Casual Sexism and what to do about it

Newsflash! Sexism is a real thing. We understand this subject is likely to make at least a few people uneasy, so some caveats here -- for one, we’re not saying that women are the only ones who face sexism, or secondly, that just because we’re talking about sexism, we’re automatically disparaging all men. Not at all. But like all our content for The 9to5 MisFits, we draw from our own experiences and those of others around us. And we like to start conversations about things we think ought to be talked about.  

By the way, you can catch the long form podcast version here. 

So back to the topic at hand. While Mad Men-style sexism doesn’t exist anymore, at least at most workplaces, overt sexism is still very much alive. However, there are plenty of instances of subtle sexism happening on a daily basis that seem perfectly harmless, but as they get more and more normalized, can lead to larger problems. Here are a few instances we’ve encountered.

 

Mansplaining. Aaah as female entrepreneurs, I cannot tell you how many times men have felt the need to give us completely unsolicited business advice, most of whom have never started their own business and know very little about what we do. And here’s the kicker -- all these people who feel the need to explain "business" to us would never actually do the same with our male counterparts. So why assume that we need the advice? 

Men, if you’re reading this and wondering how to know whether you’re mansplaining, ask yourself a few questions:

1. Are you qualified to be dispensing advice on that particular topic? 

2. Was your advice solicited?

3. Would you be doing the same if you were talking to a man instead of a woman? 

 

Not being taken seriously enough. We started BizLatte a few months ago, and spend a majority of our time building the business, going to networking events, or promoting it online, just like our male business partners do. And yet, while it is seen as their legitimate day job, Pavi and I are constantly asked if BizLatte is our “actual business”. With us, most assume it’s just a hobby or passion project, which is truly baffling. 

This also happens a lot in social situations where women just aren’t taken seriously enough to be included in substantial conversations. Unlike our male counterparts, we often have to earn our seat at the table. 

 

Assigning admin duties to the only woman in the group. This happens so often when there’s a team of mostly men and 1 woman. No prizes for guessing who gets stuck taking notes or ordering lunch. Often, even perfectly well-intentioned men will make this mistake without realizing the implications of what they’re doing. For example, at a previous job, my boss dubbed me the “social director” of our team of which I was the only female member. Now this seemed perfectly benign, and I didn’t think much of the fact that I got stuck with figuring out the venues for our team lunches or happy hours. But thinking back on it now, I don’t believe he actually ever asked any of the male members whether they wanted to take on the task.

 

Making off-color or sexual jokes at a woman and then berating her for not having a sense of humor. This may seem a bit hypocritical because on the one hand we’re talking about gender equality and wanting to receive the same treatment as men, but when it comes to stuff like humor, it seems like we want to be treated with kid gloves. BUT, the difference here is the motivation behind the joke or comment. Yes, men are crass with each other, but there also typically isn’t a threat of sexual harassment or abuse that could come out of that. On the other hand, if it becomes the norm to make sexual jokes or comments objectifying women, it can have some serious consequences.

 

Denying that sexism exists. I get it, sexism is a touchy subject. But let me reiterate -- just because we’re acknowledging that it exists doesn’t mean we’re saying every man is sexist. All we’re trying to do here is to make people aware. But there will invariably be that one person, mostly a guy, who says that he just doesn’t see enough evidence of it. Good for you that you don’t encounter it, but trying to shut down the conversation altogether doesn’t help. Instead, try having a conversation with your mom, your sister, a female friend or coworker to understand their perspective. Keep an open mind.

 

Now there are obviously far more egregious cases of overt sexism in the workplace, which would probably need a whole series of blog posts. But we want to draw attention to the subtle kind because it's easy to brush off as no big deal. What we often don't realize is that it's an indication of a larger problem. So let’s be aware and nip it in the bud, shall we?

If you’re a man reading this and wondering what you can do to help, start identifying instances of this in your daily life and be an ally. Stand up to it when you do see it. If you’re a woman, share this with your male and female friends and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. You have a whole army behind you.

 

Have stories of your own that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them. Feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch with us.