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tigtog (aka Viv) is the founder of this blog. She lives in Sydney, Australia: husband, 2 kids, cat, house, garden, just enough wine-racks and (sigh) far too few bookshelves.

This author has written 3448 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about tigtog »

7 responses to “Jerks and those who do not challenge them”

  1. Jason

    The only part of this I have any argument with is this bit:

    …or they are too intimidated to speak out. I suspect that in many situations it’s more the latter than the former…

    I don’t really dispute this, except to say that I think it’s a little more complicated than that. But it’s taken me until a few days ago to realise why.

    A while ago I read the post Intersectionality and Privilege: Addressing the Squishy Bits. This was largely about ableism and derogatory terms based on disability, but after reading it I had a bit of an epiphany. This, I thought, THIS is that feeling I get when a couple of people in a room start making racist or sexist remarks, and I’m not sure what to say.

    It’s not simply because I fear reprisal, or ridicule, or ostracisation, but it’s because I’m thinking, “How do I voice my objection? Can I just say WTF? I don’t really own this issue, though, do I? Am I going to come off as some guy with a white knight complex, wanting to save the damsel in distress? Won’t that also appear quite sexist? And embarrassing for the woman at the centre of this? But wait, I am actually offended by this, and he’s kinda making me complicit. And what if I DO make him stop and think… what will it actually achieve for feminism if the only time some chauvinist pays attention is when a MAN says something? Oh, it’s over.”

    Part of this might be the Dunning-Kruger effect — the more aware you are of an intricate social issue that most people think is just normal, acceptable behaviour, the more likely you are to “overthink” it at the time and be unsure of whether you should speak out or not (or, in fact, how).

    But the other part is being uncomfortable about what I think of as “playing the man card.” A few weeks ago when I complained about that stupid sexting video, I explicitly mentioned that I was male — but why? When I wrote it I thought that I just wanted to point out that sexual harassment is offensive to men too. But in retrospect… doesn’t it look like I’m playing on the sexism I assume they adopt and any notions they might have of feminism as just overly sensitive women? (“Well, you might think that those womens libbers will write in about any old thing, but you know it’s actually offensive when a MAN LIKE ME writes in to complain…”) So speaking out about sexism when it actually happens right in front of you, well, you can’t help but feel like you’re playing the man card.

    If someone is offended by sexism, they should express it, absolutely. It’s about the only realistic way I know of to counter such an ingrained culture — millions of microscopic moments where someone challenges it. I’m not claiming this is an excuse for not calling someone out on being a sexist jerk, but it’s a reason why someone might not open their mouth straight away.

    (I feel like I’m struggling to articulate this. It makes me think of one of the more subtle, insidious kinds of discrimination in technical professions. It’s the situation where a bunch of men and one woman will be standing around talking about some technical issue. The woman mentions something and little attention is paid, but then five minutes later a man raises the exact same point and suddenly it’s relevant and interesting. The truly frustrating thing is, nobody but the feminists in the room ever bloody notice when it happens! If you call people on it, they say “oh, I don’t remember that,” or “but she didn’t put it like he did, did she?”)

  2. tigtog

    The complications raised by the Dunning-Kruger effect were a definite omission on my part, and thank you for raising it, but I think a lot of that kind of concern can be allayed by the words chosen to make the challenge. The words don’t have to be some big analytical challenge, they don’t have to make direct reference to the person being marginalised/harassed. They just have to express clear disapprobation.

    One of the best suggestions I’ve come across for a man challenging another man on sexist statements was “Dude – Not Cool” (although obviously appropriate vocabularies will vary depending on the group). Short, to the point, and not a White Knight in sight. “Mate, can you hear yourself?” was another one. I’ve had success myself with someone in a work situation with “I can’t believe you just said that” and walking away.

  3. Sheryl

    as long as other men don’t call them out for this shit, guys like this think that all the other guys are on their side

    Absolutely true. Mr S is amazed at how many of his workmates let things pass “unnoticed”. Do they think they’d lose credibility if they stood up for the right? Sad that they don’t realise they’d be bigger men if they did.

  4. Jason

    …but I think a lot of that kind of concern can be allayed by the words chosen to make the challenge

    Absolutely, and I like the examples. My personal preference is an incredulous “speak for yourself!” — especially when someone makes their gender into an excuse for being a jerk.

  5. Astrid

    …or they are too intimidated to speak out. I suspect that in many situations it’s more the latter than the former…

    Whichever it is, they’re both systematic problems of the kyriarchy.

  6. Yvonne

    This is a really important posting.

    It does start with teaching boys that when another says something offensive and he only gets laughter, the message is that all others agree with him and it would be almost the same as if you had said it yourself.

    Tigtog’s suggestions work well. My boys find that by using humour helps send the message: not done/pathetic, but it also diffuses any possible agro and the possibility of painting somebody into a particular corner, even if he probably belongs there. The sooner the message what is not tolerated is sent across in a social situation, the better. Less chance of things becoming really ugly.

    Jason, Tigtog’s suggestion of ‘not cool dude’ works well and a woman wouldn’t feel you were coming to her rescue, but were speaking for yourself, your sense of discomfort.

  7. Beppie

    Knowing HOW to speak up is definitely an issue — and of course, the issue can be doubly complicated for people who already have trouble reading social cues. I know that the Ally Network at my uni is looking at running some training sessions about how to speak out against homophobic language, and I imagine that the techniques they’ll look at there would also be more broadly applicable to calling out other types of language. One really powerful thing that has been suggested at Ally Network meetings is simply using your face, rather than saying anything — if someone receives a disgusted look when they use “gay” as an insult, or if they make a rape joke, that can be a pretty powerful thing.

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