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Give me ammo for the next sexist conversation
January 25, 2013 6:40 AM   Subscribe

I work with a group of colleagues that I get along well with, mainly male. However, certain subjects come up, my Sexism Klaxon starts going off... but any comments I make always get batted down with "chill out we're only joking" or something similar. Can you give me tips to not always come out of these conversations either seething with frustration or feeling like the Grand Ruiner Of Conversations?

Here is an example conversation:

Male Colleague: that barmaid is hot

Me: I agree she is very attractive

MC: the other one looks like a man though, she'd have to have a paper bag over her head for me to want to get near her

Me: what makes you think she'd want to? (attempt at retort) anyway that's a nasty way to talk about people

Other Male Colleague: chill out he's only joking

MC: should have known you can't say stuff like that with a woman around


Problems:

1. My actual retorts, like the above are generally seen as moot points and ignored. I could do with some more effective ones

2. The common end comment, as above, implies that if I wasn't around it would be fine to talk like this, which is not the point I'm getting at either. I don't want it to be about me being offended, i want them to understand that these remarks are widely offensive.

3. Other male colleagues seem extremely reluctant to take any side other than that of the two guys who tend to make these comments. There is a culture of, if you side with the woman, you're less of a man.

4. I've tried the "would you talk about a man that way" tack, but it just meets with blank stares and, no of course I wouldn't, I don't look at blokes like that.

I feel like there ought to be a simple answer to this. I'm usually pretty good at debate but these conversations always just leave me stumped and/or looking stupid.

Feminists and zinger-wielding mefites, help!
posted by greenish to Human Relations (89 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
Actually, your zinger is fine, and the whole "chill out, we're only joking" looks like you scored a hit.

Personally, I'd just skip the whole issue by not hanging out with them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 AM on January 25, 2013 [30 favorites]


Look overly shocked and say, "Oh! I didn't realize I was in the men's locker room. I'll be over here when you guys are done!"

And walk away.

(I'm a man and I hate it when guys talk like that. And I have used this tactic.)
posted by The Deej at 6:44 AM on January 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


If you must hang out with them, then I'd keep going with comments like the one in your example. Saying "I'm offended!" gets you gaslighted. Saying/implying "so sad that you have to fantasize about it because you're an immature neanderthal that nobody in the real world would want to be with so you have to snicker in the corner like beavis" is much more effective. Just keep gently poking that nerve you hit with your comment. You'll get pushback at first but keep at it.
posted by headnsouth at 6:49 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is super frustrating, and I'm sorry you're dealing with it. I would try a wide-eyed, bright, "Wow, that was sexist! Well, in mature conversation..." or "Now, to move onto subjects that require a maturity level above junior high..." Then change the subject.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:49 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think a good response to "chill out, we're only joking" is "Oh, no need to get all defensive, you can just man up and own what you said."
posted by entropone at 6:49 AM on January 25, 2013 [193 favorites]


Actually, give it right back:

Him: She'd have to have a bag over her head for me to get near her.

You: That's about the only way you'd GET to get near her.

Other Dude: BURN!

Rather than calling them out on sexism, just call them out on being stupid gits. When out with Dudes sometimes you have to sink to their level.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:50 AM on January 25, 2013 [27 favorites]


what makes you think she'd want to?

I don't think that's a bad retort at all. I wouldn't make a big deal out of it, but just casually pointing out each time how misguided their assumptions are might, over time, sink in a little.

chill out he's only joking

"Oohh. But..." *looks confused* "...there was no funny part."
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:00 AM on January 25, 2013 [48 favorites]


"Chill out, we're only joking."

"I know. You've made the same joke every time you go out since grade school. That's why you're stuck just looking at women."
posted by tyllwin at 7:00 AM on January 25, 2013 [22 favorites]


This issue isn't you, it's them, and I'd say that you have a right to be a bit irritated. Also, I'd view this as them having wrecking the conversation, not you. It's a matter of perspective that might be a bit skewed because it feels like the power distribution is a bit off in the group, as it's mostly male.

The right thing is to say what you said, bring it to their attention, and unfortunately probably live with the social tension and potential irritation of casting pearls before those who don't care. But I wouldn't underestimate the power of saying something like this over time. People's first inclination is to get defensive when corrected, but when alone, you don't know what is going on in their minds that you may have been effective in bringing to their attention. Being a voice for social change isn't always comfortable, but you can wear your efforts with pride.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:00 AM on January 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


"That's why you're stuck just looking at women."

The problem with a retort like this is that it is shaming the man, "ha ha you can't get laid", which is sexist in itself.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:03 AM on January 25, 2013 [26 favorites]


the other one looks like a man though, she'd have to have a paper bag over her head for me to want to get near her

Well, you could score more points by saying something more biting like "And the bag would have to be full of chloroform for her to get near you." The trouble is that if you become too good at this game, you run the risk of being branded a bitch. It's totally unfair, but such is life.

Generally speaking, the key to good zingers is not to engage respectfully with the point your opponent made, but rather to tie their point together with a verbal jab at your opponent's self-esteem. Another important point, however, is that zingers may raise your social status and make your co-workers less likely to exhibit said behavior in front of you (for fear of your mockery) but won't really change their underlying prejudices.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:03 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


what makes you think she'd want to? (attempt at retort) anyway that's a nasty way to talk about people

I'd actually just go with "that's a nasty way to talk about people. What were we talking about? Oh, right--"

I think that trying to make any sort of snappy retort just validates the conversation. Your colleague is going to think you're responding in kind, and isn't going to get the message that you don't want to have that type of conversation with him.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:07 AM on January 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


Also, I'd view this as them having wrecking the conversation, not you.

Yes, this exactly. No matter what these cretinous toddlers try to make you think, you are not the poorly socialized asshole ruiner in these exchanges. It's them. Laugh at their pathetic attempts at human interaction, and make it really clear that you are laughing AT them and not with them.
posted by elizardbits at 7:07 AM on January 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think you did great. There are no magic words you can say that will instantly reveal their shittiness for what it is and make them permanently change their ways. What I think you've left out is the next line in your example conversation should be you changing the subject to something non-controversial and welcoming, like:

Me: Anyway, did you see that ludicrous display last night?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:08 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'm so sorry about your tiny penis."
posted by joan_holloway at 7:12 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a little bit of a problem with the "just turn it around and score points on THEM!" philosophy. That's really not addressing the issue at all, just making it a matter of who can do the most verbal swordplay.

