding.

In reality, the man gets a high five from his doorman, drinks a beer while enjoying his lunch break, and rests easy because he knows his coworkers won’t criticize his work ethic just because he’s a dad.

From unrealistic beauty standards to slut shaming for promiscuity, there are a lot of things that women think about every day that men have never once had to consider. From the workplace to relationships, simple by being male, men experience privilege that makes their lives easier –and that they (usually) don’t even notice.

So we call out that privilege.

Not to castigate men for being born into it, and not to shame them for benefiting from this privilege—but to make them aware of how it affects their everyday lives and the lives of the women with whom they interact.

Because it’s not their fault that they aren’t conscious of it. Our patriarchal society works extra hard, day-in and day-out, to make sure that men aren’t aware of their privilege.

Let’s look at some examples of questions men don’t need to ask themselves – and how they make a difference in our lives.

1. Why am I expected to spend exorbitant amounts of money and time on my looks? And why do I get condemned as vain and superficial for doing so?

“Now every girl is expected to have: Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.”

While this quote is satirical and full of stereotypes, Tina Fey has a point. Women are held to ridiculous beauty standards that are impossible to meet.

And if she spends all that money, works out relentlessly, shuns fattening food, and achieves something akin to the patriarchy’s idea of “perfection?” Well, then she’s just vain and self-obsessed.

On the other hand, if she doesn’t choose to meet these standards, she’s a slob and doesn’t care about herself or her appearance.

There’s really no way to win, is there?

2. If I smile at people, will they interpret my friendliness as a sexual invitation? If I don’t, will they tell me to lighten up?

On a regular basis, many women have to deal with catcalls and degrading sexual offers from men as they walk to a meeting, the grocery store, the gym, the mailbox—you name it.

If she smiles or appears friendly, these offers and salutations will usually become more pronounced and gratuitous – almost as if she is expected to follow up on a simple smile with a blowjob.

But if she walks with her eyes forward and no smile on her lips? Then men will tell her “smile, sweetheart,” or “you’d be so much prettier if you smiled.”

How many men are told on a regular basis that they should smile? Especially by perfect strangers?

Not many, that’s for sure. In our patriarchal society, men are allowed the choice of how to portray themselves to the world – without the same level of judgment that women receive.

3. If I wear something that shows skin, will I get harassed?

From an early age women are taught to be ashamed of their bodies—men, not so much. Therefore, men don’t grow up believing that in order to be virtuous, they must cover up – or pay for it with degrading comments and behavior from others.

And although some men get criticized for their style of dress, it is much less likely that they will be sexually harassed for what they are wearing – I mean, men can walk around without even wearing a shirt and no one blinks an eye.

Conversely, women who choose to reveal skin are consistently sexually harassed, slut-shamed, or fat-shamed for showing off their bodies.

Simply put, society does not police men for how much skin they show. Unlike with women, the decision of what to wear is left up to them, not considered fodder for public discussion.

4. If I wear sexy clothing and enjoy partying, will people accuse me of provoking sexual harassment and/or assault?

“Why was she wearing such a short dress?” “Why was she out so late?” “How much did she drink that night?” “Why didn’t she know better than to hang out with those people?”

When we discuss a burglary, we never assign blame to the victim by saying that the beautiful garden in front of her house “tempted the robbers in.” Obviously, that would be ridiculous. But in the case of a woman being sexually harassed or raped, people often justify the crime by putting the onus on her provocative appearance, level of intoxication, or “improper” behavior.

Men aren’t held to these same standards (although sadly, they deal with an entirely different degrading patriarchal construct involving sex and consent).

As mentioned above, men aren’t criticized for showing off their bodies –and conversely are encouraged to drink to excess by the ingrained fraternity culture of our society.

5. If I have sex with him, will everyone think I’m a slut?

No one calls a man a slut for having sex. But women run the risk of being called sluts just for kissing a guy.

It’s simple: the sexual double standard still rules in America. Men can have promiscuous sex and be congratulated for it. Women who are sexually promiscuous are rarely viewed in a positive light.

6. If the condom breaks, will I get pregnant? If so, what then?

This is a no-brainer. No cis man has ever wondered this – and barring some very intense scientific advances, no cis man will ever have to. They will never have to worry about having to choose between aborting the child or having their whole world change as their body accommodates a new life.

Before anyone gets up in arms, let me state: this is biology, and no one would ever blame cis men for not being able to conceive. But it’s just one more example of how sexual choices affect cis men and cis women very differently.

7. If I reveal my gender, will I receive the same level of respect?

In an experimental Yale study, a group of scientists were given the same application to review for a lab position. Half of the scientists received the application under a female name, while the other half received the exact same application with a male name attached.

Across the board, the scientists rated the “male” applicants higher in competence and hireability, and offered them higher starting salaries than the “female” applicants.

