You may have some sexist baggage if…

So, one of the complaints I often get when I inform people they’re being sexist is that they can’t tell why. (Which betrays male privilege, because it implies that you haven’t bothered trying to learn)

Please note that these items may make you sexist. Some of these will not always be sexist. Some of these will always be sexist, but can be made worse or better depending on the context. Some of the sexism is stuff society just takes for granted, and people will try to fob off with “but nobody really cares about that.” Yes, they do. They just don’t always tell you they care, or they aren’t around because you behave that way.

Please also note that some of these overlap insensitivity to racism, homophobia, gender variance, etc… That’s just because you can’t seperate out all of the -isms very easily. 🙂

  • You say anything about a woman that you would be embarrassed or reluctant to say about a man- or vice-versa.
  • You seriously believe you’re “gender-blind”, or that “gender doesn’t matter”.
  • You have to back up a statement with “…and I’d still say that if she was a man” or a similar tag line. If it sounds sexist without the tag line, it’s still sexist with it.
  • You imply that just because a woman is being emotional, she is having her period. Or the other way around. Bonus demerit points if you don’t even know the woman in question.
  • You imply that because a woman is being emotional, she is also being irrational.
  • You imply that because a man is being calm, that he’s being rational.
  • You imply that when woman complain they are “whining” or “nagging”, especially if the complaint is about something that’s not acceptable in the first place.
  • You imply that when a man complains he is offering legitimate criticism, even if he clearly has no justification.
  • You call a woman a “bitch”, a “slut”, a “whore”, a “cunt”, a “tart”, a “trollop”, or one of the many other nasty words aimed explicitly at making women seem disgusting.
  • You imply that you can ignore a woman because she has sexual habits you disapprove of.
  • You imply that women having sexual habits at all is morally damaging.
  • You imply that unwanted sexual attention or harassment is okay because it is intended as a compliment. (Or you actually DO harass someone)
  • You imply that women dressed “provocatively” are “asking for it”, regardless of what the “it” you’re referring to actually is.
  • You imply that you can always approach women in public purely because you find them attractive.
  • You imply that objectifying men is an acceptable turnaround to objectifying women.
  • You imply that faking rape is any more likely than faking victimhood of any other crime, subject to the same penalties for allegations that can be proven blatantly false.
  • You complain about false rape convictions when discussing rape despite rape being estimated at having a 6% conviction rate.
  • You use terminology from consensual sex to describe rape.
  • You use rape as a joke.
  • You avoid using the word “rape”.
  • You avoid using the word “abuse”.
  • You imply that men-only or women-only environments are okay, rather than using the more inclusive idea of “safe spaces”.
  • You imply that there are not already “male spaces” in society.
  • You attack the idea of “female spaces”.
  • You imply that “female spaces” aren’t welcoming to men.
  • You imply that it’s not okay for men to be emotional or supportive.
  • You imply that it’s not okay (or not possible) for women to be tough or strong.
  • You assume that men make better leaders.
  • You call men “girls” as an insult.
  • You treat men interested in girly things differently from “tomboys”.
  • You imply that men who are similar to women are gay.
  • You use male-exclusive terms to address a mixed group- eg. “guys”, “men” instead of “people”, etc…
  • You use gender-specific terms when there is no need to- eg. “actress”, “fireman”.
  • You assume gender-neutral terms apply to men.
  • You expect names that could be either male or female to apply to men. (Alex, Toni/Tony, Jamie, etc…)
  • You let someone else say something sexist without challenging it.
  • You let someone ignore a colleague/a friend/your partner because she’s a woman.
  • All of the musicians/scientists/sportspeople/leaders/other role models you look up to are male.
  • All of your friends that weren’t introduced to you by someone else are male.
  • You use “he” when “you” or “they” would be more appropriate.
  • You assume a Dr. with an ambiguous name is a man.
  • You assume people with unfamiliar/non-english names are men.
  • You assume women should change their name at marriage.

This is merely a checklist of things to watch out for, and not an exhaustive list, but it covers some of the most stupid mistakes. I’ve done several of these at some point in my life, and I’m looking out for them. My brother tears through this list all the time, even though he respects women. Imagine how many people do when they don’t have an idea of what might be sexist? Imagine how many people tear through when they are deliberately sexist?