Also, attacking someone's own attractiveness or manhood may feel like a satisfying turn of the tables, but it basically endorses the same system of critical/evaluative gender relations that you're objecting to.

That's just not my style- I enjoy banter about topics that aren't offensive to me, but I am pretty serious and earnest about not wanting to be in discussions where sexism or racism is treated as funny. In such situations, I'll just own it, and say something like "Why do you think that's okay to say? When you make jokes like that, it makes it clear to me that you place women in some kind of different category where it's okay for you to demean and judge them. I'm a woman, too. Are you trying to make me understand that when I'm not around, you'd feel free to make those judgments about me? Your sister? Etc.?"

I mean, I think you have to make it real for people -- show that you are, in all honesty, not just offended but concerned and confused by their lack of worldiness and aware that the issue is bigger. That can mean not letting them off the hook with a "heh heh" zinger that basically lets them save face. In my life experience, even if this is a momentary "geez, lighten up" downer, once it becomes clear that you can't just rip off like that with the co-workers, people actually stop doing it. Nobody wants to have a fun conversation take a turn into a deep debate about gender relations every time someone makes a stupid comment. Maybe they won't stop it everywhere in their lives, but at least in professional situations with colleagues. And that's headway. Also, it really does them a favor, in that this kind of thing can impede their professional progress in the future - best to learn now that boys' club behavior can limit your potential.
posted by Miko at 7:12 AM on January 25, 2013 [56 favorites]


Rather than calling them out on sexism, just call them out on being stupid gits. When out with Dudes sometimes you have to sink to their level.

This, times 100. There's a time and place to make an intelligent stand and this sort of conversations aren't it usually.

if I felt like making a point, I would go with "If it's you, she'll probably just ask the lights be turned low, close her eyes and think of Ryan Gosling and then finish herself off with dildo in the bathroom later. Hell, she might need to start herself, depending on your lack of technique." Say it in matter of fact way, like "of course women do this with guys who can't fuck, duh".

Sly digs about a guy not being able to perform or please a women are the heatseeking missiles in the fragile bunker called ego.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:13 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, you might want to try forming better alliance with a couple of the more sympathetic guys 1:1 and ask them overtly to back you up in these situations - or at least ask them why they go along with those situations. There's a herd mentality at play. If you can get one or two of them to step up and act like an adult, that could sway the larger dynamic. I've seen that work before when someone's better nature is appealed to - especially when they're away from the bigger group.
posted by Miko at 7:15 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


2. The common end comment, as above, implies that if I wasn't around it would be fine to talk like this, which is not the point I'm getting at either. I don't want it to be about me being offended, i want them to understand that these remarks are widely offensive.

When they say something like that, I would reply with "Well, it is a good thing I am around so you don't speak like a sexist douchebag ALL of the time, ruining any chance you'd have with any woman, ever. Without my influence you be totally hopeless."


Sometimes what works better than a zinger is blatant vunerablility and honesty. I had guy friends who would occasionally make inappropriate jokes about people's appearance and weight. They weren't cruel or mean guys, they just sort of forgot about my weight and I was "one of the guys". However, I finally started saying stuff like "You know, when you say something insulting and rude like that about a stranger it really upsets me because it makes me wonder what you think about me. If you didn't know me you'd probably be saying things like that or WORSE behind my back. I don't like knowing that my friends would be thinking horrible and insulting things about me and think it was funny." They got REALLY uncomfortable every time, especially when I talked openly about my insecurities (I'm usually pretty tough and thick skinned) but hey, it stopped.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:16 AM on January 25, 2013 [30 favorites]


I find that a silent pause and then looking a bit taken aback and then something like, "Ok, then.... New subject" or just pause "Classy..." then change the subject adequately voices your disapproval and shames them without starting a fight over it.
posted by whoaali at 7:23 AM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Honestly, for those kind of frat-boy, men's club sexist comments, I would just say "wow, you are gross" - full on personal. When they say "chill out", you can be all "oh i'm chill, just saying that you're being a gross dude." Any kind of comments about "knew you had to be careful when a woman is around" can be followed with "guys, there might be a reason, why normally there are no women around you" or something similar. Since they are workplace colleagues something like "well, there usually are women around, women work in the office with you so.... take a hint you know?" would actually be good for them to hear.
posted by molecicco at 7:31 AM on January 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


Sly digs about a guy not being able to perform or please a women are the heatseeking missiles in the fragile bunker called ego.

See also:

"I'm so sorry about your tiny penis."

But I'm generally with Miko on this one.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:31 AM on January 25, 2013


And clarify with them too - be like "not funny gross, like gross gross. please, for your own sake knock that shit off".
posted by molecicco at 7:32 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with a retort like this is that it is shaming the man, "ha ha you can't get laid", which is sexist in itself.

No it isn't. Telling anyone they can't get laid is considered an insult, regardless of gender.

And I'd go further down the rabbit hole to say that saying "you can't get laid" is sexist, is sexist!
posted by headnsouth at 7:35 AM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Stay classy, Boys" or "Grow up, Boys" or "Settle down, Beavis." (If you've got the timing for it, "come to Butthead" would be devastating.)

Make them understand that you're not so much offended as wondering why you're slumming with such children.
posted by whuppy at 7:38 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Give them a dead-eyed stare for about five seconds and then continue the conversation as if nothing happened.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:39 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also agree with Miko strongly. This isn't the time for insult swordfighting. Some of the snappy retorts here go way, way past what I would call "reasonable."
posted by Nomyte at 7:40 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Give them a dead-eyed stare for about five seconds and then continue the conversation as if nothing happened.

Ooh, this, combined with a little eyebrow rage and mouthing "NO" and shaking your head slowly is good too.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:42 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Comments like the tiny penis one I suggested are less about insulting their manhood and more about showing them how their comments are plain stupid by giving an example in their own language. Whenever I've used it a lightbulb has gone off in the other person's brain and they've laughed and said "I see what you did there" and the conversation moves on.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:45 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a big fan of saying "That's my sister" and maintaining eye contact while being completely deadpan. That awkward gulf is them realizing they were talking about a human being in a social environment where not everyone shared their goals and beliefs.
posted by srboisvert at 7:53 AM on January 25, 2013 [56 favorites]


Nthing don't retort, and say things that imply that the speaker is saying something widely considered distasteful, not that you're personally offended. "That's a nasty thing to say" without the retort is perfect. Or "that's not cool" or "that's ugly" or "that's mean-spirited," whatever you like.

Keep it short, and don't draw it out into an argument. Just circle back to the original "that's nasty" point:

Bro: Chill, I'm just joking.
You: I'm not pissed off. I'm just pointing out that that's an asshole thing to say.

Bro: Hurf durf can't say stuff like that with a woman around amirite blah blah
You: Doesn't matter who you say it to, it's still an asshole thing to say.

You could also say, "hey, could we talk about something besides who you want to have sex with?"
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:02 AM on January 25, 2013 [20 favorites]


One option, not always the best, is to politely and sincerely ask, "and why is that funny?"

But I'll second the "that's my sister" deadpan.
posted by dry white toast at 8:04 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hate to say this, but the most effective tactic I've found is to find a guy who seems to also feel uncomfortable with this kind of bullshit and take him aside to ask him privately to speak up next time it happens. Men seem to take it more seriously when they're called out by other men, rather than by a woman.

Or on preview, what srboisvert said.
posted by 168 at 8:07 AM on January 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


How cutting do you want the retort to be? The two ways to get under the skin of many people is to declare that they are "boring", or to insult or make derogatory remarks about their mother. If you want to go for the sledgehammer retort, then something like "Looks like you turned out to be quite a dull and boring adult in the end; your mother obviously didn't choose her breeding partners wisely" will upset the large majority of men, some intensely.

However, you started with "I work with a group of colleagues that I get along well with, mainly male." so assuming you need or wish to maintain work or personal relationships with these people, something on the awkward-personal spectrum may be more appropriate.

Something like, in response to a sexist remark: "If another man made that comment or remark about your own mother, would you be upset with then?" ... and then say nothing. If there's an awkward silence, then maintain it.
posted by Wordshore at 8:12 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Am I the only one who isn't super offended by what the MC said? It's not particularly funny or clever, but it's pretty benign on the "sexist/dumb things guys say" scale. If you are really that uncomfortable, maybe saying something like "trying not to think about who you sleep with, thanks!" and change the subject?
posted by radioamy at 8:13 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you've got extraordinary generosity of the soul, you could hip them to the fact that they're not getting away with anything; that that other bartender--and every other woman in the place--knows what they're saying and how they're acting. Then offer to make a project of smartening the boys up. "My Fair Douchebag," if you will.
posted by whuppy at 8:15 AM on January 25, 2013


I feel like there ought to be a simple answer to this.

Alas, no. The perfect line - the one that's guaranteed to make them laugh, reflect thoughtfully on the wider implications of sexism, not get defensive and not dismiss you as overly sensitive/bitchy/whatever, all at the same time - doesn't exist. This isn't a failure to explain properly on your part, this is a failure to give a damn on theirs.

I find this really frustrating too - but there's also a kind of freedom in it. What I do is to make a quick cost-benefit calculation of just how important it is to me to keep the peace in that situation, and then respond accordingly. If it's super-important to not cause any conflict, I just keep quiet or excuse myself and leave the conversation; if if it's less important but I still don't want to face the "God, it's just a JOKE" response, I go with staring at them silently for a moment then "Classy. Anyway..." or the jokey put-downs ("yeah? how many bags did your last girlfriend make you wear?"); and if I care less about keeping the peace than I do about calling them out, then I fully embrace that. "Do you have any idea what you sound like right now? Yeah, I don't care if it's a joke. Now I'm wondering what you say about me when I'm not in the room. Why do you think it's okay to talk about women like that?"

It's all compromises, but at least you get to pick which compromise you're happiest with.
posted by Catseye at 8:19 AM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Telling anyone they can't get laid is considered an insult, regardless of gender.

Think about the assumptions underlying why it is considered an insult (which I do not consider it to be) and see if you still think it's not sexist.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:27 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


should have known you can't say stuff like that with a woman around

This right here is the problem. Because in fact, people should not be saying shit like this at all, regardless of who is around.

My idealist approach would be "Why do you think it's OK to talk about people like that with anyone around?" And I would use the word "people" specifically.

My practical approach would be to smack my pint glass with a spoon every time they did it shouting (not like, belting, but with a raised voice) "Sexist arsehole! You're such a mouth breather!" and then roll right over the conversation with the next topic of conversation. You're not engaging in debate, you're smacking them with a newspaper and then ignoring.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:27 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


"hey, it's just a joke"
"I like to indicate my jokes are jokes by making them funny."
posted by rmd1023 at 8:27 AM on January 25, 2013 [30 favorites]


Am I the only one who isn't super offended by what the MC said? It's not particularly funny or clever, but it's pretty benign on the "sexist/dumb things guys say" scale.

I don't think it's massively offensive, but they are making pretty cruel comments. Don't you think the male colleagues are saying major asshole things? (Simple test, what would you think of them if they made that paper bag comment to the woman's face?).

But the paper-bag remark is indeed very sexist in the sense that it presupposes that the only reason women exist is for men to have sex with them, that they are just object for this purpose, and that men have the right to judge women on this quality at all times, and that all audiences of people are always expecting men to pass judgement on how sexually-worthy women around them are.

Additionally, it is embarassingly juvenile and disrespectful.
posted by molecicco at 8:28 AM on January 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


Making jabs about someone's sexual attractiveness or penis size in response to something like that strikes me as pretty trashy/sinking to their level/diminishing to you as a person, so I'd encourage you to disregard that advice.

I like entropone's suggestion above, or anything that points out that what they're saying isn't funny, or that they appear to have a really limited sense of humor since those are the only sorts of jokes they seem to make (and how you don't know anyone else who does that or know anyone who laughs at them), or asking them why, out of all the millions of things they could be talking about, they choose to make a discussion of a stranger's attractiveness and how creepy that is.

There comes a certain point where "never wrestle with a pig; you get dirty and the pig likes it" applies, and you may be better off not hanging out with them, or leaving if they act like assholes.
posted by alphanerd at 8:28 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Wow, that was mean" said in a kind of confused, what the hell? look to indicate that you are surprised at how inappropriately they are behaving.

When they say, "oh, calm down, we're just joking," you can say "Yeah, I got that, just wondering why you're being mean to some random stranger."

Lots of good responses above, but I adamantly agree with those who suggest not to try to respond with another zinger to put down your colleagues. It won't be good for your relationship with them, and it won't encourage them to examine their casual cruelty.
posted by skewed at 8:34 AM on January 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


There is some really, really helpful stuff here, not to mention some interesting points raised, so THANK YOU guys you are all awesome.

If anything this has made me realise that zingers are just not gonna work for me - I have no stomach for cruel humour even in retaliation, so saying something like "sorry about your tiny penis", even though I deeply appreciate the irony, would stick in my throat.

However, laughing at them for being juvenile seems potentially effective, and also just straight-faced, "that's so lame" and then change the subject. Also RMD1023's "I like to indicate my jokes by making them funny" wins the special prize as I will probably use that word-for-word.

BAM the hive mind strikes again, a force for good in the face of inappropriate work conversation everywhere.
posted by greenish at 8:40 AM on January 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I am RL friends with rmd1023, and I once used that phrase word-for-word, out loud and in person. It was DEVASTATINGLY effective. I've also had good results from the "wow, that was gross / I'm plenty chill, that's just gross" line. You can also try just a low whistle and "Yikes, that was childish." Just don't engage for more than one back and forth, just change the subject if they want to fight about it.
posted by KathrynT at 8:56 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


How about "I don't want to hear about your sexual fantasies."?

Because my point of view is that there's two things going on here. One's the sexual denigration of the women and the other is the sexualization of the conversation, and even though the first is the worse action, the second is something that they will find harder to justify or dismiss. It also uses the weapon that they just used against women against them, but in an entirely justifiable way.
posted by ambrosen at 9:02 AM on January 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think that bringing up his sexual prowess, attractiveness etc., is just playing his game. Frankly, I'm not sure that this sort of banter really is "sexist" as much as it's tacky, but playing the Victorian maiden is not a great strategy, esp. if these are work colleagues. In a weird way, they're treating you like "one of the guys" and depending on your work environment, that's not always a bad thing. People do judge others by sexual attractiveness, and doing so in a bar isn't all that odd--doing so in the break room at work isn't appropriate. (Women do this to men, but in my experience, they're not crude or as direct about it, but that's not the point.) I think if you don't want to hear the guy's opinions on women and their hotness, brush it aside with "Save that for the locker room" is going to get you better results than engaging or ranting.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:13 AM on January 25, 2013


I knew a quiet seminary student who would take these statements at face value and start asking about them. "Why would you need to put a bag over her head to be closer to her?" "Really, you want to bend so-and-so over the counter and do what exactly?" It was an effective way to get people to not only speak more kindly but to also think about what they were saying.

Also, if you asked him for a book recommendation or he heard you were looking to read on a subject, he would drop everything to help you research and track down the "best book."
posted by michaelh at 9:15 AM on January 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


When they make a joke like that. Laugh really hard, I mean really hard in a fake over the top laugh for hours kind of way hold your side the works, when you finally draw the laughter to an end wipe an imaginary tear from your eye and go something like "Wow I've never heard that one before, you are so funny." A playful punch on the arm works here well. Then just sharply change the subject as if nothing happened.
posted by wwax at 9:16 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a young'ish group of guys. As we get older, we still convey thoughts about women we notice, but in slightly more "highbrow" ways.

You have really 2 paths:

Retort and correct them each time

Or,

Let time, age, and the current/future woman in their lives do the "teaching." The fact they say this with you around indicates your authority to correct them has long past, and now you are seen as mood killer. Reason: you validate their behavior by a far more powerful way: by continuing to hang out with them. You can't have your cake and eat it too. They know this as well, and don't respect your selective outrage.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:19 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd like to first off thank Kruger for once again confirming that my decision to give up on any involvement with men was in fact the right one.

But no, in your situation, I find there's little that deflates a sexist jackass like cheerful deflation.

Jackass: herp derp bewbs

You: aw. It's okay, you just keep trying, and one day you'll make a real joke.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:25 AM on January 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Yeah? Don't talk about people like that. It betrays an unpleasant worldview."
posted by hot soup girl at 9:32 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


"...the other one looks like a man though"

This is the key pressure point here. "Would that make you feel gay or something?"
posted by rhizome at 9:37 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd say 'Jeez, knock it off, asshole' because they should stop being assholes.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:42 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let time, age, and the current/future woman in their lives do the "teaching." The fact they say this with you around indicates your authority to correct them has long past, and now you are seen as mood killer. Reason: you validate their behavior by a far more powerful way: by continuing to hang out with them. You can't have your cake and eat it too. They know this as well, and don't respect your selective outrage.

This is the logic by which a war continues so that the soldiers may not have died in vain.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:48 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kruger5: Let time, age, and the current/future woman in their lives do the "teaching.".... Reason: you validate their behavior by a far more powerful way: by continuing to hang out with them.

1. She is a woman in their lives right now. 2. They're coworkers. She hangs out with them because they are all paid to be in the same place at the same time, not because she chooses to do so because of or in spite of their behavior.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:17 AM on January 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


She hangs out with them because they are all paid to be in the same place at the same time, not because she chooses to do so because of or in spite of their behavior.

Is this true? The barmaid example gives the impression that these comments are happening outside the workplace. The appropriate response depends greatly on whether they are occurring the workplace.

