Embedded in the routines and language of everyday life

Deborah Cameron suggests a category of “banal sexism” for the background noise of stale jokes and insults about women that most people don’t even notice.

Sexism also has ‘hot’ forms, and those are the ones mainstream discourse finds it easiest to recognise and condemn. The western media have no difficulty in recognising the sexism of the Taliban and Boko Haram; the more liberal parts of the western media have no difficulty in recognising the sexism of Gamergaters and Donald Trump.  But what you might call ‘banal sexism’—ordinary, unremarkable, embedded in the routines and the language of everyday life—is a different story. It does often go unnoticed, and when feminists draw attention to it they’re accused of taking offence where none was intended or embracing ‘victim culture’. These knee-jerk defences are often delivered with an air of surprise—as if the people responsible hadn’t realised until that moment that anyone could possibly dissent.

Dear Muslima innit – except it’s not irritable celebrity science dude on Twitter but nearly everybody all the time.

Banal sexism doesn’t provoke outrage. It occupies the part of the spectrum that runs from ‘seen but unnoticed’ (like the ‘default male’ convention which I discussed in an earlier post) through to ‘annoying but not worth getting all fired up about’. You might shake your head, roll your eyes, post a photo with a scathing comment on Facebook, but most people wouldn’t bother to make a formal complaint.

But we can also collect the photos with scathing comments on Facebook – and on blogs – and that’s a little more effective than just shouting at the tv. On the other hand there are also anti-feminists collecting their photos with scathing comments on Facebook and blogs, and at the moment they seem to be winning.

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