Challenging sexist statements and attitudes from people one can't avoid

(30 Posts)
wastingaway Tue 23-Mar-10 00:18:06

Someone I must see regularly has the infuriating habit of spitting 'You girl' as a negative pisstake comment.
Mainly at our respective DSs.

I need to challenge this, but I'm not sure merely pointing out this sexism will have any impact, and I can't cause a big rift.

Aargh! angry

madwomanintheattic Tue 23-Mar-10 00:31:09

i think that you need to treat it as a hilarious joke - waaaaaay over the top, and say something along the lines of 'golly, i remember when people really did used to say that stuff about boys, and really did believe all that totally outdated masculinity stuff! i'm so thankful the world is a lot more liberal these days!' and keep laughing. a lot. but i'm dead passive-aggressive, me. grin

or just say 'look, i'm really sorry, but i'm intrigued by why you keep saying that - do you really believe that each sex has specific character traits that shouldn't be deviated from?' and try and open up a discussion. it might be something that they genuinely haven't thought about at all, and so haven't quite connected what 'you girl' used in that context really means.

but then, if they are genuinely a cast-iron idiot, you might find further proof that their attitude is more than you can stomach.

yuk. horrible. do you really have to spend time with them?

ElephantsAndMiasmas Tue 23-Mar-10 00:44:57

Disingenuousness can work:

"What's wrong with being a girl?"

"I'm a woman, why would I think that being called a girl is an insult?"

"You say "girl" like it's a bad thing - why's that?"

"He looks like a boy to me."

Look him straight in the eye and wait for the squirming to commence. Why do you and your DS have to put up with this sexist berk?

tabouleh Tue 23-Mar-10 00:46:26

I've been thinking about sexist remarks (and how to stop them!) recently - on the back of the new MN feminism wave etc and watching the BBC4 Women program.

I found this very useful blog which I am working my way through.

Here is an extract:

How do I prepare to respond to sexist comments?

Practice makes perfect, so after you determine in which situations you are willing and able to respond to sexist remarks, you might try the following:

1. Think about what you might say in response to the different types of sexist comments. Just like you might practice answering interview questions while driving to and from a job that you are ready to leave, think about what you want to say when people make sexist remarks to you or others.

2. Rehearse. Ask a good friend who is interested in the issue to rehearse possible scenarios with you.

3. Create a support team. Invite friends who care about this issue to agree to support each other as they try new methods for dealing with sexist remarks. Talk about the situations you have dealt with in the past, what you wished you had said, and what worked and what didn’t. Processing your experiences with other people, and knowing they will be there for you when you take a risk in responding to sexist remarks, will make it easier to react in the way that you desire when sexist comments arise.

4. Steel yourself. Decide that it’s worth it, and know that no matter the outcome, you’re far more likely to feel better that you said something than if you didn’t. Remind yourself on a regular basis that it’s worth it to speak up on behalf of women everywhere.

I'd love to know other people's thoughts.

Perhaps we could share sexist remarks here and hopefully some success stories on challenging them?

ooh yes, I was just about to suggest disingenuousness. I love "Why would that be a bad thing?" and when they splutter and say, well, he's a boy and he shouldn't be like a girl, you can push it and push it and push it
"But why would being like a girl be a bad thing?"
"Do you not like girls?"
"Do all boys have to behave in certain ways for you to be comfortable?"
"He's still a boy even if he [doesxthing] though, isn't he?"
"Can you tell me exactly how [doingxthing] takes away his y chromosome?"

If you can be polite and even curious about his answers to all these questions, while making eye contact and not letting him get away from it - you might have a really good time

tabouleh Tue 23-Mar-10 00:50:28

Actually I have to confess that of course it works both ways.

Since "discovering" Feminism confused a couple of weeks ago and "introducing" it to DH grin I then proceded to say to him:

"Oh why don't you be a man about it" blush about some thing (can't remember what).

Of course I was very very promptly (and correctly) called on this by DH!

I am now firmly of the belief that the use of language shapes opinions and that we should all work on erradicating our own and others sexist remarks/ideas etc.

