December 6, 2010

Why so serious?

This weekend, we were hanging out at an old school Vegas style lounge, watching the gray haired population of St. Paul boogie down to John Mellencamp while enjoying cheep drinks and good company with a few of our friends.  These are friends that Brett has known for years and years and who are good, quality people. 

But (didn’t you see that coming?) their style totally rubs my style the wrong way sometimes.  Aka to be heard you have to shout.  To be right you have to be pushy and one sided.  And ‘funny’ often means being an asshole.  And being an asshole often means sexist jokes or comments.

I will say that their sexism is very passive, subtle, and generally not terrible.  The annoying part of subtle sexism, though, is that it’s to hard to call out!  Especially with someone who will never back down.  They will argue an absurd point to the farthest points of absurdity.  Reason plays no role here.  It’s survival of the loudest.

I have no idea what to do in situations like this and get really frustrated, putting a damper on an otherwise great evening.  It has never crossed a line with me to seriously impact our friendship, just one of those things that comes up more frequently than I’d like and leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

I’d like to be able to brush it off better, but it seems like I fit the humorless feminist model.

Damn you, feminism!  Your awareness has ruined my ability to sit through too many songs, movies, TV shows, jokes, and typical conversations!  I've become better at dealing with it, but I remember when feminism first really clicked for me.  It made life sort of terrible.  Everywhere I went, everyone I spoke to, I feel like sexism was just all up in my face.  I couldn't get away from it, and I had very little power to change it.

Nowadays, I feel more in control.  I see sexism and am able to better analyze it, which somehow gives me a bit more peace of mind.  If I can understand the system that is creating this song/show/movie/etc, it relieves the tension I feel with that one instance and puts my focus back on the system where it belongs.  Ya know, hating the game, not the playa.  (I also think I've become a bit that helps, too.)  The crowd that I hang out with has also changed.  Some d-bags have been ditched, the crowd reorganized, and some people have followed along in my feminist footsteps.

This all helps, but invariably, I still come across people and situations that boil my blood.  In situations with receptive friends, I'm generally ok bringing up the topic and discussing it.  Most people, when given a quick, simple rebuke, take it and step down.  Some people (as with this one friend we were hanging out with over the weekend) are not so easy.  And some situations (thinking of a certain family thanksgiving where I heard the worst, most tasteless joke ever told...) are also not the most opportune for a serious discussion on why certain things are not ok to be said.

What do you do in situations where addressing sexist jokes/comments is not an option?  What do you in situations where calling out the joke/comment is possible?  How do you best rebuke sexist jokes/comments?


  1. So sometimes I do this thing when someone says something racist, where I just shout, "RACIST!" It sounds a little like I'm kidding, and sometimes I totally am ("Which shirt should I get? I like the white one better." "RACIST!"), but it still often has the desired effect of a) letting me vent the frustrated feeling b) giving the speaker a moment to reflect that they maybe were just being racist. I do it with "SEXIST!" too.

    It's probably not the best approach with polite company, but it falls in the "simple rebuke" category and doesn't have to make you seem humorless.

  2. ha ha ha. it is definitely hard to watch, listen & react to certain things without thinking about how sexist they are. I like hitchdied's approac, but that may be because I enjoy shouting :)

  3. With loud people, I think hitchdied's method works well. I've done that a few times.

    Those that are more subtle need a more less aggressive tactic. I like saying, "uh, sexist much?"

    It is necessary to call out these people, regardless of how hard it is and how much it makes you look like a humorless person. Some folks don't even realize how sexist they are being, because it is part of the culture they grew up in. They've never been taught to think and analyze sexism the way you have. So bringing it to their attention is necessary.

  4. Robin, yes! actually, shouting back might be a good tactic for this person. fighting absurdity with absurdity!

    Bunny, sometimes I simply can't/won't though. Sometimes its just not possible or appropriate or worth the time. Plus, calling out every single thing would dominate my time. I do it when I can and when I have the energy to be effective and not just bitchy.