Subtly Sexist Things “Woke” Men Still Do

December 23, 2019  |  
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sexism in the workplace 2019

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I’m surprised at some of the behaviors I still witness from young men living in this world towards women. I think the revelation of the #MeToo movement was just the thing that pushed decades of female oppression over the edge. But, women have been letting it be known, in small bursts—and sometimes large leaps—for quite some time now that there are certain behaviors we are not okay with. And, I think since the information has come to light in such infrequent, sudden, and spontaneous bursts, men have opened their eyes at a similar awkward and delayed pace.


There seem to be different groups of progressive men—let’s say different levels of wokeness. There are the men who clearly and rather blatantly still do not respect women, and don’t have any issue hiding it. The ones who still suggest that women should “stick to their roles” as mothers and wives. Then there are the men who are coming around to the understanding that maybe they need to adjust their ways, but we still have to remind them not to call their female interns “doll” or suggest it’s a moody female coworker’s time of the month. We must explain to them why it’s not okay, but they’re open to admitting they are wrong.


But then, there is this difficult group of men. The ones who feel quite certain they are woke—the ones who even consider themselves allies—and who, perhaps because of their youth and generation, cannot possibly conceive of the fact that maybe they hold onto misogynistic tendencies. They think that being millennials perhaps protects them from accusations of misogyny. Because their peers are so progressive, they think it just rubs off on them, but not so. Here are things “woke” men still do to their female coworkers.



Point out how woke they are

First, sometimes men my age will handle a situation with a female colleague well but then, they’ll ruin it by pointing out what a good job they did. They’ll handle an entire work-drinks meeting perfectly professionally, and at the very end, when I thank them for meeting with me, they’ll say, “See, and I didn’t even hit on you. Points for that, right?”


Discreetly ask if you can handle it

When overwhelming tasks have come up in a work situation—tasks that are mostly falling on me—I’ve had a male colleague say in front of everyone, “She’s got this. She can handle it.” Then, privately, he pulled me aside, and put his hands on my shoulder and used a rather condescending voice to say, “Hey, if you can’t manage this, you can tell me. I just didn’t want to embarrass you by saying that in front of the others.” The “others” being men, of course.


Ask to give a hug

Look, just give a hug or don’t give a hug. Probably don’t give a hug if you don’t have a pre-establishd relationship with the woman. The best move is to just let the woman associate the physical contact. If she sticks out her hand, then this will be a handshake. But I can’t stand when men will ask, “Hug?” as they’re already going for it. Then they put me in a position to look like a total b*tch if I say, “No.” By asking the question, they’ve forced me to say yes already.


Send a woman because she’s cute

I think sometimes men think it’s okay to do this one because they aren’t directly hitting on me or stating that they find me cute. But sometimes, when it’s time to choose who will represent the group in a meeting or a pitch, I have had men suggest I go, “Because they’ll think I’m cute” (them being the party we’re pitching). So…not because I’m smart and qualified?


“You look great…not like that

Like what? Pick a lane, buddy. I can’t stand when men tell me that I look great, and then add, “Not like that.” Honestly, I didn’t think they meant like that. But also, if they’re going to specify, they’d better not give the compliment at all. By adding, “Not like that” they bring the element of “that” (aka sexual attraction) into the atmosphere. And it’s uncomfortable.


Suggest she must have a very confident man

“You must have a boyfriend who is very secure in himself,” “Your man must be very progressive,” “Your guy must really trust you” are some of the things men will say to me because I work with men, go to networking events with men, and travel for work…with men. Does anybody say that to a man who works with women? Nope. And it happens every day.


Say it’s for the best she’s taken

I can’t tell you how many times men I’ve worked with told me that it’s for the best that I’m in a relationship, so that other men don’t bother me. Translation: the only thing keeping men from bothering me is the existence of my boyfriend. So…if I were single, they would totally harass me? And that would be acceptable? Also, the man stating this is just making it clear that he’d be the one to harass me if I were single.


Make you the office mama

Though I like to take care of people and help where I can, I haven’t loved in the past when men have made me the workplace “mother.” They come to me with their relationship issues, ask what to do about their cold or flu symptoms, and generally look to me as a maternal figure. I don’t really have time for that. And being a woman shouldn’t obligate me to being a mother figure to colleagues.


Or the office hotty

In general, I’ve noticed that men tend to treat women they work with in one of two ways: they either treat them as maternal figures who they look to for comfort and nurturing or they treat them like they are princesses on pedestals—they often mention how lucky that woman’s husband is or how she’s too good for all of them. It’s a very Madonna/Whore complex. Men can sometimes only see their female colleagues as women they aren’t romantically with because they are: A) unattainable or B) mother figures. How about it’s because they’re your…colleagues.


“Sorry, not to mansplain”

This happens all too often. A man will interrupt me when I’m explaining something to someone (someone who asked me to explain it) because he thinks he has a better explanation. Nobody asked him, first off. Second off, he’ll start by saying, “Not to mansplain” and then totally mansplain. Just because you add “Not to mansplain” doesn’t mean that isn’t exactly what you’re doing.


Be offensive, because “you can hang”

In a very twisted and misguided attempt to show their progressiveness, sometimes men will not attempt to adjust their behavior at all in the presence of me, still be super chauvinistic in their discussion of other women, and just say to me, “We can say this around you? You’re cool right? Like, you know we’re good dudes, right?”


Say, “You’re not one of those sensitive women”

This is just an extension of the behavior I just described. Sometimes, a man will make a mistake around me—make the sexist comment or do the sexist thing—and apologize, at first. But then he’ll pause and go, “You weren’t offended right? You’re not like one of those super sensitive feminists who reads into everything?”


Praise you for being so firm “for a woman”

“You’re very firm for a woman,” “You’re good at negotiating for a woman,” “You are very persuasive for a woman,” and “You’re very intimidating for a woman.” Yes, millennial men who should know better say things like that to me. Then they’ll pause and say, “Er, I mean, not for a woman. Just, you know what I mean.” Yes I know what you mean—you made it quite clear.


Say, “It must be hard being so pretty”

This is like the guy who says it’s for the best I’m single. It’s his way of indirectly making me uncomfortable and being inappropriate. He isn’t saying, “I think you’re pretty” or directly hitting on me. But he is insinuating that my appearance is distracting. He’ll say something like, “Guys must bother you all the time in this industry.” Yes, sir, like you are, right now.


Add the word “female” to your descriptor

Female CEO. Female investor. Female boss. Female partner. Female associate. I think that, again, men have some misguided idea that by adding “female”, they are empowering female kind. But it’s actually quite derogatory, because by adding that descriptor, it implies that it is out of the ordinary for a woman to hold that position (and though that may be true, it shouldn’t be, and we need to not encourage that idea).

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