(I should add, this has worked wonders for me in the past in that it's provided me with a laugh and stopped the perpetrator, who was suggesting I was a dyke because I was outspoken, but I'm not sure it actually EDUCATED him as such. I (and the others there) got a laugh out of "But why should wanting to talk about sexism mean I want to have sex with women? I mean, I like talking about lots of things and I don't want to shag all of them. Can you tell me about how my concern for ending sexual violence is really an elaborate ploy to get women to sleep with me? Would my concern be less effective if I did want to have sex with women? Do you like women? You do? And yet you can do that without caring about rape conviction rates? So maybe I can care about rape conviction rates without fancying women? I mean, the two aren't linked in your case, are they?" - but I doubt he learned much about his own idiotic bigotry ... other than not to voice it near me.

That was enough for me, though.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Tue 23-Mar-10 00:59:47

Have said on another thread, but THE most effective response I've used has been when s/o talks about "throwing like a girl" or "thinking like a girl" etc.

"You mean, really well?" [Eye contact, inquisitive smile.]

They just cannot bring themselves to explain outright that they are being a sexist backsplash.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Tue 23-Mar-10 01:01:19

God blackcurrants I want to stop bigging you up, but that is a brilliant example of the kind of chat I love to have with misogynists: "I like talking about lots of things and I don't want to shag all of them." PMSL.

wastingaway Tue 23-Mar-10 09:15:52

Lots of good stuff here.

I forgot to mention, this is actually a woman who says this all the time. angry

wastingaway that's so frustrating! Gah, I admire your calm!

In the which case, I'd go with one of Madwoman's suggestions, laugh uproariously and say "yes, kids, once it was considered to be bad to be like girls - wow, do you remember that? It was years ago! HAH!" or just use Elephant's tactic of "You mean really well?" (Big grin) until she STFU.

If all else fails, I think tabouleh's guidlines for effective interventions look spot-on. And if you want to boost your inner Samuel L Jackson, that post is wonderful

wubblybubbly Tue 23-Mar-10 13:29:49

I'm so glad this new topic has been added. I'm only just beginning to realise how isolated I've become from the world since becoming a SAHM.

I used to work in a largely female workplace, although men held almost all the positions of power. I'd actually forgotton the daily tirade of sexism that was commonplace there. I'd really forgotten how exhausting it was to challenge that almost every minute of the day. Every sucessful woman was belittled on how she looked, no matter how brilliant. It was part of the culture. I was often called Milly Tant as I was the only one prepared to challenge it.

The last time I recall being totally stumped by a ludicrous sexist remark, I was 6 months pregnant and trying to get an old carpet collected by the council. The man who came to collect it said 'I dunno, I thought you women wanted equality' WTF?

ElephantsAndMiasmas Tue 23-Mar-10 14:08:00

One of me female friends at old job used to shout "votes for women!"and make banner-waving gestures when I started challenging sexism, I think because Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins was her only exposure to feminism before me (not joking). She did mean it in a nice way though. and it was an honour to be compared to suffragettes/ists in however ridiculous a way!

Wubbly, did you say "Well you just tuck this baby into your abdomen a sec and I'll get on with shifting the carpet."

I see, wastingaway. Then how about "you're a woman, why would you think being a girl is a bad thing?" or just plain "don't you like girls?".

wubblybubbly Tue 23-Mar-10 14:52:42

Ooh Elephants, how I wish I'd said that grin

When I get my time machine, that'll be on the list!

wastingaway Tue 23-Mar-10 22:27:42

I've been thinking... "There's nothing wrong with being a girl, so that's not much of an insult."

SpeedyGonzalez Tue 23-Mar-10 22:31:52

wastingaway, I feel your pain. With people like this, IME they generally tend to be such tossers that the only suitable response, I feel, is a hearty slap. All the more necessary since it's a woman saying it. Bloody idiot.

Not a mature response, I know, but bloody satisfying grin.

mamas12 Tue 23-Mar-10 22:46:31

Yep I've come accross this with dcs friends and totally stumped some of the boys with lines like,

Your mother's a girl and

Aw thanks that's brill that you big girls up so much, your mother did a great job with you didn't she.
Couldn't respond without dissing their own mother HA!

