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Pissed off with this sexist attitude - have you had it? Have you good comebacks?

(14 Posts)
LRDTheFeministNutcase Sat 23-Jul-11 11:28:39

I've just been away at a conference, where I was a very junior, wet-behind-the-ears attendee listening to all sorts of eminent people. All good so far. But I was really furious with a particular kind of sexism and I wondered if you've come across this sort of thing, if you've any good comebacks, and why you think people imagine they can get away with this!

There were constant comments on women 'trying to get men' or 'doing such-and-such' to 'get men'. It seemed really inappropriate in a work setting but difficult to object to because it's also a gossipy setting and people did gossip about men too.

We got told by a man that all the women at the conference were 'in a competition' to wear the best dress and get the men's attention, and that one girl had 'won' because she (this is true, I know) chose her dress months before and at dinner she sat with a table of men and got photos of herself posing on each of their laps. I thought she was making a total idiot of herself but I was pretty pissed off to be lumped in with her! Someone also suggested that women choose to work in a particular discipline because there's a TV show with a woman who does this and 'women think they will get [her male co-star] if they do this' - right, so women couldn't be inspired to do the job, they just want the man?!

There were constant low-level comments about women being silly or clothes-mad or whatever - it drove me up the wall.

How would you distance yourself from other women making fools of themselves, and how would you have replied to all this? FWIW, I went with the boring, earnest approach of correcting people when they said things and using the word 'feminist' a lot, but I don't think it had any effect because apparently the comments were all just 'banter'. hmm

TheRealMBJ Sat 23-Jul-11 11:57:04

This type of thing drives me insane too. And I'm so crap at come backs that I usually just mutter something like 'well, some men are dickheads...'

I try to avoid creating a separation between me (the earnest-and-inarticulate feminist) and them (the well dressed-attention seeking women) because I don't feel it isn't really helpful or very sisterly. AND that the problem doesn't really lie with the women's behaviour but rather the interpretation of it by the twats around her.

As you said, they automatically assume women wanting a certain type of career so that they can 'get the man' hmm. That's not women creating that belief, rather it being read into her actions. IYKWIM?

edam Sat 23-Jul-11 11:59:28

Tell them to try the sentence again substituting the word 'black' for 'woman' and see how it feels then.

LRDTheFeministNutcase Sat 23-Jul-11 12:16:34

real - yes, exactly - the last thing I wanted to do was point at the other lass and judge her. I really didn't like being in a position where it seemed we were being encouraged to do that. What I struggle with though, is she was totally out of order too, and if a man had gone around a table of women getting his picture taken while groping each of them it would have been considered awful (well, by me ... maybe they'd have thought it was ok!). So I am not sure what to think. I thought it was terrible no-one who knew here stopped her, gave her a glass of water or took her off for a quiet chat, you know?

edam - I like it! Good point.

LRDTheFeministNutcase Sat 23-Jul-11 12:17:10

(Though, FWIW - and this must be revealing - there wasn't a single non-white person in the room. hmm)

Prolesworth Sat 23-Jul-11 19:57:42

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LRDTheFeministNutcase Sat 23-Jul-11 21:00:21

Yes, the comments were awful. The thing with the woman was, I got the impression she had been given the impression this was the correct way to behave. I know that people make their own choices how to behave - but come on, no-one would suggest to their male student that it'd be ok to wander around flirting. In fact they'd know it'd be considered highly inappropriate.

I'm not an academic btw, just a student - so it was strange seeing it from the outside and thinking 'do I want to be a part of this? Or how would I try to change it?'. Flamethrower sounds good! grin

But I think it's shocking anyone behaves like this - in 2011, I don't see how they can get away with it. Other women seemed to not quite get why I was bothered by it.

TheRealMBJ Sat 23-Jul-11 21:31:11

Oh, this seems even more upsetting if I understand correctly. Is she a fellow student? And do you think she's been given the impression that this would be the right way to behave by lecturers/supervisors? Her behaviour might then be the consequence of their prejudices or worse still bordering on exploitation.

LRDTheFeministNutcase Sat 23-Jul-11 21:44:46

Yes, she's a student - she's an MA student so probably somewhere between 22 and 24, and very, very, 'junior' in the hierarchy. There were loads of them all from the same place and one of the organizers was a proper academic at that place, so I got the impression he'd at least known that she was planning to rock up in a slinky dress and flirt. I mean ... sure, he's not responsible for her but honestly I would bet my own grant money this girl did not get the idea to wander around sitting on guys' laps and posing for pictures all on her own. It just didn't seem like that - she wasn't that drunk.

I wondered how often others on here have had experience of that sort of double-standard, where women are expected or subtly encouraged to behave in a way that actually makes them look bad? There was no good way for her to come out of it and no easy way for me to show I thought it was dodgy without looking (that old favourite) like a 'humourless feminist'. hmm

TheRealMBJ Sat 23-Jul-11 22:01:45

It's that whole slut/prude thing though isn't it? One can't win sad

I studied and later worked with a woman like this. She is a real barbie, very thin, long blonde hair, big boobs and very intelligent but she would and still flirt and behave inappropriately at every opportunity, and down plays her intellect. It is very disheartening to see.

Prolesworth Sat 23-Jul-11 23:50:57

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Prolesworth Sat 23-Jul-11 23:51:31

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LRDTheFeministNutcase Sun 24-Jul-11 13:24:41

proles, that's partly the question I'm asking here: do I challenge every time? Do you? Luckily, these people aren't directly superior to me, they're working in a slightly different area. And I did feel able to tackle at least some of the worst comments - but I'm not sure anyone even understood that I seriously thought they were out of order.

Realistically, do you fight every time and what effect does it have? I want to say I'll always challenge a remark that's sexist and I'll hope to be judged on what I do, not how nice I am to sexist wankers - but does that actually work, ever? I dunno.

real - I know the sort of person. Actually, I find it very hard not to talk myself down. I am kicking myself for talking to someone and saying that something was obvious and easy to conclude when actually it's a piece of my own original research. But I need to work on this a bit - not sure it's a feminist issue (maybe?).

Prolesworth Sun 24-Jul-11 14:01:43

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