Calling Out Sexism: A Don’t Be Shy How-To Guide
Sexism. We’re damn tired of it, and we know you are too.
According to Oxford Languages, sexism is defined as “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex”. It’s a broad term that defines any action, comment, or decision made with the aim – jokingly or not – of disparaging someone based on their gender.
We wish it weren’t so, but unfortunately, most womxn experience sexism at some point in their lives, even as young girls. If something happens that makes you feel uneasy and on-edge, then it’s probably sexist. The #MeToo movement has also made headlines in recent years, bringing attention to something most womxn already knew: sexism is still a huge problem.
Here at RBL, we hate seeing others try to bring down the awesome babes of the world, so we’re all for calling out sexism at any given opportunity. Don’t worry, we know what you’re thinking – my strong outer feminist self is ready to stomp sexism to the ground, but my inner monologue is wondering how to do that and not cause a scene.
We get it. It’s hella tricky to know how to call out sexism, especially in professional situations. So we’ve put together a guide to handling sexism in a bunch of scenarios. We hope these tools give you the confidence to show the world that sexism is just not cool – not now, not ever.
How do I know if something is sexist or not?
It sucks, but sexism has existed in society just about forever. It can be anything from a dress code requiring womxn to wear skirts or heels, a joking comment at a bar about how womxn love to shop, assuming someone of a certain gender has or wants kids, or being called “babe” or “sweetie” by a male colleague (gag).
Sexism in any way, shape, or form is bullsh*t. If you feel that someone is treating you differently because of your gender, this counts as sexism.
How can I deal with sexist comments?
“Did you see what she was wearing? I couldn’t take her seriously in that tight skirt!”
“You need to man up and stop being so emotional.”
“Are you sure you have time to take on extra responsibilities when you have young kids?”
Yep, you guessed it: all of these count as sexist comments. One of the things about sexism is that it’s not always blatant, so a comment doesn’t need to be overtly malicious for it to be sexist. Subtle sexism is really common, with some men thinking it’s okay to drop low-key comments about someone’s looks or gender and get away with it. Um, no.
Here’s how to deal with sexist comments in all facets of your life.
In the workplace
We no longer live in the Mad Men era of the 60s, where womxn were limited to secretarial roles, but we still hear all. the. time. that sexism is commonplace in offices. Shockingly, four in ten women report that they’ve been discriminated against in the workplace because of their gender (and that’s from a 2017 survey).
So what if it happens to you? If you’re feeling spicy, some feminist babes like to shut down sexist comments boldly and loudly. Say a colleague makes an innuendo about how women are bad drivers, then they pause and wait for the laughs. Not today. Stare at them, say you don’t understand why that’s supposed to be funny, then direct the meeting back to its focus. The sexist commentator is put in his place and you come off as the kick-ass professional.
You can also just call it as you see it. If someone makes a comment directed towards you, politely respond that what they said made you uncomfortable and rephrase their comment in a way that’s more professional.
Also, we’re sure you know, but sexism is also illegal in the workplace. If someone has made you feel unequal, talk to your HR department, manager, or a trusted colleague to find out how you can report this downright crappy behavior.
In social situations
Sometimes shutting down sexist comments needs to happen in social situations too. You’re out for drinks or chillin’ with friends when someone drops a sexist bomb – way to ruin the vibe.
If a friend, or friend of a friend, really puts their foot in it, you could ask them, “Would you say that about a man?” This often makes them stop and pause, realizing that what they said was wrong.
If it’s someone you know well, you could also remind them that they’re better than this. There’s no need to stoop to the lowest level in an attempt to get attention.
This is a tough one. Say your teacher or professor has been making sexist comments toward you. School is a place to get your learn on in a safe and welcoming environment, so if school no longer seems like a safe place, talk to a trusted adult or school counselor for guidance.
Your college should have policies in place to stop sexism, so an advisor or guidance counselor can help you switch classes, file a complaint, and take action against the so-called “teacher”.
If it’s a fellow student who’s making sexist comments, we recommend putting ’em in their place with one of the strategies mentioned above, or filing a complaint. Most schools have a zero-tolerance policy to bullying, sexism, and discrimination, so you absolutely do not have to put up with that.
How can I stop sexism for good?
If you’ve had it up to here with this sexism malarkey, you’re not alone. No one of any gender should ever be belittled or spoken down to, so if you want to help make the world a bit less sexist, here are a few actions you and your pals can take:
- Even though it’s hard, call out sexism when you can, explaining why a comment was inappropriate.
- Support charities and movements that are working to end sexism, like Equality Now, UN Women, and Planned Parenthood.
- Talk to your employer about how they can be more supportive of equality for all genders.
We know confronting sexism is intimidating for some, especially if you’re in a room full of men. But remember to take a deep breath, speak up for what you know is right, and know that, over time, we’re all working to chip away at the evil dumpster fire that is sexism.
Keep fighting the good fight, even when it’s hard.