For the exact same application.

And that’s just one small example.

Because of the myriad ways that women are discriminated against in professional, academic, and social circles, some women take to hiding their gender in order to be accepted into the “boy’s club” and to receive more respect from male counterparts.

Especially in the professional world and academics, but also in other online forums, women often have to work twice as hard to earn the same respect as men, because of society’s gendered expectations.

8. If I become upset at work, will they blame it on PMS?

We’ve all heard it a million times: “We can’t have a [cis] female President because she might go bomb Russia when she has PMS!

As ludicrous as this idea is, it’s still talked about.

Here’s a little dose of reality: Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) does not make us irrational.

Can PMS make a woman feel more moody? Sure. Physically uncomfortable? Hell yes. But hands down, PMS does not change a woman’s brain chemistry enough to make her irrational or less competent.

Because cis men don’t menstruate, they don’t have a recognized equivalent syndrome that their rash behavior can conveniently be blamed on. On the contrary: when men display anger or intensity at work, they are often thought of as “strong,” “alpha,” or “dominant.”

9. Will I have less of a chance of being hired or promoted because of my gender?

The good news is that sex discriminationwhich involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because of that person’s sex – is illegal in the US.

The bad news is that it happens all the time anyway.

Studies show that the majority of industry managers (especially in male-dominated industries like Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and STEM fields) tend to look for masculine stereotypes when hiring and awarding promotions.

Because of these male-biased hiring and promoting practices – which spring partly from a lack of diversity in the industries themselves – it is often extremely difficult for women to excel and move up in the company.

10. If I don’t do well at my job, will people take it as a sign that people of my gender shouldn’t be doing this line of work?

Sometimes the system keeps women from succeeding at their jobs.

For example, women working in male-dominated industries are often subjected to huge amounts of pressure to conform to the same masculine traits exhibited by their male counterparts. If they don’t, they are usually viewed negatively and kept from advancing in the company. And as we already know, the system – from hiring, to awarding raises and bonuses, to achieving managerial status – is stacked against women, making it much harder for them to rise to the top.

Sure, there are certainly individual women – just like there are individual men – whose particular talents aren’t suited for these jobs.

But using a couple of examples as reason to write off an entire gender is foolish, uneducated, and sexist – and fails to acknowledge the success of female leaders everywhere.

11. If I do well in my company, will people say that I slept my way to the top?

When men in high-power jobs succeed, it is generally presumed that they worked their asses off to get there. But women who reach the same level of success are often accused of sleeping their way to the top, despite the falsity of the claims.

This is because society often dismisses a woman’s hard work and perseverance, and reduces her to an object only valuable for bringing sexual pleasure to others.

12. If I have kids, will people assume I don’t care about my career anymore?

For years, studies have shown that working moms are discriminated against in ways as small as being left out of meetings, to as substantial as losing promotions – or even their jobs.

In September 2014, the federal government reached a $5 million settlement with Wells Fargo over allegations that the banking giant discriminated against pregnant women, new mothers, and women on maternity leave.

Studies also show that working fathers simply do not deal with this level of discrimination. But because many people still believe that a woman’s place is “in the home,” they pigeonhole working mothers and discriminate against them unfairly.

13. If I don’t want a family, will people assume there’s something wrong with me?

Barren. Cold. Unloving. The crazy cat lady.

People make a lot of judgments about women who decide not to have children or get married. This is probably because the belief that women exist to be mothers lives on to this day in the assumption that a childless woman must be lonely, or unhappy, or that she should be pitied for not having been able to find “the right man.”

When a man decides to do the same, there may be some similar pity – but he is also likely to be venerated as a successful bachelor who “can’t be tamed” (think George Clooney).

In reality, having a family is entirely a personal choice – and there is no reason why men and women should be judged differently in relation to that decision.


These are a few examples of male privilege at its most insidious – patriarchal norms working below the surface to uphold sexist double standards in society.

Yes, everyone has a different life experience, and some men may, at some point in their lives, ask themselves some version of these questions. But that does not negate their male privilege.

We can all learn more about how patriarchal structures perpetuate this privilege. And the more we know, the better we can change how people respond.

Because even though men don’t generally have to think about all the things on this list – and so many others – they should.

Just by acknowledging their male privilege, men can start chipping away at it. And that’s a damn beautiful thing.


Article originally posted in Everyday Feminism, where I have recently become a contributing writer!Photo via Guetty Images

Before we can think about whether or not we’ve ever experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, we need to become familiar with different definitions of sexual harassment and the fact that it comes in different forms.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination that is in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

But what does that mean exactly?

Sexual harassment is intimidation of a sexual nature. It is any type of unwelcome sexual advance, from a crude joke to aggressive sexual bullying (physical, verbal, or both).

