Guest post: An open letter to my male friends who make sexist “jokes”

This is guest post is by Doreen Bloch, a young entrepreneur and author. Doreen is the author of the forthcoming book, The Coolest Startups in America, and the CEO and Founder of Poshly Inc. She is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council and is a regular contributor to Under30CEO.

When I asked Doreen to explain what impelled her to write this post (originally posted on her blog), she told me that one of her guy friends pseudonymously tweets comedy and sarcasm, and that in addition to being a popular tweeter, he’s a leader in his offline community. “His tweets are fantastic, but every now and then, he makes sexist jibes that show deep hypocrisy between his supposed philosophy of equality and his articulated sexist generalizations of women.” Doreen told me that the specific tweet that prompted her post is irrelevant, “because it’s not about one instantiation of sexist commentary.” Doreen said she hopes that her post will result in those who speak sexism being more thoughtful about the power of their words, and that, encouragingly, “it began an honest conversation on these topics between my friend and me.”

What I love about this post is that it’s a short, direct, but not terribly confrontational explanation of why sexist jokes are never “just” jokes. That’s a conversation that I have annoyingly often, and Doreen’s post is clear and concise enough that I might just print it out and carry it around with me so I can hand it out to the people who want to mansplain to me about why jokes about getting a blowjob from Michele Bachmann are totally hilarious. But then, of course, I’d miss out on all that honest conversation.

An open letter to my male friends who make sexist “jokes:”

Put that “joke” aside for a moment.

I don’t mean to put it out of your mind.

I mean separate from your words two parts: (1) your attempt at comedy and (2) the true words you have said or typed.

Don’t your words make you sad?

You try to force a laugh where there is no comedy.

And laughter, like tears, make us vulnerable. The emotional connection of a laugh imprints upon us as a truth. Sexist “jokes” become psychological patches in the glass ceiling we’re trying to break.

I ask you, as a leader future and present, to think twice, or three times for good measure, before speaking, writing and yes… tweeting sexist comments. It’s not about political correctness or cultural difference, it’s about women having it harder than men in many ways as it is. We face enough of an uphill battle against the many myths I dare not type; if you’re my friend, you’ll help me up, not put me and my fellow women down.

We need you as allies. So make jokes about sex, love, politics… we’ll laugh with you. But try to form humor around backward concepts about gender, and we will not laugh alongside you. And don’t tell me to “stop hatin'” on sexism. I will hate on it. Because it hated on me first.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/nerdbeach/ Erika

    I worked for a mortgage broker and the staff regularly received this guy’s daily blog updates about the mortgage industry, and he would always conclude his commentary with jokes. After a certain point I started getting really fed up with how sexist the majority of his jokes were. I swear to you, one of his jokes was a phony community college class that men were to teach to women, including insinuations that women were too stupid to work a thermostat, that women can’t drive, that men don’t care what women have to say, etc.
    So I ended up e-mailing this guy from my office and politely asking for him to let up on the sexist jokes, in which case, his response was that he can’t help but make sexist jokes sometimes, because he has to come up with a joke everyday.
    I was then “let go” about a week later, and I honestly believe this guy may have contacted my boss about my e-mail because I (outside of everyone else in the office) stopped receiving his daily commentaries… Good times, good times.

  • http://feministing.com/members/ohsusanna/ Susan Keyl

    This really rings true for me. It is difficult to choose my battles when it comes to sexist jokes, but this has encouraged me to speak up when I encounter misogyny.

  • http://feministing.com/members/billywilliams/ billy williams

    I don’t think jokes are a big deal,-I’ve made and laughed at sexist jokes about men AND women,Not sure what this has to do with a glass ceiling,-How does a joke make it harder for women to succeed?-After all it’s just a joke,It isn’t meant to be taken seriously.