Dealing with a sexism, especially when the douche bag is my grandma, who for years and years would tell my parents, in Spanish, “Yeah, your daughter is really smart now but wait until she meets a boy.” Well, grandma I’ve met many boys in between the time I was eight years old, when you first started saying dumb shit like this, and now; yet somehow I haven’t thrown my life away in a fever pitch of unwanted pregnancies, sandwich making and poor choices.
I’ve never confronted my grandma on this archaic way of thinking because she is old and me saying, “Um, not really,” isn’t going to change her entire world view. After all, decades of seeing the world change and women enter the workplace hasn’t changed her point of view either.
That’s the thing, if you have a sexist encounter with someone, the first thing you have to acknowledge is that you probably won’t change their mind. There are exceptions where men and women I have known have made gendered assumptions but after talking to them about I realized they simply had a sexist mindset because they didn’t have more information. That’s just ignorance (and I mean that in a non-judgmental way, everyone is ignorant about something) and was solved by providing them with more information.
However, there are people who will hold steady that women cannot be president or “don’t know what they want,” or shouldn’t make more money than their husbands. Blah, blah, blah. A lot of these people won’t change their minds and while it is your job as a lady to help empower other ladies and it’s your job to empower yourself, don’t feel responsible for changing the universe. Here’s how I deal with it.
Call It Out!
Don’t be afraid to call out sexist comments. Just be wary that they may not be well-received or even understood. The reason why you have to call out sexist bullshit is not to change the commenter’s mind but to make others feel at ease. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been in a classroom or a group and someone said something racist, homophobic, prejudice or sexist and I was the one to say, “Hey, that’s not cool.” What would happen is awkwardness. The person would feel uncomfortable and so would everyone else. BUT 90% of the time, people would speak to me after the incident and say, “What you said the other day was so cool. In my head I was totally with you.”
The thing is, not everyone wants to or even knows that they can stand up for themselves. Part of any kind of prejudice is subtle, microaggressions and hostility that will make the targeted group feel bad. You may not know how to articulate why you get the sense this person doesn’t like you but you know its there. Often times the only way people will begin to even notice sexism is when someone else acknowledges it and another person says, “You’re right, that did happen, that’s not OK.” When no one speaks up, people are more willing to drop problematic issues or convince themselves it was either their fault or nothing “really” happened.
Don’t Sound Like A ‘Victim’
If someone is being sexist, which both men and women and anyone are totally guilty of at times, don’t go on a tirade about the how, “You men, you’re pigs.” It’s just not effective and although you may feel as though the comment warrants a response like that, if you look like you are overreacting people will not take you seriously. Especially because when people say asinine things they like to remain calm so that people won’t think they are “crazy.” There are enough stereotypes about women being “crazy” or “emotional” and even though sexism is a TOTALLY VALID reason to lose your shit at someone, it’s not going to empower the women around you or educate anyone.
If someone says something, in jest, that exposes them as a sexist, then respond with equal weight and force in self-defense. Make a joke back. If someone asks a question like, “To the guys, do you know XYZ about [Insert Stereotypical Male Hobby Here]?” And you know the answer, then say the answer and add, “But I guess I wouldn’t know since I’m a girl…” Then casually shrug your shoulders and fade into black like the fabulous diva that you are. U MAD?
Pick Your Battles
Calling out sexism in the workplace is probably the most difficult, especially if the person making you feel uncomfortable is your boss. Public shaming isn’t going to be effective here because your boss is your boss and they have the power to punish you. Confront your boss or any authority figures in private. Be calm, but stern. Let them know that you didn’t appreciate a comment they made because you thought it was either personally degrading to you or to women. Let them know you won’t tolerate being undermined especially if male counterparts are not. Follow-up with an email where you outline your discussion, so that you have proof that the discussion happened. If they still proceed to mistreat you report them to HR. Protect yourself, always.
Dealing With Sexist Favoritism
I interned at a well-known newspaper that was incredibly sexist. The majority of the interns were female and we were told that if we wanted to be writers we shouldn’t spend all of our time, “pampering” ourselves. Um. what? Worst of all, any of the guys who interned got an immediate in because, well, they were guys and our male boss felt most comfortable talking to other guys. The male interns were aware of this and were mostly empathetic with the girls but it wasn’t going to stop them from benefiting from the sexist system either. It wasn’t actually their fault. It was our boss’ fault. This is how male privilege works.
At this point in history, I would argue that the men of our generation are significantly less sexist than our parents’ but the trouble is we’re socially conditioned to fraternize with our own gender. When most positions of power are in the hands of men and men are only hanging out with other male employees then they are inclined to want to help out their friends’ careers. How do you deal with that? Well, unfortunately you have to learn how to connect with your male co-workers, even if they are d-bags you don’t want to spend time with, this is networking. Don’t pretend you’re into sports or whittling or whatever these guys are into in order to impress them. Just be yourself and take the extra time to make yourself a part of their circle in a very basic way. Hey, you may end up making new friends.
Dealing With Creepy Strangers
Last week, a guy on the street shouted, “Hey, mami! Hey, mami!” Then he ran up to me and put his arm around me. I promptly pushed him off me and said, “Don’t fucking touch me. What the fuck is wrong with you?! Don’t put your hands on women. You don’t know me!” He got flustered and walked away. That’s how you deal with that. Like Helen Mirren said, women are not taught to say, “Fuck off,” or stand up for themselves. Stand up, ladies.
Dealing with sexism is tough but we’re in this together. You are not alone.