The Many Faces of Sexual Harassment

The two most commonly recognized types of sexual harassment are what we call quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment is, essentially, when someone at your job tells you that they will fire you or inflict other negative consequences on you (such as holding back salary increases, promotions, shift, or work assignments) if you will not have sex with them or perform a sexual favor for them. The Latin, of course, translates to: This for that.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment, on the other hand, is the creation of an antagonistic environment, expressed in sexual terms. This might include statements of a sexual nature expressed by coworkers and/or supervisors, comments made about your appearance, staring in a suggestive manner, inappropriate touching, or even the presentation of pornography in the workplace. It’s any form of sexually inappropriate behavior that makes being at work feel uncomfortable.

Studies suggest that anywhere between 40-70% of women and 10-20% of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and reports of sexual harassment are on the rise.

Unsurprisingly, LGBTQ folk also experience very high levels of sexual harassment at their jobs.

How Sexual Harassment Disproportionately Affects Women

While this type of discrimination affects all genders, it is overwhelmingly inflicted upon females and is extremely effective at keeping women out of lucrative jobs.

One prime example is the hospitality industry.

Low-paid, high-stress maid service jobs are often done by females – whereas higher-paid, much less physically-taxing valet service jobs are dominated by men.

Although a woman may wish to transition from a cleaning job to a valet position in hopes of better pay and less back-breaking work, the creation of a hostile environment in which she is harassed and not welcomed will often keep her away.

This is not uncommon: research shows that female hotel workers experience more sexual harassment on average than women employed in other sectors – and that most of the harassment is performed by their own co-workers.

Understandably, most people are not comfortable working where they are not wanted.

Sexual harassment is most common in low-wage jobs, workplaces staffed primarily by young employees (such as restaurants), and vocations where the vast majority of the workforce (or management) is made up of men.

However, sexual harassment and discrimination on Wall Street and in other high-power industries is rampant as well.

In the 1990s, the famous Wall Street retail stock brokerage Smith Barney was sued for egregious sexual harassment and forced to pay a multi-million dollar settlement to a group of female employees.

Branch managers at the brokerage firm were found guilty of demanding that women take off their shirts in exchange for money while at work. One Smith Barney branch even had a “Boom-Boom Room” – a locked room in which brokers partied and played lewd jokes on female employees.

Both the Smith Barney case and the hotel maids’ plight illustrate how sexual harassment is often a way for men to gain power and control over their female coworkers.

By equating a woman’s worth with her looks, treating her as incapable of doing equal work as her male colleagues, or labeling her as a sex object, men show women that they are not welcome in traditionally male-dominated fields – be it valet parking or finance.

Taking Initial Action

Are women who complain about sexual harassment at risk of being shunned, demoted or fired from their jobs?

“Legally, companies are not allowed to take any adverse action against a person complaining of discrimination,” says Michelle Caiola, Senior Staff Attorney and Acting Litigation Director at the women’s legal defense and education fund Legal Momentum.

Adverse action might include transferring the person to a different department or switching them to a less desirable shift.

If employers are caught penalizing an employee who has complained of discrimination/harassment, they can be subject to a retaliation case (in which the employee who addressed the crime sues their employer for striking back).

According to Caiola, companies work hard to avoid retaliation cases because they are often easier for the victim to win in court.

Still, there are no legal boundaries in place preventing coworkers and/or superiors from ostracizing the victim who has placed a complaint.

The emotional toll of such shunning can easily create an unbearable work environment.

Retaliation from coworkers against the complainant can also be very frightening in hazardous jobs such as construction or firefighting – jobs in which the victim may be counting on her colleagues to protect or even save her life in a crisis.

Many people, especially low-income women working to support their families, are not able or willing to risk their safety or the practicality of keeping their jobs to address sexual harassment – so they continue to endure it.

Some Important Things to Know if You’ve Been Sexually Harassed at Work

1. What is My Company’s Sexual Harassment Policy?

Sexual harassment policies differ from company to company.

There are no legal guidelines in place for what they must include or what consequences must be enacted for breaking them.

Companies with better policies are transparent when it comes to how they investigate claims of harassment/discrimination; some even have zero tolerance policies.

Legally, there is another incentive for companies to create a sound harassment policy: an employer will be better able to fight a discrimination claim in court if they have adhered to their company’s own sexual harassment policy – although this is not a complete defense in all circumstances.

2. Make Sure You Document, Document, Document

Documentation is key in cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.

In the age of modern technology, where most people have e-mail, smart phones, cameras and social media, documenting harassment is much easier than it was in the non-digital age.

Take a picture, save an email or instant message conversation, record a vocal exchange or even take video evidence.

And most importantly, make sure everything is documented immediately, including dates, locations, people involved and any other relevant details.

3. What If I’m Not a Citizen?

Many undocumented female workers come to the US as dependents of their husbands and work in the “informal economy” – in jobs that are paid under the table like house cleaning or nannying services.

Unfortunately, these women do not have legal status or the ability to safely contact the authorities about work violations or harassment from their employers.

These facts make it very easy for employers to take advantage of undocumented workers due to their fear of deportation should they complain about their employers’ practices/labor conditions.

Under the law, undocumented immigrants should be protected against deportation in cases of combatting workplace harassment – just like they should be protected under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in cases of reporting domestic abuse.

But there are many loopholes in the US immigration policy, and the fear of being deported and thus ripped from their families remains a strong deterrent for undocumented women struggling with workplace abuse and harassment.

4. What Are Some Next Steps I Can Take?

The key is taking action collectively.

Talk to your colleagues and see if they are experiencing the same problems at your workplace. Organize the ones that are into a group – multiple voices are louder than just one.

Go to your Human Resources department to lodge the complaint and make sure to get written documentation of your visit.

If your company is unionized and you are a member, get in touch with the union to make a complaint. In many cases, they will be able to help you take action.

If not, talk to local union leaders about unionizing and see if others at your job are interested in organizing a union at your company.

Also consider visiting your local National Organization for Women (NOW) Chapter to seek aid and resources from professionals working on these issues.

5. What If I’ve Tried Everything and Still Haven’t Gotten Results?

The next step is to take the case to court.

For low-income women, the options here are fewer because lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming. In cases where the victim has a family to support but no access to reliable childcare, pursuing a court case may not be a possibility.

Instead, low-income harassment victims often reach out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or their state’s equivalent agency (Fair Employment Practices Agencies, or FEPAs) to file a sexual harassment charge against their employer.

The EEOC then decides whether or not to investigate the claim.

6. What Can I Do To Prevent Sexual Harassment at Work?

Attend and pay attention to your company’s sexual harassment trainings. Education about how to recognize sexual discrimination is a vital step in preventing it.

If you aren’t comfortable with someone’s behavior towards you but don’t think it’s a big enough deal to speak out – think again. Harassers often start out small by testing the water with an inappropriate joke – but without reprimand, things can quickly escalate.

Even if you aren’t the subject of the unwanted attention, call out your coworkers if you hear them say inappropriate things or see them harass a colleague. Sometimes it just takes one outside person to make the harasser aware that what they are doing isn’t going unnoticed – and that they need to stop.

As the workforce continues to change and grow over time, and society becomes increasingly supportive of differences in gender, race, sexuality and lifestyle choice, there is hope for reducing workplace sexual harassment.

But as things stand today, the best defense a person has is to educate themselves about their options – and to get a good cell phone camera!

Everyday Feminism and Danica extend a special thanks to Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), for her guidance and feedback in the development of this article. NOW is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States and works to eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace, schools, the justice system and all other sectors of society.

Cat-Calling Sucks

This morning two men in a truck honked, stared and yelled things at me as I walked to work.

Saturday a male stranger in the elevator called me sweetheart and another man on the street asked if I would go home with him.

Last week one of my male colleagues yelled out “va-va-voom” when I walked into a board meeting.

Last month a parking attendant outside my office building told me that he wanted to marry me and that he would stalk me until I broke up with the fake boyfriend I told him I had in order to ward him off.

Last summer three men walked past me on the stairs of a bar. One turned around and grabbed my ass, squeezed hard and guffawed. All three proceeded to laugh uproariously and continued on their way. I was too stunned to say or do anything so I just stared as they left me there on the stairs. A few weeks later a strange man in a club came up behind me while I was dancing with a girlfriend and pulled my waist towards him, pushing his crotch into my behind. I turned and demanded an explanation. His answer: “You backed into me.” Bullshit. Straight out lie.

These aren’t the worst examples of street harassment, just a few that come to mind. I am cat-called almost every single day of my life, no matter what I’m wearing or who I am with. But mostly when I am alone, walking to or from work or home.

Worse: I’m not an anomaly. This happens to most girls. All. The. Time. Cat-calling is not a compliment – it’s degrading, humiliating and demoralizing. It limits our ability to walk down the street without fear – even in broad daylight while wearing professional attire.

The featured quote says it all: I may be walking through a public place, but my body is not public property. I am a individual person with rights to my own body, not a sexual toy/object inviting your comments, stare or touch. Please consider this and apply it to ALL people as you move through your day.

Here are some great resources for people who are looking to learn more about how to identify and combat this type of harassment:

HollaBack! You Have the Power to End Street Harassment
Stop Street Harassment
Meet Us On The Street*

*Anti-street harassment week was April 7-13, 2013. Visit this website for news about next year’s event and additional resources.