Advertisements

13 Responses

  1. How about “You assume that in order for everyone in your family to have ‘the same name,’ a woman should change her name to yours instead of you changing your name to hers”?

  2. I could’ve sworn I had that in there… maybe I had it highlighted when I started a new line or something. Thanks 🙂

  3. Can you please explain how being sexist is a demonstration of male privilege when women are sexist.

    Oddly, your first example allows for the common case of women saying things about women that they wouldn’t say about men (or v.v.) I’ve often wondered about that – is it sexist when women bag out other women for their failure to dress in the approved manner? Something that many men either don’t care about or are oblivious to but which many women focus heavily on.

    I’m also concerned at your “You imply that noticing a woman sexually gives you a right to approach her when you otherwise would not”. That sounds like an anti-sex agenda coming through. I’m used to both sexes being more outgoing when they’re looking for a sexual partner, but it sounds as though you think that’s wrong (at least for people who are attracted to women). Too bad for lesbians.

    “non-gendered safe spaces” don’t work. At least single-sex spaces have the advantage that they’re easy to understand. Women’s space, men’s space work somewhat better for some people. Those people are often confused and annoyed by “safe spaces” where abusers are welcome.

    > You treat men interested in girly things differently from “tomboys”.

    Girlymen generally have very different interests to tomboys and treating them the same is going to irritate at least one group. I’m sure you mean something like “don’t regard one as inferiour to the other”, but really, I don’t buy that either. I prefer doing “tomboy” type stuff, and sitting round chatting about girly crap bores and irritates me. So I quite blatantly value tomboys more than girly people. In a fairly nonsexist way… girlygirls bore me just as much as girlyboys 🙂 If you phrase it as “value people who do dumb stuff just as much as you value people who do interesting and useful things” does it sound egalitarian? I think it sounds post-modern.

    Why is it male privilege when a women lets a sexist remark pass without challenging it? Or are women not supposed to challenge sexism?

  4. Can you please explain how being sexist is a demonstration of male privilege when women are sexist.

    I accept the existence of female sexists, but having only ever met one in my entire life, I generally don’t consider them worthy of lengthy discussion. One part of male privilege is that women are largely aware of what’s appropriate behaviour around men, wheras men are not necessarily expected to reciprocate. Most instances of sexist behaviour against men are either deliberate attempts to annoy a specific person, attempts to educate men about sexist behaviour towards women, or just individual women not having good boundaries in some areas. Most gender issues around men that I notice are caused as a result of male privilege, not due to a battle-of-the-sexes tug of war.

    I’m also concerned at your “You imply that noticing a woman sexually gives you a right to approach her when you otherwise would not”. That sounds like an anti-sex agenda coming through. I’m used to both sexes being more outgoing when they’re looking for a sexual partner, but it sounds as though you think that’s wrong (at least for people who are attracted to women). Too bad for lesbians.

    ROFL, I am most certainly not anti-sex. I am, however, anti-hassling women about sex. Maybe that item needs some refinement- essentially, it’s a Thou Shalt Not Wolfwhistle/harass/stalk. I’m not sure if it’s come across in any posts yet, but I’m a sex-positivist. The word “woman” is there because it is not socially acceptable to objectify men to the same extremes- which, all things considered, is probably a good thing. There are times and places where being outgoing in talking to people you’re attracted to is appropriate, and there are times when it is essentially a form of harassment.

    “non-gendered safe spaces” don’t work. At least single-sex spaces have the advantage that they’re easy to understand. Women’s space, men’s space work somewhat better for some people. Those people are often confused and annoyed by “safe spaces” where abusers are welcome.

    Are you sure you’re familiar with safe spaces? Generally the point of them is that abusers are NOT welcome, and that you get challenged pretty quickly if you even start to sound or look like one, and kicked out if you can’t defend yourself. Of course, as it’s impossible to tell for sure if someone’s an abuser, this introduces risks, if that’s what you’re referring to, but to a lesser degree than say, inviting a very manipulative uncle around to stay in your house without closely supervising your daughter.

    Essentially the idea is that the space is in control of the one group, and designed to be friendly to them and used to raise awareness about their issues. By not excluding members of other groups, however, you leave open the option of educating them to be sensitive to your concerns if you’re so interested.

    It also sidesteps the fact that segregation essentially “others” women.

