Ways Gender-Privileged Men Can Challenge Sexism



(This list will be forever in-progress. Please add on as you see fit).

  • Challenge sexist jokes, such as dumb blonde jokes or jokes about rape.
  • Avoid using words such as “bitch”, “hoe”, “slut.”
  • Recognize when you “zone out” when women are speaking, when you value a man’s opinion more than a woman’s, or when you ask a man for information or advice rather than a woman.
  • Recognize times when you “zone out” when a woman is speaking because you are sexualizing her.
  • In group efforts, take on tasks such as photocopying, note taking, making phone calls, or providing childcare, which are usually given to women; encourage women to take on male-dominated tasks such as leading meetings, or acting as a spokesperson.
  • Use gender-neutral language (ex. Firefighter, chairperson).
  • Do not tell a woman how she should understand, express, or conceptualize experiences of discrimination and sexism.
  • If a woman is offended by your actions or words, do not use tone arguments. If she does not accept your apology, recognize that she does not owe you anything.
  • Check in regularly with your intimate partner(s) to make sure they feel comfortable, fulfilled and empowered by your intimacy.
  • Do not make sexist jokes about how your partner (or any woman) drags you to go see chick flicks, forces you to go shopping, has you whipped, or is irritable because she is menstruating. Challenge others when they make these jokes. Avoid playing the role of the long-suffering man who has to hold a woman’s shopping bags and put up with her frivolities and vanity. 
  • Be polite, thoughtful, and considerate to women because they are individuals who deserve respect, not because you’re a “gentleman” or because of chauvinistic ideals.
  • When a woman is completing a task, refrain from stepping in and telling her or showing her “the best way to do that.” Of course, if she asks for your advice or requires help, feel free to do so. But recognize that women are just as competent and capable as you.
  • Apologize if you realize you may have offended someone, whether they mention it or not. Do not say: “If that offended you then I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.” Instead, frankly tell them: “I’m sorry I did that and I recognize it wasn’t okay. I’ll try harder next time.”
  • Do not use expressions such as “grow a pair”, “be a man”, “man up”, or “stop being a bitch.”
  • Reject forms of media and entertainment that promote sexism. Don’t excuse sexism and discrimination just because “it’s a really good movie.”
  • Recognize that just because you are a feminist or work to challenge sexism does not mean you lose gender privilege.
  • Do not be offended if you offer to help a woman and she rejects your help. Although you may genuinely have meant to be a good citizen by offering to help lift heavy objects or holding open a door, accept that the woman does not need your help, and that this does not make her a “bitch.”
  • Recognize that while some women do hate men and do discriminate against men, that this sort of discrimination occurs in isolation, while sexism against women is backed by centuries of literature, scientific discourse, power/knowledge, philosophy, media representations, “common sense” discourse, etc.
  • Realize that representations of women that you might find positive or fair might not be empowering to women. Notice that the vast majority of “positive” female characters or depictions in the media are highly sexualized to appeal to a male audience.
  • Understand that much of what you’ve been taught to take for granted (that you are allowed to have an opinion and to voice it; that you can take up all the space you need; that you can become whoever you want; that you can pursue any career or dream you like) is often painfully untrue for women.
  • When anyone tells you to stop, or says “no”, or does not actively give consent during any sort of physical contact or intimacy, immediately stop what you are doing. Do not sulk. Do not interrogate if the person is unwilling to explain. Do not complain or make them feel as though their choice to decide what sort of intimacy they want is not an empowered, safe choice.
  • Do not make explanations such as “I didn’t mean anything by it”, “It was a joke, you’re just sensitive”, or “I’m not sexist, I have a lot of female friends.” If you have offended someone, listen carefully and learn from the experience. 
  • Do not police women’s bodies by deciding that “women shouldn’t plaster their faces with makeup”, or that “women should stop dressing like sluts to please men.” 

Thank you to everyone who has been reblogging and adding to this discussion. I recognize that this list is certainly simplistic in that it arguably supports a gender binary, and that it glosses over issues of race, class, sexual orientation, age, and so on. I felt this list wasn’t a sufficient place to properly address those issues, but as many of you have mentioned many of these actions can also be taken by allies looking to challenge racism, homophobia, etc.

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Filed under: things every man should read, be aware of, and try to work on.

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