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Do you remember a specific moment where you realised that being female put you at a disadvantage?

(141 Posts)

I have three.

1) I was about 8, and my best friend was a boy. We went to his house to play and I remember being so envious of his toys. He had lego, a real tool kit, a chemistry set, a metal detector etc. These were Boys Things, and I remember thinking how unfair that was.

2) From the age of 9 I begged my Dad to teach me to play 'Risk', because he often played it with his friends. He fobbed me off for years, and then one day I came home and found him teaching my 9 year old brother. Apparently, 'Risk' was a Man's Game.

3) At age 13, I was moaning about washing up the lunch things. My mother and aunt laughed and told me I'd best get used to it. When I said that if I got married, my husband would also wash up, they practically wet themselves with mirth.

All of these events made me feel so frustrated and angry. In fact, I spent a large part of my childhood thinking I must have been born in the wrong body because 'proper' girls didn't hanker after a saw, or desire to conquer america, or find washing up boring as fuck. You?

MillyR Mon 12-Sep-11 13:32:15

I didn't notice it as young as you did, probably because my parents (despite claiming to dislike feminism) did not gender stereotype us very much as children.

I would say that I first realised at 14 when there was only me and one other girl in my school year who did Chemistry as a GCSE option. I think it was largely the behaviour of boys towards girls in school that made me aware there was an issue; I didn't receive those messages very much from my parents or from the adults my parents knew.

theothersparticus Mon 12-Sep-11 13:39:29

13ish; I was in wood-work and I couldn't loosen the drill with the chuck key. I asked a (male) classmate for help who made a big deal about 'helping out the helpless little ladies' which was overheard by the (male) teacher who went on about how I shouldn't be over-reaching, maybe I should get a man to do the hard stuff on my project and maybe us girls shouldn't be doing this (the implication being we girls should be spending more time in home economics so the men can focus on man stuff angry). Not only did it annoy me because it was the first time I'd ever struggled with woodwork, but it put me off the class entirely (even though my corner shelving unit still stands 15 years later!)

Bloody hell. That's awful sparticus. I never felt disadvantaged at school. I remember we kicked up merry hell at not being able to play rugby at 14, and started a petition and everything. So the PE department said fine, you can have a rugby club. Come along at 1.15 (or whatever). The teacher stood there on his own for a whole lunch time drinking coffee. I mean, I didn't want to play rugby, I just didn't want to be told I couldn't grin But that is the only time I ever felt that boys and girls were treated differently at school. I left in 1994.

Firsttimer7259 Mon 12-Sep-11 13:56:31

When I had my daughter and realised that while my Hs life chuggs along relatively unaffected mine has been turned inside out to the point its unrecognisable. And its not cos he's not helping. It seems impossible to do this fairly in the UK

BikeRunSki Mon 12-Sep-11 13:58:43

1- When I was a child my brothers (2 older DBs) had a train set and all the good Lego! It was actually shared Lego, but they always took the wheels and made exiting things, I just got to make houses.

2 - When Star Wars was re-released in the late 1990s I commented to my mum that I had never seen it. She said "really, I definitely took the boys...."

3 - Pregnancy, hate being pregnant, and especially the 2 months of hyperemisis I have had both times. But hey ho, this is biology, nothing I can do about that.

Interestingly, I am well established (and well respected?) in a male dominated profession (civil engineering) and I think being a girl has helped. I went to a very "right on" school in the 1980s where everyone did science, CDT and whatever else they wanted. Oddly, for various timetabling reasons I only ever did 1 term of needlework, which I think I woudl have benefited from! All the way through school and uni, getting girls into engineering was positively encouraged, to the extent of getting a postgraduate scholarship against a man with exactly the same qualifications and experience as me. I like to think that since then I have done OK because I am good at what I do, rather than anything else. Once you are out of the cossetted world of Higher Education and into the real world of building sites, I am not sure that being young, female and blonde did me any favours!

fluffles Mon 12-Sep-11 14:07:40

i am so so lucky it really hasn't happened yet (i'm 34) on a personal basis... but i am ttc and i am not happy that i have to be the one to get pregnant and not do dangerous sports for a year or so and get unfit but that bits just biology...

i am also not happy that i have to think about maternity pay and career breaks in a way my DH doesn't have to, and that although he is more broody than me and will be a great dad, he doesn't really seem to fully realise that his mates whose lives haven't really changed much after having kids are the mates who do not do their far share, and those he complains he doesn't see anymore are the ones that are pulling their weight at home.

i'm hoping that when i do get pregnant i will be awe-inspired by my woman's body and capabilities... but right now i am dreading it and wishing i could be a father instead of a mother sad

AbsDuWolef Mon 12-Sep-11 14:16:23

from pretty young - I was told by my brothers constantly that I couldn't do "boy" stuff. (though, in their defence, it could also be because I was too young).

