If you ask most women, sexism is everywhere, and if you ask some men, they want to help tackle it but if all ask all people, many of us are not sure what we can do on a daily basis to help. Well, here’s what you can do.
Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia
I know it is bold of me to assume that anyone really wants to learn how to combat everyday sexism, misogyny and the rape culture based on the sheer number of people I know who won’t even admit that these are real things but inside my hard-crusted nihilism there is an impermeable center of optimism and I try to execute my ideas from that place. However here is the main idea: If you do actually wish to make things better everyday for the women (which is not to say things cannot be bad for men or transgendered people or gay people or chickens) there are a few basic tenets from where you must operate before you read the tips that could actually help you be less sexist and combat more sexism in everyday life:
a) Accept that women actually deal with sexism on a daily basis whether that is in the form of a server at a restaurant always handing the cheque to a man or being called a slut for wearing a skirt or having to use our initials instead of our female-sounding names in publications. There is a vast cultural, legal and professional framework that exists and enables sexism.
b) Understand that a sexist, patriarchal framework enables and supports the culture of violence against women. If you feel like women should not be crying about dresses without pockets when rape exists, understand that when you break these things down they lead you to the same place. They are borne out of the same fire.
c) Stop viewing a conversation about women’s rights as an attack on men. If you feel robbed because more women have the same degree as you, that’s your problem and not a woman attacking you.
d) Understand that women’s rights is still a nascent movement in many ways. I know there is a temptation, especially among men, to think that this women’s rights thing has been going on for so long and everything is different now. Just place it against history, woman really only started having rights (like men do, as in legal fucking rights) last century. Compare that to how long men have had rights before you tell women to stop complaining all the time. There are many, many things still to complain about.
e) And finally, learn that being open to understanding and changing your own sexist behaviour isn’t like admitting evidence against yourself. We’ve all been there. Women too. I had to learn what behaviours of mine were problematic and work towards changing them and doing that doesn’t rob you of your identity.
If you are on board with those things, only then does it make any sense to even read further because obviously if you aren’t on board, you aren’t on board with checking your own sexist behaviour either. However if you are actually interested, I realise there is a lot of nervousness surrounding this idea of sexism where a lot of people are on board with taking down sexist frameworks but aren’t sure what that actually means in execution. Here are some tips you can apply in your daily behaviour and to the world around you:
- If a woman tells you something is sexist, it is not your goal to prove that she is wrong or how it isn’t or #notallmen or to tell her how she has misunderstood the situation.
Here is what you could say instead if you really don’t understand, say this: “I’m sorry to have made you uncomfortable/that made you uncomfortable and I was wondering if you could help me understand how this behaviour makes women uncomfortable?
Let the person affected by the behaviour in question explain how they are affected by the behaviour in question.
- If you are a man (or any other gender even) and a woman tells you about an incident like someone cat-calling her or touching her in the street, don’t say the following:
“Tell me who it was, I will punch him/I would have punched him/I want to kill him.”
…because then you are “protecting” her and telling her it is your job as the dominant force to commit violence on her behalf.
Instead, try saying this:
“How are you?/Are you okay? Is there something I can do to help?”
- Think about things in “Would I do this too terms?”
Say you are a doctor and you happen to be in a discussion about a diagnostic test with other people, none of whom are doctors, would you say that in that situation, your opinion is the one of the expert? Now say you are not a doctor and you are in the same discussion with a sole female doctor present. Do you find yourself feeling the need to correct her or assert yourself as the authority? Or maybe do you find her confidence, arrogant? If you do, cast yourself in her role and check whether you would be as confident as the expert in a role. If yes, check your own sexism instead of ruining her day.
It’s fine, misogyny and casual sexism has taught a lot of us to hate authoritative women but you can teach yourself to recognise that and choose not to fucking do it.
- Don’t tell women what you would have done in their place instead. You’re not in our place. If you were, you wouldn’t have gone and punched that guy in the dark corner of the street because you would have then grown up like us too and known that rape-based scare-tactics fucking work.
- Chivalry is not as important as rights. I am settling this “should I open the door for her or not” question forever: NOT. Okay, some women like it (and will learn to live without it, I assure you) and some women are outraged by it and many many men have admitted to being confused and some seem to believe this means women want to have their cake and eat it too and let me say this right now, no amount of doors opened for me and chairs pulled out for me will ever compensate for being accosted in the street, and if we can only deal with one of those, let’s make it the latter. Don’t open the door for women, don’t order our meals, don’t stand up when we enter a room. If chivalry is hard to reconcile with feminism, you best believe it’s chivalry we are all voting to get rid of.
- Stop fucking telling women to calm down. Seriously, I am not even explaining this. My own mother will tell me not say anything (well, not anymore) if my father is being a pissy diva (sorry, dad) and then tell me to calm down when someone at my work steals my fucking copy. If a woman’s emotions make you uncomfortable then a man’s emotions better make you equally uncomfortable. And if your mind is blown by the discovery that men have just as many fucking emotions then might I suggest going back to kindergarten and starting this whole thing over?
- Practise consent like a fucking religion. Here’s how I suggest you do it:
a. If you have two kids encourage them to ask each other or you (if you have the one) before they engage in any physical play. And while you are at it, discourage physical sibling violence. It’s stupid.
b. If you are a person who masturbates (and not a person who specifically gets off to non-consensual fantasies, no judgement but also sorry because this won’t help you) build consent into your fantasies. It won’t take anything away from them if the person you’re thinking about enthusiastically tells you they are into it. Might even work the other way.
- Monitor your words and the words around you. This one is especially relevant if you have children. Let the child hear you discuss women like you discuss men, by their profession or in their individuality. If you are watching television with a child, point out sexist tropes and invite them to talk about them.
Let me give you an example, my stepson has these sibling-friends, one boy and one girl. He plays with both, however he told me one day that he doesn’t understand why the girl comes to the park and then spends all her time just talking to her friends instead of playing football. So I began discussing communication-space with him by asking him to tell me where else he sees her talk a lot and after a short discussion he came to the conclusion, himself, that because her brother is allowed to always cut her off while she is speaking, talking freely is a valuable activity to her that she doesn’t always have the space to engage in except with other girls.
(FYI, this is why you think women are so chatty with other women, because we don’t fucking get to speak without being interrupted elsewhere).
- JUST LET HER PAY THE BILL! Do you hate money? Or do you want her to have more money? Well, then participate in ensuring women are paid fairly instead of getting your manhood all hurt over cheque-politics. Just let her pay if she wants to.
- Tell the jock to shut the fuck up. Seriously, if you find yourself amongst men and someone says something you know is bullshit like women bosses are ineffective, just tell him to shut up! You don’t have to ally to the cause only when women are watching.
- Resist the urge to conversation mine when talking to women. Seriously, you don’t have to talk to women only about shopping, decor, clothes and children. These conversations can be as boring for us as they are for you. Unless specifically told otherwise operate under the assumption that women do, in fact, have brains.
Also, just as a reminder, please stop telling women how we feel about our own lives or who we are. We know who we are, thank you.