If she is being exposed to these comments because she is choosing their company after hours, then she needs to roll with it to some extent. She can retort playfully-yet-pointedly, attempt to change the topic, or say straight up that she doesn't appreciate the comments, but she shouldn't expect them to change their happy hour behavior. She should simply stop going to happy hour if she doesn't enjoy her co-workers' company.

Conversely, if these comments happen during work when she has no option but be exposed to them, then she should warn them that they are creating a hostile work environment and that she will be forced to escalate to her supervisor/HR if they do not stop.
posted by 0 at 10:33 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


She should simply stop going to happy hour if she doesn't enjoy her co-workers' company.

In some industries this can be a seriously career-limiting move. There is after-hours socializing that can be key to advancing in a firm, and if OP is in this kind of position, it is not correct that OP should have to forego that opportunity because OP has the misfortune of having sexist bozos for colleagues.
posted by ambrosia at 10:39 AM on January 25, 2013 [19 favorites]


I parsed "group of colleagues" to mean coworkers. Even if they are happening outside the workplace, there can be career repercussions to avoiding nominally-not-mandatory social events. People should not have to choose between team-building with their colleagues and offensive conversations.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:39 AM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


If such repercussions exist at OPs job, they will be made worse if she insists on tagging along and making everyone say only things she approves of.
posted by 0 at 10:45 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If there will be career repercussions to "making everyone say only things she approves of" but not to "being a childish, sexist asshole," then that's a problem that ALSO needs to be addressed, frankly. These guys are engaging in unprofessional behavior.
posted by KathrynT at 10:52 AM on January 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


It may be perfectly "normal" for men to talk about women like this when they gather together (and yes, lots of women make plenty of sexual, crude, direct, and insulting comments about men and men's appearances when they're together and feel free to do so, trust me), but there's no rule that because this is "normal" "guy" behavior (or "normal" "woman" behavior in the opposite situation) that someone who finds it distasteful can't pipe up. These coworkers are being cruel and piggish. Everybody likes to think about who they'd like to fuck, but not everybody lacks the tact to let it dominate a conversation, or to translate into publicly demeaning people who don't fit those criteria. You can pipe up if you find any discussion distasteful, actually-- gossip, &c.-- so why not nasty comments about women, too. If we're going to talk about stereotypically gendered behavior, then if women don't get a free pass for mean gossip (cuz they really don't), men don't get a free pass for sexist bullshitting.

If you are really so concerned about the OP, maybe realize that for many women this is a lose/lose/lose situation-- either miss out on networking & team-building opportunities, or attend them and listen to ostracizing piggish sexist conversation, or attend them and object the the conversation and be branded as a bitch or a stick in the mud. Try not to give women advice about this type of thing if you have no idea what you're talking about, as if there's an ideal solution (and obviously it involves leaving the sexist men alone). And ALSO maybe quit branding her like a prudish harpy who makes "everyone say only things she approves of" right in this very thread, since you are contributing to sexist ostracizing behavior right in front of everybody.

But if this is just a casual gathering that has nothing to do with work, then it's still okay for her to say something, because calling your friends out on being douchebags is fine on just about every issue, so why not sexism. If you don't accept that saying a woman should put a bag over her head so that someone can have sex with her is douchebaggy... maybe think about that a bit.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:56 AM on January 25, 2013 [24 favorites]


If such repercussions exist at OPs job, they will be made worse if she insists on tagging along and making everyone say only things she approves of.

The structure of your sentence leads the reader to infer that you believe OP does not have a right to be there. I will posit that OP has every right to be there, and also has every right to call out rude, boorish behavior for what it is. OP's question does not indicate a desire to limit conversation to approved topics, OP is asking for help responding to offensive behavior.

OP is doing her colleagues an enormous favor in clueing them in about not being offensive jerks.
posted by ambrosia at 11:05 AM on January 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


It only works if these guys care what you think of them, but I've had good luck with "You shouldn't say things like that. It makes you sound stupid and it makes me lose respect for you." But I am definitely pocketing a lot of the great lines from this thread to use in the future!
posted by coupdefoudre at 11:07 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If such repercussions exist at OPs job, they will be made worse if she insists on tagging along and making everyone say only things she approves of.

Or perhaps the colleagues who are incapable of not behaving boorishly will stop tagging along with the civilized people.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:11 AM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


stoneandstar, there is no reason to make this so personal.

The structure of your sentence leads the reader to infer that you believe OP does not have a right to be there.

Such an inference would be incorrect. My point is the context in which the comments occur is relevant to answering the question, but is rather unclear and I am asking the OP if she can be more explicit regarding the circumstances of the comments.

It was others who brought up that there may be career repercussions to not going out drinking with the guys and I responded that they will be worse if she goes out *and* cannot be sociable. If she cannot roll with it to some extent, she is better off not trying to be one of the boys. As I said originally, she can respond in any number of ways and she will most be likely fine -- whether her engagement is snappy or deadpan or whatever -- she will gain respect or camaraderie by sharing their company. Where she will run into trouble, in my opinion, is if she expects the men to substantially change their behavior in their free time.
posted by 0 at 11:27 AM on January 25, 2013


OP is doing her colleagues an enormous favor in clueing them in about not being offensive jerks.

Trust me, the colleagues will not see it as a favor. They will perceive it as a downer, if they give it any thought at all, and she will be invited out less. Not everyone gets invited to every after-work event. As the question states, she has tried making comments and she is ignored, dismissed, and left "stumped and/or looking stupid." OP's question is not "should I speak up?" but "help me think of real zingers because I fail when I speak up."

The short answer is that no amount of "sass" and no "zinger" will change the behavior that OP wishes to change. The reactions she is getting is because they do not care. I know a withering comment that silences the room and shames a cad right before a slow clap is a popular trope, but that is not how it works in reality.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:30 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Folks, this needs to not be an argument between answerers. If you've given your answer already and are just having a back and forth with another user, it's time to give the thread a rest.]
posted by cortex at 11:35 AM on January 25, 2013


I just say....ahhhhh, okay. seems to shut it right down
posted by couchdive at 11:35 AM on January 25, 2013


Also RMD1023's "I like to indicate my jokes by making them funny" wins the special prize as I will probably use that word-for-word.