At the moment though my 13yr old ds is baiting me with sexist remarks and have now realised not to go for the jugular straightaway but to 'explore' why he says that, and point out examples he personaaly has had experience of sexism himself.
Therefore having great disscussions despite himself.

mamas12 Tue 23-Mar-10 22:48:04

Mind you when I was an under tens football coach I always had to tell them that 'girl' is not a derogratory term.

wastingaway Tue 23-Mar-10 22:51:43

DS (2) does this cute thing sometimes when he's leaning on something, he cocks one leg back and it looks like he's doing an arabesque at the ballet barre. Always play it up. grin
I'm absolutely signing him up for dance lessons in the future if he wants to go.

And he's getting a doll's buggy for his birthday. Probably the cheapo pink from Argos. grin

Bink Tue 23-Mar-10 22:54:28

I think the difficulty is that 'you girl' is just the tip of an iceberg - you are not going to be able to affect that person's attitudes by simply calling them on that, however well-scripted you are. Because, of course, there is a whole mean bitter complex backstory about spitting insults at your child in the first place - and you'll probably get that underlying bitterness directed at you instead.

This is, like tabouleh's saying, where you can see language as a symptom - and although you can have a go at the symptoms it won't deal with the problem unless you get at the cause.

So, what is her cause?

wastingaway Tue 23-Mar-10 22:57:35

I do challenge other things she says, but I've struggled to address the 'jokey' insult for some reason.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Wed 24-Mar-10 10:05:57

Plus if this is your main contact with her, you're only really trying to limit the impact of what she says on your DS, by making a joke out of it.

How old is DS? Maybe you should chat to him about what she says sometime? E.g. "Do you remember when Mrs X called you a girl, as if it was a bad thing? Do you know why some people do that?" and then it might be a good jumping off point for a kid-friendly history of sexism talk. He's going to hear it from other people than her and needs to have his own retorts, both mental and verbal.

AandO Wed 24-Mar-10 10:25:19

Great thread. Really interesting, I have 3 yr old ds and dread the day when he hears anti girl comments. Good idea to stock up on responses and ways of discussing it with him.

Blackcurrants - You are my hero, I only ever think of things to say later!

Aand0 shh, don't tell, but I did think of some of those later. Alas, I've had plenty of chances to have a quip ready, that's all! And it's taken me years... but now my inner Samuel L Jackson is at the ready

SpeedyGonzalez Wed 24-Mar-10 21:08:47

Good grief this thread is so depressing. If it were racial stereotyping it would be quite a different story. Who are these morons? Can we have them shipped off to a volcanic island somewhere?

ElephantsAndMiasmas Thu 25-Mar-10 00:07:38

Have you never heard "he throws like a girl" etc Speedy? Good.

SpeedyGonzalez Thu 25-Mar-10 16:38:09

E&M - yes, indeed. Girls like me who once played netball and basketball throw far better than the average bloke. wink

wastingaway:

this "I do challenge other things she says, but I've struggled to address the 'jokey' insult for some reason." really resonates with me. You lose so much face in our culture if you 'can't take a joke' - (I've noticed this now I live elsewhere, where people are less interested in sense of humour as a prestige thing) - and that's why the 'it's only a joke/gawd you humourless feminists can't take a joke!' is such an infuriating response.

I can see why you'd not want to engage, frankly. But that's where disingenuous/overt and obvious reactions can be fun. like, you can either go "I don't get it? (wide eyed) Don't you think girls are good at throwing?" if you're in the mood for being infuriatingly disingenuous, or you can use "HARR HARRDY HARRR! It's so funny because GIRLS ARE RUBBISH! I used to be a girl and I KNOW HOW RUBBISH THEY ARE! THAT'S SO FUNNY! HAAARR HARR!" because often calling out the implied assumptions make people embarrassed at what they're actually saying.

banned861 Sun 17-Mar-13 11:23:53

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

ridiculoussingle Sun 17-Mar-13 13:12:13

Lots of good ideas here.
My personal favourite is to call them on it and compare it to racism. Eg, would you say throw like an Asian? In my experience the direct comparison gets people thinking.

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