I was at my daughter's nursery graduation recently (yes, they have those now), there was a man in his 50s hired as a party entertainer (let's call him Mr E) for the children. Now, I'm almost certain that he didn't intend to be sexist, but sexist he was.
At one point Mr E was singing 'Wheels On The Bus', you all know the one - a firm favourite among pre-schoolers. He got to the line, "The mummies on the bus go chatter, chatter, chatter". OK, now that puts my back up a little - not Mr E's fault, it is just a song after all. Then he asks the children, "Whose mummy chatters all the time?". Queue children's screams of agreement. "And whose daddy chatters all the time?". At this I thought, OK fair enough the daddies aren't off the hook. However, before the children could repeat their screams of agreement, Mr E declares, "No, daddies don't do that. Only girls do". Jaw drops, but I recover and question whether it's really that big of a deal.
After a few cringe worthy renditions of 'Wheels On The Bus', Mr E starts a battle of the sexes with "Boys are better than girls". I mean seriously, we live in an age where girls can do anything boys can do! The girls fight back with, "No, girls are better than boys". They may just be four year olds but let's not encourage a division between our untainted, innocent children - this is not OK.
Again, I questioned my reaction and realised that no one else in the room is showing any visible reaction. Am I overreacting or are others under-reacting?
To top off our afternoon of offensive comments masked as 'entertainment', our local 'subtle sexist' requests the assistance of a couple of women to clear up after a game. Mr E jokes not once, but twice that he wishes his 'beautiful assistants' were wearing bikinis and implores them to just 'try one on'. So not only is this totally inappropriate for a children's party but is also compounding the idea that it is totally acceptable to objectify women.
As women, subtle sexism is something we deal with on a daily basis in various aspects of our lives.
It's in our workplace, where comments such as, 'must be that time of the month' are made if we get passionate or outraged at something (and that's if we're not also being paid less than our male colleagues for the same job. Check out the gender pay gap debate).
It's in sport, where how a woman looks is valued more than her skills as an athlete.
It's in our homes where we are 'just housewives'.
In our society where slurs like 'bitch', 'whore' and 'slag' are thrown around as if they aren't abhorrent terms to use but accurate descriptions of a woman with confidence who doesn't hold back her opinions, a woman with an active sex life or a woman who loves her body and chooses to wear clothes to show it off.
So some of you may think this is just feminism gone mad, over the top, and it's totally unnecessary to even talk about.
However, I think we need to question why as a society we don't confront subtle sexism. We have a responsibility to ensure our children have total respect for the opposite sex. That our daughters aren't one day asked to wear a bikini by a man his 50s. That our sons don't think they are any better or any worse than their sisters. That our children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren grow up in a society where there isn't a need to fight for respect and equality because they already have it.
Let's stop assuming that subtle sexism is harmless and correct society for accepting it.