We’re here to call bullsh*t on those stereotypical, patronizing, condescending comments that women have to deal with every day. Even better…we have an action plan for dealing with them, courtesy of Laura Bates, author of Girl Up.
If you’re coming up against a lot of “minor” sexism, you might need to build yourself a Bullshit Detection Kit. Ask yourself these simple questions:
• Is the same thing happening to my male peers?
• Have I been told to calm down and not make a fuss about it?
• Does it feel like bullshit?
If the answer to one or more of the above questions is yes, there’s a strong possibility you’ve got a case of bullshit on your hands (no one likes having bullshit on their hands). If you do find yourself coming across a case of sexism, you’re going to need an action plan.
Action Plan for Challenging Sexist Bullshit
1. Be specific
You don’t have to call someone “a sexist”—they’ll probably react defensively and try to argue back if you do. What sometimes has better results is to lay out exactly what the problem is and how it affected you. For example, “When you said this, it made me feel like that.”
2. Pick your moment
Confronting someone in a big group might work but it might also make them feel defensive and more likely to react angrily or aggressively. Sometimes a quiet word somewhere not too busy is the best way to give a person the chance to reflect on what they’ve done.
3. Don’t be defeated
If your initial plan doesn’t work, or if things get worse, you can always try another method. If you try to deal with things yourself first and that doesn’t work, you could progress to reporting the problem. (Also, don’t feel defeated if somebody doesn’t immediately drop on their knees before you and repent their sexist ways. It’s pretty hard for any of us to admit we were wrong when we’re called out on it, but even if somebody reacts defensively in the moment you might still have made them go away and think about it later.)
4. Stick together
It can be much easier to call this stuff out as a team than on your own. It makes it less scary, it makes you less likely to deal with nastiness afterward, and it makes it harder for the culprit to argue back. Check out the “F-Word” chapter for some great ways for young women to take action together.
If guys you know are often sexist, coming together as a group with other girls to challenge them on it can be really effective.
Part of sticking together and having each other’s backs is being aware that sexism also affects different people in different ways, as is quite well summed up by this headline that popped up on my computer today: “Seventeen celebrity lesbians you will definitely fancy.” I mean, literally, what? Sometimes headline writers just need to shut up.
We recommend additional reading if you haven’t learned the 5 ways to deal with a sexist joke.