Ever made a joke at the expense of a woman just because she’s a woman? Ever interrupted a woman and then explained to her what she already knows? Congratulations, you’re a sexist. Don’t worry, although there’s a solution, you’re going to have to read another “feminist rant” by a woman to get to it.
“Oh, please don’t make this into some feminist issue! It has nothing to do with gender,” I’m often told when I call out men for exhibiting obvious sexist behaviour. Sometimes, it angers me. Sometimes, I try to rationalise that even an adult, 40-year-old man can say something sexist and a huge part of the blame would be on the environment surrounding him—his education, his upbringing, his family, the company he keeps and the content he consumes. However, we’ve also seen men working in the social sector to safeguard human rights being accused of sexism, so that leaves us here. It is the responsibility of every man to educate himself about his sexist behavioural patterns and work towards creating a safer environment for women, irrespective of what his upbringing was like, what his conditioning was like. Ignorance is not an excuse anymore.
I’m a strong believer in the fact that people can change. Often, harmful ideologies, ideas and thoughts evolve into something dangerous and disruptive because there was nothing that questioned the path they took, nothing that called out the way they evolved. Along with calling these behaviours and patterns out, I also want to provide a solution, whose implementation starts with self-awareness. Observing your own behaviour, its patterns and origins and how you naturally react to certain situations and people is a very obvious first step in stopping any behaviour, including sexism.
Here are three kinds of behaviour that all of us should keep a lookout for and consciously work on changing:
Lovingly known as manterruption, this is one of the most common and most annoying things women have to face on a daily basis. There is research to prove that men interrupt women more than they interrupt men. If I donated a rupee for every time a man has interrupted me while I am speaking, the amount of times a man has held a hand up to my face to stop me from speaking, and the amount of times I have seen other women being interrupted mid-sentence by a man, some non-profit in this country would be flushed with funds and could finally afford an air conditioner in their office. The point is, nobody likes being interrupted while they’re talking, especially when they have a valid point to make. Heck, even if there isn’t a valid point being made, it is high time that women are simply heard. Interrupting women over and over again stops them from expressing themselves freely, and that is the last thing we need at this moment.
The worst part? Men deny that this ever happens. It happens so often that some women decided to create an app that detects when a male voice interrupts the female user and tells the male user of the app when they interrupt a female voice. Meet Woman Interrupted; you’re about to be best friends.
LISTEN. Make a conscious decision to not say anything until a woman is done with her sentence. If you must interrupt, make sure she has the floor again after you have clarified what you wanted to clarify. The whole world has always been run by men and honestly, look at where we are. Time to hear, and completely hear, without interruptions, what women have to say.
Hello, mansplaining. I think this word triggers a lot of men into defending themselves and rationalising their behaviour. One of the platforms where this happens to me the most is Instagram DMs. Men slide into my DMs like their life depends on it every time I speak about . . . well almost anything. Plastic pollution? I’m probably wrong. German history (my honours subject in university)? I probably have it wrong. I didn’t find a clean bathroom for myself? I probably didn’t look in the right place. Criticising the government’s actions? I’m a “stupid bitch who doesn’t know anything.” All of these are 100% true, I promise.
I love this definition of mansplaining from this brilliant article in Men’s Journal, “It’s about treating someone as less than you, and needing of your guidance, for no reason other than their age or gender.”
The other great place where mansplaining breeds? Face to face conversations. I have witnessed the confident execution of the cringeworthy act of mansplaining followed by complete annihilation of the male ego multiple times and it’s a show I would pay to watch over and over again. It’s almost like—some men think women just cannot KNOW things or have valid experiences. There have also been instances when men have explained to me how I should be experiencing a particular thing which only women face and honestly, that is the level of unabashed confidence I really need to achieve. Do you know what having someone invalidate your opinion over and over does? It makes you shut up and question yourself a million times over before you open your mouth.
Understand and accept that a woman can be an expert on a topic, and can know more than you do. Actually, go ahead and assume it. Darr ke aage jeet hai! Don’t automatically assume that you know better. If a woman tells you’re mansplaining, don’t mansplain mansplaining to her (again, based on real-life experiences). If you do need to correct a woman, use an empathetic approach and not an arrogant one. Need help with figuring out whether you are mansplaining? Here’s a flowchart for you. Frame it and put it in your office, as this company did.
“That’s what she said.” Well, here’s what I want to say to all the men and woman out there: STOP MAKING JOKES THAT ARE DEROGATORY TO WOMEN. The more you make jokes which belittle women, the more you normalise shameless sexism and violence against women. If you’re under the impression that jokes at women’s expense are harmless and couldn’t possibly lead to a bigger problem, think again.
In this study of rape proclivity, which is the measurement that demonstrates a man’s willingness to rape a woman as long as they wouldn’t be discovered, males exposed to sexist jokes reported higher levels of rape proclivity in comparison to males exposed to non-sexist jokes. This is scary stuff. Research has shown that exposure to sexist humour results in more tolerance of sexist discrimination, as opposed to non-sexist humour. (Ford & Fergusson, 2004)
What qualifies as a sexist joke? To make it simple, any joke that belittles a woman, objectifies a woman, has a derogatory connotation of what it means to be a woman based on stereotypes and biases solely based on gender, is sexist. A joke about how women can’t drive? Sexist and untrue. A joke about how a woman is an item? Sexist and disrespectful. A joke about how a woman shouldn’t be working and should spend her life in the kitchen? Sexist and you need to watch this video by Lilly Singh. Rape and sexual assault jokes? Sexist and downright unacceptable.
STOP MAKING JOKES THAT ARE DEROGATORY TO WOMEN.
Be aware of your inherent patriarchal prejudice and idiotic beliefs about women and challenge them. Understand that they aren’t true and you are not entitled to make jokes about women based on your very limited, closed-minded experience of life.
Want to go one step further? STOP LAUGHING AT JOKES THAT ARE DEROGATORY TO WOMEN. Stop encouraging men and even women to make these jokes by validating them. Instead, tell people they are being sexist and disrespectful and that it is not okay. Be an ally, not an accomplice.
Every single woman you know has faced sexism at some point in her life. If you don’t believe me, ask her! Due to the patriarchal system of our society and the number of men who have gotten away with disrespecting women, unfortunately, it has become normalized. It’s up to every single person to take small steps, albeit on an individual level, to bring down the incidents of sexism and stop it from being so casual and normalized. Time to smash the patriarchy!