Not to poo-poo your fave answer, but consider that that phrase is basically pitching him something he can hit out of the park with a zing back at your intelligence or lack of sense of humor. The easiest is some variant of "My joke is TOO funny, you're wrong", but there's also "If you really can't tell when I'm joking, I'll provide a special hint for you", as well as "Now THAT'S funny... the idea that you can tell a joke". If you try and zing them, they're going to zing you back, and if all you have is one line, then you're right back where you started.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:42 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


How would you feel if they were making racist comments? What if you were a Black man? Would you put up with it to not cause waves? I agree you shouldn’t worry about a zinger, that doesn’t seem to be the issue here.

You can’t control what someone thinks, that’s none of your business. The issue is what they say in front of you. I feel too many women put up with disrespectful talk in order to be "one of the guys" or not appear prudish. Those guys may not be innocent, this can be passive aggressive behavior, and it may escalate if you put up with it.

There are two levels here; It’s sexist. But it’s also disrespectful because you’re a woman. A racist remark would still be racist and offensive, but if one of your group was of the race mentioned it would also be incredibly disrespectful. I’m not suggesting you give a speech on feminism, just demand respect. You don’t really need to, and shouldn’t, explain what you find offensive. It’s not going to be a mystery to anyone.

"I’d rather you didn’t talk that way in front of me" seems fine. Or "I have to leave". And the answer to the next part is "I don’t think I need to explain why".
posted by bongo_x at 11:57 AM on January 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


"Chill out, I'm joking."
"It wasn't a joke, it was a mean and shitty thing to say. Don't be that guy."
posted by disconnect at 11:59 AM on January 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


A sincere response: A lot of women hate to be treated as sexual objects. It's disrespectful and unevolved.
"I was just joking."
I know it feels that way to you, but I respect you enough to think that you can be educated.

A more casual response Dude, for real?!? I'm sitting right here!
"I was just joking."
Unh-huh. Evolve a little, you know?

Humans are social, and affected by the responses of others, even when they appear to be blowing you off. You don't have to make a huge scene; your disapproval has an effect. The approval of others may have the opposite effect. We do what we can, and make change.
posted by theora55 at 11:59 AM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


"As your wingman-slash-informant, it's my duty to inform you that that other people routinely hear your discussions like this, and they don't say anything, you just go down in their evaluation - without you ever knowing it or why. Also, as your wingman-slash-informant - HQ says to not shoot the messenger-slash-wingman-slash-informant. Message Ends."
posted by anonymisc at 12:03 PM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


or feeling like the Grand Ruiner Of Conversations?

Guy here, so can't speak to how much the dynamic relates, but I remember one case where I bagged on someone for behavour not entirely unlike this, someone I didn't know - we were in a group of mutual friends. I tried to do it tactfully, but quickly felt like the grand ruiner, and embarrassed and self conscious for shifting the previously boisterous tone and creating awkwardness in what was supposed to be social and fun.
Anyway, years later, met the guy again. Initially I couldn't place him, I had forgotten - that interaction was almost the only one we'd had. He hadn't forgotten me. He had massive respect for me. Wait what?!
Ok, so I was grand ruiner in the moment, but in the long run I didn't come out as foolish as I felt. It was actually a win for me, even though the behavior in question had nothing to do with me.

Similarly, when someone argues with me (man or woman) about an alleged shortcoming of mine, I will challenge their point, so they might feel I am dismissing it, but it's important to me to get a feeling for how well grounded or thoughtful it is, and later on I'll remember and consider the matter - free of the distractions and pressures of the moment - and often they may carry the day, though they might not know it because it's happening long after the fact. That's another way in which you can appear to have lost when you really succeeded.

So, keep trying to keep things tactful or funny or non-adverserial or friendly, and maybe things aren't as bad as they seem? Yeah, cold comfort, I know.
posted by anonymisc at 12:37 PM on January 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


anonymisc's story reminds me of a similar experience, which certainly informs my viewpoint even though it wasn't top of mind.

When I was a camp counselor in the late 80s, I was hanging around after hours with some of the other counselors. One of the guys was making fun of one of the teen campers for having effeminate behaviors (I know, classy) and implying he was gay. This guy was generally intensely funny, and very popular with everyone, kind of a charismatic dude. But I had seen/heard him do this one too many times, and I didn't think it was cool, especially in a camp with our stated social-justice-type values about everyone being worthy of dignity and such. I had some close friends from school who were gay and had kind of had my consciousness raised a little beyond your usual teen locker-room level. I kind of boiled over in the moment and said something loudly, something like "I'm tired of seeing that. The joke is that so-and-so acts gay. So what? So what if he is? Is that a bad thing to be? Is it worthy of being belitted? If stats are right, more than one person here right now is also gay. And a dozen or more kids in camp are going to grow up to be gay. What are they supposed to do, laugh and go along with this because they're afraid of speaking up? Fuck that."

It was a bit of a dramatic teen outburst. But I remember walking out of there thinking "OK well, I've now ruined all my camp friendships forever by being That Person, the downer, who ruins the fun."

But in fact, it was the beginning of a real change. A few different people spoke to me in person afterward and said how good it was that someone (finally) spoke up. Things really changed in terms of homophobic humor being evidence at the camp, and particularly being demonstrated and modelled by the counselors. And of course, the culture gradually changed. It happens little by little and it happens in incidents like this, where people decide to defend perfectly appropriate interpersonal boundaries. Sometimes you get tired of doing it and you don't always want the burden. Some people will tell you they're tired of hearing it. Oh well. It's still worth it.
posted by Miko at 12:53 PM on January 25, 2013 [27 favorites]


I like the "Nah, just don't be That Guy" kind of suggestions, because (contrary to the full-on approach), I think you want to avoid creating any loss of face here - just make a point and move on with minimal disruption. If instead, people have to save face, they will hyper-focus on saving face, and everything else is lost to that goal (up to and including life and limb, literally!), and you can be resented for perceived loss in status. Whereas a friendly "don't be that guy" can have polite-fiction undertones of "you're not that guy, so we both know you don't have to defend yourself here, but be careful and make some changes because the stuff you're doing... you could be mistaken for that guy, and that would be a shame".
(It might be argued that people need to be told, no, you actually ARE that guy. And ok, that might be the case. But that's hard to do without jeopardising career, so I don't think it's on the table here, and I think people making those external - even superficial - expected changes to behaviour often results over the years in slowly reshaping the internal to fit better.)
posted by anonymisc at 1:20 PM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


How about "I don't want to hear about your sexual fantasies."?
Another awesome function of ambrosen's retort: by pointing out that the jerk is making the group's conversation weirdly sexy/intimate, you make it easy, if not obligatory, for other males to join you in objecting to his conversational move.

