I’m probably stating the obvious here, but most women I know don’t mention every single sexist thing that happens to them. There are a few reasons for this. Sometimes, we think to ourselves, ‘it’s just not worth it‘, which can mean a number of different things. Sometimes it’s just not worth the effort of starting the conversation; we have to pick our battles, and when other people can’t fix the problem anyway it can seem a bit pointless to bring it up.
Sometimes it’s not worth the energy spent on yet another same-old-same-old big argument about how we’re not being over-sensitive and hormones have absolutely nothing to do with it and it shouldn’t matter what we’re wearing and other things we’ve already had to deal with a million and one times before.
Sometimes it’s not worth being considered ‘a killjoy’ or ‘irrational’ or whatever women who stand up for themselves are being called these days and even when you don’t care what people think of you, there are still situations where other people’s opinions of you matter and have knock-on consequences.
But here’s the rub – if you don’t speak up things will never change. People will never realise that their words are inappropriate and making you uncomfortable. They will continue acting in the same way.
It’s actually likely that confronting them won’t be as bad as you think. In fact, in a study conducted by Robyn Mallett and Dana Wagner, it was found that the consequences of confronting sexism were largely positive. After being confronted about sexist remarks men in the study actually became more energetic and happy in an effort to make the woman like them more. Their use of sexist language was also reduced.
If you want things to change, you have to step up. Luckily, there are many options for how you can react, based on your comfort level and overall desire to make the comments stop. Here are a few tips for stopping sexist comments.
1. Ignore It
This one is easy and often the one that we go with. The only time I recommend this option is when you don’t care that they stop.
2. Let others speak up for you
This one is powerful. It shows the perpetrator that two people are upset, rather than just one. The only problem is having someone who is willing to step-in. If you have a friend or colleague that you’re close with, consider letting them know that you are often uncomfortable when certain subjects are brought up. If they are at all outspoken it’s likely that they will step-in. It’s easier to stick up for someone else than it is to stick up for yourself.
3. Be dismissive
This one is a good step up from ignoring a comment and after a few times can let your colleagues know that what they’re saying isn’t okay. If something silly and immature is said, such as ‘woman, I’m hungry make me a sandwich’, be dismissive and let them know that they’re being ridiculous. Give someone else a look that says, ‘Wow, he really worships/ works here?’ and switch the subject of the conversation. Doing so will deprive the perpetrator of the satisfaction they were looking for and hopefully take the wind out of their sails.
Do you have any tips I missed? Comment below!
Have you experienced sexism in the past? How did you react?