Naturally, I went and did it anyway.

KirstyJC Mon 12-Sep-11 14:18:51

I was lucky and went to an all girls' school, so there were only girls doing physics/chemistry etc. All the teachers assumed you would do well in all the subjects, so - guess what - we all did!

I do remember thinking how much I hated hockey and why didn't we do football or rugby like the boys' school though. (Especially since they did hockey too). I also didn't get especially girly presents as I was such a tomboy. I also hated wearing a skirt and bunches!

When I was a waitress at 14 at the weekend I often felt I was pretty much invisible when I went to a table to take an order, which I assumed was just because they didn't want to talk yet. Then I saw a male waiter who never had this happen to him and I realised it was because I was female and therefore they could ignore me......and I got told off by the boss for calling a man 'love' - well, he started it!!!grin Him: "Thanks, love" Me: "You're welcome, love".

I got a nasty shock when I was in my first proper job, a man came in to buy some electrical parts and I was asking him various questions to find out what he needed, and he kept looking at me, then turning to the only man in the office and answering him instead. He kept on doing this, even though the other man told him he didn't know and to speak to me. The other man in the office was amazed at such blatant sexism and said he didn't think people were like that these days......if only!

And don't get me started on when I applied for my first mortgage as a single 26 year old woman....the amount of mortgage advisors who said I was 'so brave' doing it by myself, or assumed my Dad was helping me with the deposit. Although the best ever was the male advisor who was asking me about the type of mortgage I wanted and then described the endowment mortgage as being 'something to do with the big boys in the city - don't worry, it's not important to understand it'.angry

Kirsty shock at the nobber mortgage advisor.

babster Mon 12-Sep-11 14:23:15

Reading the Famous Five. Anne would be washing the dishes in a stream whilst the boys would be planning something exciting, whilst George was saying 'But I'm as good as a boy any day'. Cheers Enid.

KirstyJC Mon 12-Sep-11 14:25:03

I know - unbefuckinglievable!

Although, I did have Economics A level and I actually DID understand what he meant, so I casually asked him something with long words in the question....his flustered response made it clear that you obviously didn't need to understand it to sell it either......!

(Can't actually remember what the clever comeback was now as I have completely forgotten everything I learnt back then!blush)

ColdSancerre Mon 12-Sep-11 14:27:16

I wasn't something that happened to me but where I worked when I first graduated they had awful ideas about women in the workplace. My direct manager was paid less than the equivalent male, because she had a husband to support her. And when one guy and his wife had a baby, he got a payrise, because he now has children to support. Yet that never happened when a female employee started a family.

Chocobo Mon 12-Sep-11 14:56:28

I can always remember being aware of females being viewed as somehow "lesser" by society although I would not have know how to vocalize it. As a child I remember getting annoyed with adverts for family games such as Mouse Trap or Monopoly and the boy would always win or wondering why there were not more female characters in my favourite cartoons such as Thundercats.

More annoyingly when I was about 9 or 10 my school split the girls and boys into gender groups on a Wednesday afternoon and the boys got to do arts and craft (such as pottery, woodwork etc) and the girls had to do sewing making aprons and dolls hmm . The girls did not think this was fair and perhaps surprisingly a lot of the boys agreed so we started a petition to alternate the lessons i.e the boys and girls should take it in turns to do sewing and arts and craft on alternate weeks. The teachers went absolutely mental and took the main girl ringleaders into a room and positively screamed at them so us girls never did get to do arts and craft sad .

LRDTheFeministDragon Mon 12-Sep-11 14:57:35

1) I don't know why this hit me, but it did. When my parents put me in for an exam to a private school, and my brother had done one a few years earlier and got a scholarship so he got his fees paid - my parents told me there were 15 scholarships for boys at the boys' school. There were two at the girls' school (of roughly the same size). I remember feeling really upset that I'd have to do so much better to get the same thing, you see (I didn't get one, either).

2) Hearing my teacher say he had a class with 'two students and the rest - pretty things' (ie. two men, and the rest women).

3) Every time my dad opens his mouth about childcare and jobs.

4) Having a conversation with a male friend of a friend. And realizing that this person, whom I'd never met, had decided to be rude to me purely because I was a woman. I was about 21, and either it had never happened to me or it had been more subtle and I'd not noticed, or it had been by older people and I'd sort of assumed that was different. But finding someone my age, whose first comment after introductions was 'don't try to be funny, women are never funny' (responding to something my mate and I had been laughing about) - that really unsettled me.