(I mean, assuming the other males don't really wanna to be seen as sexually interested in this bloke.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 2:05 PM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm a man, and I worry about this sort of thing.

Most of the "zingers" you could make actually depend on the value systems you're presumably trying to combat:

-jokes targeting the man's ability to get laid
-jokes targeting the man's sexuality
-jokes targeting the man's penis size
-objecting that the man's comment is inappropriately sexually explicit in mixed company
-reminding the man that the woman could be someone's sister/mother/daughter

and arguably

-targeting the man's attractiveness - though in this case turnabout could be illustrative.

You can be forgiven for reaching for one of those. What I've been trying to do is make my comments about relevance, or lack of relevance.

There are situations where it might be relevant to talk about a person's physical attractiveness, and fewer where it might be relevant to talk about a person's physical unattractiveness.

I don't think there's anything wrong with checking out the crowd at the bar. However, there's an attitude that a woman's attractiveness (or lack of) is always relevant in any situation, and that is a problem.

If you can make a comment that shows how the physical evaluation was irrelevant to whatever the situation or discussion is then you'll be doing good work.
posted by PJMcPrettypants at 3:49 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know your conversation was just an example, but discussing the first barmaid even in complimentary terms opens the topic of appearance up with people who have already proven themselves to be sexist and clueless.

Instead of taking the bait, try to head them off at the pass. At the first sign of hot or not - "Ugh, TMI." If they persist, "Seriously, nobody wants to hear this. Keep it to yourself."

This is a perfectly reasonable boundary to have. Refusing to get into debates with them over it when they won't hear common sense doesn't make you the conversation ruiner.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:11 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know that it's about being inappropriately sexual in mixed company-- it's about being disrespectful. Discussing sex is not always to everyone's taste but also doesn't have to be sexist. The things her coworker said sound clearly disrespectful (of women) and sexist to me.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:30 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was once out with a group of friends and acquaintances, some of whom I worked with, when one of the guys made an "n-word joke." I said "Full Name, I have always respected you, so I'm going to try to pretend you didn't just say that." I did use my Southern charming voice, and smile. Awkward silence, but then evening (and life) went on.

I have no idea whether or not that changed Racist Guy. It did definitely establish that it's not OK to say that shit in front of cyndigo. And maybe out of fear that someone besides cyndigo might ALSO call him on it, maybe he eventually stopped saying that shit.

My (now) ex, Mr. Lovely Appeaser, did ask me later why I had to "make a scene." Did I mention ex? Oh yes.

First they came for the Jews, etc. There is always a special place in my heart for people who step up for the disparaged group that they are NOT a member of. I wish your male colleagues were doing that, instead of leaving it to you. Man up, indeed. Good luck.
posted by cyndigo at 8:19 PM on January 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


I can be a right arsehole sometimes. I can say mean, hurtful, downright nasty things to people who probably don't deserve it. Luckily the world is still full of sexist, racist fuckwits upon which I can expend my wrath.

Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of tiny penis jokes.

(you can always say it was just a joke)
posted by fullerine at 9:52 PM on January 25, 2013


A bit late to the party, but quoting Raphael Bob-Waksberg:

43 Ways To Say, “That’s Sexist.”
Sometimes it can be awkward to call your friends out if they say something that makes you uncomfortable. Often they’re not being malicious, just thoughtless. But remember, your friends will only change their behavior if you speak up! Here are 43 ways of letting someone know he’s being sexist. Only you can know what’s right for your specific relationship and circumstance. Feel free to mix and match, or add your own!

I don’t like those kinds of jokes.
Dude, that’s pretty sexist.
That actually makes me really uncomfortable.
(later, in private:) Hey, I just wanted to let you know that what you said earlier really upset me.
(later, in an email:) Hey, I didn’t want to get into a whole thing in front of everybody, but I was actually really upset by what you said, and here’s why: [YOUR REASONS HERE]
Come on, you’re better than that.
Wait, hold up, is it the 1950s? It isn’t, right? Seriously though, is it? No but seriously, is it? Is it actually the 1950s right now? I’m like 90 percent sure that it isn’t. It isn’t, right? It isn’t?
Psh! Sexist!
Don’t say that. That’s not funny.
Hey, remember that time just now when you said something really sexist?
You don’t really believe that, do you?
What?! I can’t believe you just said that!!! That is SOOOO SEXIST!!!
Seriously though, don’t say stuff like that around me.
Just so you know, if you keep saying things like that, people are going to think you’re a sexist.
(Frown and shake head disapprovingly.)
That’s really weird that you think that’s an okay thing to say.
Hey, are you LMFAO? Because THAT’S SEXIST AND YOU KNOW IT. (Then, do a little dance.)
Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait. WHAT did you just say?
Oh, I get it, you’re doing the whole “politically incorrect” thing. Cute.
This is not your best look.
Just FYI, your jokey “pretend sexism” sounds a lot like real sexism.
Um, sexist much?
Hey, knock knock. [Who’s there?] Ida. [Ida who?] Ida know why you think it’s okay to make sexist jokes in front of me.
Wow, that’s awkward.
I’m seriously going to stop being your friend if you keep saying things like that.
You know what you just said objectifies women, right?
I don’t get it. Can you explain what you meant by that? No, I don’t understand. Talk me through it step by step. How did you reach those conclusions?
Sharp social satire, friend! Not tired and offensive at all!
Gross.
Wow, that is some OLD SCHOOL sexism!
I’m just kind of over that whole ironic post-sexism sexism thing, you know?
Uh oh, you might be sexist! Quick, say something progressive! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Oh no, too late, you’re a sexist!
That’s a great impression of something a misogynist would say!
I’m sorry, but I can’t pretend that’s not sexist.
Whoa, weird. A sexist thing just happened.
Boo! Boooooo! Booooooooooo!
Do you hear yourself?
Could you just try to not say stuff like that when I’m around? It really bothers me.
Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy. But you’re a horribly misogynist. So call me never.
I was totally with you until that last part when you got kind of sexist all of a sudden.
Why would you say something like that?
Stop. I can’t even deal with your sexism right now.
Ugh, enough.
posted by namesarehard at 12:36 AM on January 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


I usually go for something like "Wow. That's not very nice." Said in an even tone with a little surprise, not angry.