    Girlymen generally have very different interests to tomboys and treating them the same is going to irritate at least one group. I’m sure you mean something like “don’t regard one as inferiour to the other”, but really, I don’t buy that either. I prefer doing “tomboy” type stuff, and sitting round chatting about girly crap bores and irritates me. So I quite blatantly value tomboys more than girly people. In a fairly nonsexist way… girlygirls bore me just as much as girlyboys 🙂

    I’d ask you not to use disparaging labels here please. Yes, girlyboy is out 🙂 Just because you’re not interested in something doesn’t mean it’s of no value. So yes, there’s an undercurrent there that men who are inclined to the feminine are just as valuable as women inclined to the masculine.

    I was more referring to social acceptance than assumptions about interests and such.

    If you phrase it as “value people who do dumb stuff just as much as you value people who do interesting and useful things” does it sound egalitarian? I think it sounds post-modern.

    I think the point is realising that not all stuff is dumb, even if you’re not interested in it. Everything people do in the world has some value to someone. You don’t have to listen to it or engage with it directly, but disrespect for them as a person because of that sort of thing is certainly out of line.

    Why is it male privilege when a women lets a sexist remark pass without challenging it? Or are women not supposed to challenge sexism

    Assuming we’re talking about remarks that are sexist to women, then at best she’s perpetuating her own oppression, and at worst tacitly participating in the oppression of other women.

    It’s certainly not good for a woman to let a remark pass that objectifies or devalues men, but it’s not as bad, either, as men are not the ones facing systematic discrimination.

    Anyway, this thing probably needs a good edit sometime- I knew there’d be issues with it, I’d just played with it too long to see many more of them 😉

  5. “You let someone else ignore a woman who deserves their respect and courtesy.”

    Generally I feel if somebody doesn’t want to interact with somebody, that’s their right.

  6. Hey Hugh, welcome. 🙂

    I don’t mind people ignoring other people. What I do mind is people assuming that because their collegue is a woman, she can be ignored safely. It happens a lot in IT and science -related fields, sadly.

  7. Perhaps your post should have said ‘in a professional or academic context’. It sounds like you’re saying the obligation extends to social situations. That’s what seemed a bridge too far to me.

  8. Yeah, I need to clean this one up some time! 🙂

  9. I’ve cleaned this one up a bit and added to it a bit more. I expect to do so again in the future.

  10. Having re-read this it really does seem like you’re trying to have this both ways.

    On the one hand we have “You imply that you can always approach women in public purely because you find them attractive”

    Then we have “You let someone ignore a colleague/a friend/your partner because she’s a woman”

    So in some circumstances, a man is not entitled to approach women. In other circumstances, not only is it unacceptable for a man to ignore a woman, it’s so unacceptable all present must ensure it happens.

    Sounds to me that the non-sexist man is, in your view, obliged to give attention to women when they want it, and forbidden to give attention when women don’t want it.

  11. Hey Hugh-

    Someone who wants to avoid sexism is obliged to avoid objectifying people. Both dismissing someone as intellectually useless and harassing them as a sexual object are different forms of the same problem. Does it seem contradictory? Viewed from a certain way, sure.

    But then again, you could say much the same thing about treating children appropriately- on the one hand, pedophilia is wrong because it takes love further than it ought to go in that situation. On the other hand, neglect is wrong because it denies children what they need to develop as human beings.

    I think the important thing to remember is that people are complicated and sometimes we need a balance, rather than a complete absense or complete saturation of something, in order to survive. (For instance, both too little and too much salt intake can be fatal) I don’t see why our social interactions should be any different.

  12. hehe, Hi Ari!

    I’ve just found your blog – this post is awesome!

    I’ve been getting reactionary about sexist behaviour; recently, I decided that if a man waits for me to go through the door, dammmit, I will; ‘cos at least it’s an example of one of them getting out of the way, for a change …

    My authority for this shift in perception comes from Sandra Coney’s “Standing in the sunshine” – All women want is for men to move over, and stop standing in our sunshine.

    Now the campaigning is over, I may well have time to go back to my regular passtime of checking feminist blogs regularly; take note, you’re bookmarked! 😉

  13. Hey Katie! You stalker 😉

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, this was actually one of the ones I was more self-conscious about. 🙂 I think also that sometimes opening doors for people is just being considerate rather than anything sexist, too. I often do it for other guys. *shrug*

    Also, now the campaign is over, I should be posting here a little more regularly, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: