We’ve all been there. When some person some place says something completely racist/sexist/abilist/xenophobic/so-damn-inappropriate-you’re-not-sure-how-they-made-it-this-far-in-life. Like that time you were having drinks with friends and someone made a rape joke. Or that cool time your Dad complained about the illegal immigrants who are taking his tax dollars. Or that awkward moment a senior level staff in your office discussed how she didn’t mean to be racist but she thinks that those African American mothers need to keep their knees closed. (yes these are real life examples).
And in your mind, all you can think is…
Sometimes these people are your friends, your superiors, your managers, your dad. Sometimes these places are in professional settings, family gatherings, crowded bars… a place were you have to be a little more conscientious about how to call said person out.
For instance, once, my manager asked “what are you?” when discussing my sexuality. Now, I can’t just respond, “I’m human, you idiot” to the woman who fully controls my career. But I also cannot live with the fact someone said something so inherently demeaning. So, over the years, I’ve devised some tactful steps to calling out people’s bigotry and I’d like to share them with you.
Just follow steps 1-3 and you will be able to stand up for what you believe and do it in a way that WON’T get you fired or arrested, ruin your friendships, or get you disowned.
Step 1 – Make a subtle change in your facial expression.
There is the side eye:
The eye roll:
The furrowed brow:
Try these out in the mirror. See which one fits you best. I would recommend trying them first on that friend who always makes fat jokes.
Step 2 – Ask them to think about what they just said.
People say stupid things before they process what they mean. Or they don’t realize how big of a douchebag they are coming off as. Ask them to think about it and what they meant by it.
If you’re feeling super sassy you can throw in a “You might want to check your privilege.”
No one is immune to patriarchy and we can all get sucked into it. By simply asking someone to think twice about where their thoughts are coming from can be enough to get them off the discrimination bus and have them come back to the land of equity. If that is the case, you can end the process here.
Step 3 (optional) – Throw in a big word they have to look up.
At this point, I like to use in a big word with a lot of power to describe their patriarchal views. It can take the conversation from stupid to sophisticated in under a second. Be wary though, throwing a SAT word can potentially close an important conversation. Feel out the situation before you drop a $3 word bomb.
BUT, if it’s appropriate, proceed! My personal favorite word to describe bigotry is “reductive.” I got this little gem of a word from Madonna when she discussed Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” sounding a lot like “Express Yourself” with ABC’s Cynthia McFadden. Madonna said she found it “reductive” and when McFadden asked her what “reductive” means, Madanna coyly said,
Other great words? Ignorant, dismissive, misogynistic, heteronormative, xenophobic. Again, think about your audience before going all walking thesaurus on their asses.
And that’s it! You have it. 3 easy steps to calling out bigotry. Let’s review with a case study.
Case Study: Ignorant Friend in a Bar
Fictional Friend says, “IT’S RETARDED.”
You, while giving the Side Eye, “Really? Did you actually just say that? What makes it retarded?”
Fictional Friend, “Well, you know it’s stupid. You know, I can’t believe that it happened.”
You, “Fictional Friend, that’s reductive and really offensive. In all the vocabulary you know, you couldn’t think of another word that didn’t promote abilism? Maybe you should check your privilege…”
Wait… Fictional Friend isn’t listening. What? He is saying that he is right?
Don’t worry, I have an additional step for those characters.
Step 4 (if steps 1-3 didn’t seem to have an impact) WAVE THAT BULLSHIT FLAG LOUD AND PROUD!
And give them full-fledged feminist hell.
So, that’s how I deal with assholes or people temporarily being assholes… What do you? What’s your favorite, pat-yourself-on-the-back story of calling out patriarchy?