Either that or (when it's someone I can't easily express open disapproval of..) "She's awesome!! I bet I would totally get along with her." Or if you've been there before and actually interacted with her, more like "She's super awesome and I get along great with her." Or using similar language that works for you, so as to not sound like an American teenager :)
posted by citron at 7:03 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


In a weird way, they're treating you like "one of the guys" and depending on your work environment, that's not always a bad thing.

I hear this said all the time: that women should be indirectly flattered by locker-room talk because it means that the fact that we're women has been obviated in the minds of our friends or colleagues. Our gender's not on their radar anymore. Let's turn this around.

Imagine a man is employed in a female-dominated workplace, and in a casual outing his female coworkers start comparing various brands of tampons, pads, and menstrual cups in their male coworker's presence. The man is uncomfortable and relates this story later to a friend.

Would the reply, "This could be a good thing for your career! They don't consider you a man. They think of you as one of the girls," smooth things over? Would that make it a-okay? Or does that just add insult to injury? It's "emasculating," right? Because men are proud to be men. Being a man is a thing to be proud of.

Being a woman is something to be proud of, too. I am never going to be delighted by the fact that someone does not consider me a woman. It's insulting.

Greenish, when a man in my presence makes disparaging remarks about a woman's appearance, I say, "Meow, meow! Someone's a mean girl today!" Then I laugh merrily. If I get told to "calm down," or "relax," I act confused. I say, "Can't get any more relaxed. I'm laughing and making jokes. Looks like you're getting upset, though. Take a chill pill, Regina!"

This retort relies on sexist stereotypes. That's because you're dealing with a sexist and have to speak their language, just like you'd phrase your retort in Spanish if you were trash-talking a Spaniard. The worst thing you can call a sexist man is feminine. They will do anything to avoid that label.

It would be great if you could wipe out the "mean girl" stereotype altogether, but that's too big a job for you. Convincing these guys that objectifying women is wrong is too big a job for you. That's not your field. A manageable job is making them think the better of it the next time they want to elbow one another and point out the "double-bagger" at the next table. And "Meow, meow," does that job.
posted by cirocco at 12:00 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I agree with the advice not to "zing" — you don't have to be clever or funny here because you have the benefit of being right. The tactic that has worked the best for me is just to say "wow, don't say sexist shit like that in front of me."
Them: We're joking!
Me: I don't care if it's a joke. Don't make that kind of joke in front of me.
Them: Wow, someone's sensitive.
Me: [brightly, and totally sincerely] Yes, I'm very sensitive about this.
Them: Why are you so mad!
Me: I'm not mad. I'm exhausted. Your sexism is exhausting.
Them: You're being a drag.
Me: Yes, I am a drag about this.
Them: Great, now we have to be PC because Charity is here. I can't make jokes about anything!
Me: I'm not talking about everything. I'm talking about degrading jokes about women, and how I don't want you to say them around me any more. If this means we can't hang out because those jokes are so important to you, I understand. [beat] Anyway, [new subject.]

Would it be better if he never made jokes like that ever? Probably, but hey, you're not the joke police. You are the "what's okay to do around me" police, though. Even shitheels who make shitty jokes like that probably don't want to make their friends/work buddies feel bad. And for the most part, guys I know don't quite realize how hurtful and alienating and degrading "jokes" like that can be — not when I'm the target of these jokes, but simply when they're said in my company.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable! It is so fucking liberating to just openly say "yes, I actually am offended! And I don't care if that bothers you!" Being a ruiner of terrible conversations is a badge of pride.
posted by Charity Garfein at 3:06 PM on January 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


Regarding the "Grand ruiner" concerns, it's important to keep focus on the fact that sexist commentary is what makes something not fun for many people:
"This is supposed to be social and fun"

"So why did YOU ruin it by making a sexist comment?"
If you feel particularly confrontational about it sometime, you could follow that up with something like:
“ARE you actually sexist, or were you just making a sexist remark to "fit in" and "bond with the guys"? Because the more you guys "bond" in this manner, the less appealing you all become for women to spend time with you.”
Another tactic is the aforementioned “showing yourself as vulnerable” approach:
“I don't feel comfortable with you making such comments. What if that were me? Or what if the guys at the table over there were saying those exact same things about me? I would be really upset if I found out they were saying such things about me, and probably consider them assholes for it, so why would you think it's okay for you to say that about someone else?"
These can all go either way: either lead to more conflict or defuse the situation, but one thing they're somewhat guaranteed to do is make people stop and think about their actions for a moment. That by itself could be a win.

That said, I still like entropone's suggestion best.
posted by KuraFire at 10:14 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


The only luck I've ever had - and it's limited, I assure you - to "only joking" is "I don't get it. Can you explain it to me?" The trick is that you have to sound sincerely confused. Look quizzical and pester them until they finally own up to the fact that the joke is that they're sexist. Then you get your quasi-zinger.

"Oh, I get it now. It's funny because you're suggesting that you have a great deal of sexual virility and that, combined with your sense of male privilege, makes you feel like you deserve her attention. You're acting as though she's nothing more than a passive participant in your sexual life - an object for you to use as an outlet your juvenile fantasies. That is funny!"

If you can laugh naturally at the end like you really do find it funny, it really sells it.
posted by jemaleddin at 11:42 AM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


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