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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Sexist jokes in the workplace

19 replies

Moulesfrites · 20/07/2011 20:06

I often lurk in feminism and have occasionally posted. I think it has alerted me to sexism which has always rankled me but I have just thought maybe I was being a bit oversensitive, but lurking here has made me question this...

Recently I have begun to think that my workplace is actually very sexist, for a number of reasons, but one that riles the most is the sexist jokes I come across on a regular basis.

I work in a Catholic secondary school. We have a weekly whole staff meeting which starts with a prayer, led by a member of staff. There is one particular man who, when leading the prayer, always tries to make it into some kind of funny anecdote which is loosely related to the spiritual message of the week, but they are often incredibly sexist, no to mention inappropriate. Some of these anecdotes have included jokes about pornography and prostitution. The department I work in is made up of all women and we are often the butt of his jokes - he has "quipped" about the fact that we check our reflections all the time, we would be capable of delivering lessons about walking in high heels, and that our typical reading material is Grazia magazine (despite us probably being more well read as a group than the rest of the school staff put together!)

This isn't normal or acceptable, is it? The worst thing is that the male head and his deputies all sit there and guffaw uproariously....

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Parietal · 20/07/2011 20:08

It is not acceptable. Unfortunately it seems to be more normal than it should be.

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HerBeX · 20/07/2011 20:35

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HerBeX · 20/07/2011 20:36

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Moulesfrites · 20/07/2011 20:40

yes it is a mixed school. I am currently on maternity leave at the minute and I feel it has given me a bit of distance and perspective about things and I have realised that things I have just sort of accepted in the past are actually not acceptable. But feel so frustrated that there is not much I can do about it.

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CaptainBarnacles · 20/07/2011 20:55

Ugh - moulesfrites, you poor thing. I have commented on your other thread too. This puts that whole incident in a clearer light too. I'd be job hunting if I were you, they sound vile.

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Moulesfrites · 20/07/2011 20:57

thanks Captain the thing is, I love the colleagues who I work closely with and the kids, there just seems to be a bit of a "boys club" at the top.

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CaptainBarnacles · 20/07/2011 21:02

I hear you - same for me (but I am not a teacher, and would find it very difficult to move jobs, so perhaps I am projecting onto you!)

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CaptainBarnacles · 20/07/2011 21:03

(BTW, that wasn't supposed to mean that teachers find it especially easy to move jobs, just that in my line of work it is particularly hard!)

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forkful · 20/07/2011 23:05

Moulesfrites - totally unacceptable. See what your school's equality policy says - it should have recently been updated into a Single Equality Scheme policy.

Clearly it won't be worth the paper it's written on - but it may be of use to see what it says. Or if it's not been udpated - get a woman to volunteer to do it!

You might be able to take inspiration the stop sexists remarks blog.

There are some techniques on there which you may like to use which may minimise your discomfort if you raise it - eg - I'm sure you value your female collegues just as much as your male collegues but I'm concerned that one days someone will lodge a complaint about one of your sexist remarks... or - wow did you really mean that to be so offensive to the women here?!

Actually it might be worth raising it as a classroom matter taken from the above blog:

"1.Establishing policies that prohibit the use of sexist remarks in the classroom and during other school-sanctioned activities, including field trips and sporting events."

Then say - oh well we need to also look at this in staff meetings.

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Animation · 21/07/2011 09:32

What's the best way of dealing with sexist remarks though as they happen. I tend to cringe and go blank. Confused

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forkful · 21/07/2011 10:56

The blog I linked to has lots of ideas. It's not too late to bring up if you don't mention it at the time.

You could say - it's 2011 doesn't the company have a policy about this type of remark?!

Or just say - that remark makes me feel uncomfortable.

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msrisotto · 21/07/2011 18:23

A nice, straightforward challenge is - Don't you think that's a bit sexist? and of course, not laughing along with them when they try to brush it off.

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Moulesfrites · 21/07/2011 20:07

Thanks everyone, forkful that blog is really interesting. The problem is, he says it in front of the whole staff, I could hardly stand up and challenge him just as we are about to start the Hail Mary! He works in a different department so he is not someone I come across day to day - I would have to actively seek him out to challenge him, which might get me a reputation as a bit of a loon.

I feel I have had my eyes opened to a number of things wrt sexism in the workplace since going on maternity leave, and am thinking seriously about requesting a meeting with a member of stm to discuss my grievances - not that they'll give two hoots though!

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TheRealTillyMinto · 22/07/2011 12:52

hi MF, i think you should ask colleagues what they think, in the hope that many of them with agree with you. aside from the sexism, he sounds like the wrong person to be leading the prayer with his 'funny' anecdotes of pornography and prostitution.

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Miggsie · 22/07/2011 12:56

I work in a male dominated environment which is thankfully very low on sexism. However, occasionally it does happen and I will say "that remark is offensive" and the killer one is "replace the word women with blacks or Asians" becase if the statemetn is then racist and offensive then the fact is, it was sexist and offensive in its original form.
If they then say "you have no sense of humour" you can reply "but I do have taste and self respect"

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Miggsie · 22/07/2011 12:57

It might also be good to say..."so if one of the girls form the school was raped and murdered and people paid to see this, would this be funny?"

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blackcurrants · 22/07/2011 17:04

There's also the wide-eyed, slow-bleed approach.

"Oh! I don't get it! Why is it funny that (women check their reflections) ?"
wait for agonising explanation
"Oh! I get it now! It's funny because of the sexist stereotype that women are vain and stupid!"
THEN either fall about laughing in a ridiculously over-the-top manner, OR do a cold hard stare and "Do you think making sexist jokes is appropriate in a professional setting?"

It's always, always worked for me, because they can't explain why it's funny without basically saying "oh it's funny cos it's sexist."

And a friend has used that line, too, laughing along with everyone and slapping her thigh and saying "So funny! So funny cos it's so sexist!"

Also you can laugh at the subtext loudly. "yes! HAHHAHAHAH! It's funny cos women are vain and stupid!" That tends to provoke thoughts.

Horrible to have to deal with this at work, though. Vile.

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Ormirian · 22/07/2011 17:09

Just stare very hard at the 'joke' teller. Say nothing. And then say 'but that isn't funny'.

In your circumstances I would approach the head privately and tell him that the comments are unacceptable and my even breach guidelines about appropriate behaviour in the work place. I hate that women have to put up with it and are treated as humourless harpies when they complain.

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Winetta · 30/07/2011 07:02

Good luck with this, sounds like a tricky situation to say the least.

Well said, blackcurrants, some great comebacks there.

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