“Hey, let’s keep it classy”

November 10, 2010

This blog is about sexist language — and a small action we can take to challenge it.  Why is that important?  Because challenging sexist language challenges sexist ideas…and sexist ideas are the rationale for sexist actions.

Yesterday I heard a radio interview in which a man told the host that he “cried like a woman” in a situation involving physical pain.

This is just a slight variation on the “he cried like a girl” meme that is so common these days. What’s sad is that people who use sexist phrases like that don’t always realize why it’s sexist.  Here’s why: A male is using a reference to someone outside his gender in order to criticize a perceived male weakness.

The man who was interviewed on the radio, whose story reflected bravery in other ways, obviously felt that crying was an inappropriate male response to pain. I realize that we’re socialized to believe that male anger is okay — but male tears are not…and that female tears are okay — but female anger is not. As a result, our society tends to ostracize crying males and angry females.

But what if a woman were to say: “I was as stupid as a man”?  Might not some men possibly feel offended by such a remark? Of course it’s unfair to equate stupidity with maleness.

So how can we gently challenge others — men and women alike — who use sexist language? Maybe we could take a cue from a bartender.

The blog site Stop Sexist Remarks talks about good advice from a bartender named Mike, who is on the front lines when it comes to countering sexism while keeping a party atmosphere. When he encounters a sexist joke, he remarks, “Hey, let’s keep it classy.”

Mike, I really like your style! If I were sitting at your bar, you’d get an extra tip from me!

Want more ideas for responding to insults? From the same Web site, here’s another blog post, titled: Setting Boundaries in 15 Words or Less.

By countering verbal bullies, you might not change the world, but you’ll tell the bullies and everyone else within earshot that there are people who DON’T think like them.

That — in itself — is a victory.


One comment

  1. Ah, verbal bullying. Is it my imagination, or is it getting worse by the minute? Good thoughts here, Cindy. We all need to temper what we say to each other, for sure.

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