Setting boundaries in 15 words or less

What do you do when someone says something sexist – or equally when someone says something racist, transphobic, homophobic, etc? In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to find the right words to call someone out.

ZorraThinkTank linked on Twitter to this post which has some ideas for “setting boundaries in 15 words or less”, over at Stop Sexist Remarks – a blog which is new to me, but looks like it’s full of useful stuff like this.

Here are some of their suggestions for what to say in these circumstances:

  1. “What do you mean by that?”
  2. “Do you really think that?”
  3. “It doesn’t seem like you to say something like that.”
  4. “No, I don’t think about it that way.”
  5. “I don’t find that funny.”
  6. “That doesn’t sound nice to me.”
  7. “Would you want to have that said to/about your wife, daughter, or sister?”
  8. “I would rather not talk that way about women.”
  9. “I don’t like to think about women that way.”
  10. “That type of remark about women makes me uncomfortable.”
  11. “I’m sure you don’t realize it, but that comment sounds like a put-down of women.”
  12. “Wow, I didn’t know you felt that way about women.”
  13. “That sounds sexist. Is that what you intended?”

Some of these I agree with, some I’m not so sure would work, but some good ideas there too. I also really recommend Carmen Van Kerckhove’s suggestions on how to respond to a racist joke in the workplace.

The blogger at Stop Sexist Remarks goes on to say:

A book I recently read, Encountering Bigotry, refers to sexist, racist, and homophobic remarks as “invitations.” The authors write that “an invitation is a call to participate in something, whether it is an invitation to a wedding or an invitation to laugh at a joke. The listener is forced to respond in some way.” When people make sexist remarks, they are inviting us to cross a boundary into their world, one in which women are perceived as less than equal.

A simple declaration that addresses sexism helps spread an alternative vision of the world, one where people are judged on character, not on gender. Sharing that vision is a gift to those around us—both those who know that equality is the better path, and those clinging to old ways of thinking.

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