Conflugenglugen Mon 12-Sep-11 14:58:54

When I realised I that my parents were wanting a "son and heir" rather than a girl. I was the first born.

verylittlecarrot Mon 12-Sep-11 15:00:04

When I applied for a different role internal to the company I worked for and my boss felt obliged to notate my application form with "verylittlecarrot will be going on maternity leave soonish"

Because, obviously, my pregnancy made me a liability and it was only fair to warn the interviewer...

I am also the first born. My mother told me a few years ago that my brother would be their heir, because I had a husband to look after me. I said I'd see him in court. She was furious.

I realise that the above makes it sound like we're dividing riches. In reality, it's a bog standard semi and a volvo, but still. It's the principle. And my brother would just, you know, hand it over anyway. He isn't living in the fifteenth century.

theothersparticus Mon 12-Sep-11 15:08:46

@verylittlecarrot isn't that illegal? that's awful that they would feel the need to influence an interview panel.

KRICRI Mon 12-Sep-11 15:16:27

I can't remember a time when I wasn't aware that females were of lesser value than males, not that I was ever particularly willing to accept that at face value.

One of the first times that I was aware of it in a public context was when I was I think 10 or 11. I was involved in a local youth organisation/group and entered a competition related to demonstrating cookery skills - sort of a mini Masterchef before Masterchef! I worked flipping hard on my presentation and my family ate more fruit salad in the week leading up to the contest than they have before or since! smile

Anyhow, when they announced the scores at the end, it was a tie between another boy and me. The judge announced that she would give the top award to him because she thought it would be a good chance to encourage more boys to be interested in cooking. Everyone in the audience just nodded in agreement.

If only she'd just fibbed and said he'd scored a few points higher, and then said something about hoping it would be encouraging to other boys that he'd won, it would have been okay. But, it was the fact that he won because he was a boy, and particularly because he was a boy who had lowered himself to do something that girls do, well, I was seething.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 12-Sep-11 15:17:09

I don't think I've ever really felt at a disadvantage. I had older brothers so there was already lego, scalextrix etc in the house which obviously I used.

My brothers had to wash up, and learned to do laundry, ironing and cooking. My dad did his share of household chores as they both worked.

Like Milly, I spent most of GCSE and A level with one or no female classmates in Chem/Phys/Double MATHS but I never felt at a disadvantage - because I was just about always top so the boys didn't diss me... or seem to resent me either, fortunately. It didn't really occur to me to question why few other girls did physical sciences (there were a some doing biology and chemistry in a different set).

I don't even think I felt disadvantaged when I had DD - I enjoyed maternity leave and then went straight back into my old job no problems. I was able to negotiate part-time work when DD started school, which I love and would have been harder for a man I'd imagine.

I know, I'm bloody lucky!

MillyR Mon 12-Sep-11 15:31:21

Mine might have been a bit misleading - I think there was an issue with boys' behaviour to girls in general, but there was no negative response from boys over the issue of girls doing Chemistry. I think the lack of girls must have been down to other factors.

LeninGrad Mon 12-Sep-11 15:33:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Insomnia11 Mon 12-Sep-11 15:39:04

I think walking home, first night at university from a freshers do and some bloke followed 20 yards behind whistling at me. Luckily nothing else happened. But it did make me check myself and think about my personal freedom, in a way that a bloke of the same age probably wouldn't worry about.

Growing up I felt at a distinct advantage being female. I could not only play with 'girls toys' but 'boys toys' as well. I could be interested in steam trains, football, Sindy and My Little Pony all at once. Best of all, I could wear pink, frills and furbelows and sparkles and not those boring clothes boys wear. I remember looking at the boys in the line up in the playground and feeling actually quite sorry for them...

I do remember though, being about 8 when I'd been playing out and coming home and my dad said "What were you playing?" and I said I'd been playing football with Martin, James and Ian and he said "Girls can't play football!" My mum overheard and had a proper go at him. grin Imagine he was just being over-protective though as he was always very stern towards any boys who called to play out with me...I do wonder if he'd have taken me with him to football matches if I'd have been a boy...but we would have been watching Man City - perhaps he wanted to spare me from the ignominy smile Other than that he was great though, my parents I now realise were quite non-traditional for the 80s in that they both worked and shared household chores.

sunshineandbooks Mon 12-Sep-11 15:50:12

I was lucky to have quite enlightened parents and teachers I think, so I never really felt disadvantaged for being female until I had children.

That said, I was brought up in what I call the 'as good as a man' school of feminism (e.g. I could do anything a man could and shouldn't be held back because of my gender), which although is very valuable tends to ignore issues specific to women and can leave you quite unaware of gender-based problems until you actually fall foul of them. EG I believed I could have a career but never stopped to consider how that might be affected by having children.

Also, I wonder if it makes a difference what gender your siblings are? I had a sister so I never had a brother to see being treated differently IYSWIM.

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