Women shared how they make sexist men explain their nasty jokes, and it’s so satisfying
This article originally appeared on 11.13.19
Ask almost any woman about a time a man said or did something sexually inappropriate to them, and she’ll have a story or four to tell. According to a survey NPR published last year, 81% of women report having experienced sexual harassment, with verbal harassment being the most common. (By contrast, 43% of men report being sexually harassed. Naturally harassment toward anyone of any sex or gender is not okay, but women have been putting up with this ish unchecked for centuries.)
One form of verbal sexual harassment is the all too common sexist or sexual “joke.” Ha ha ha, I’m going to say something explicit or demeaning about you and then we can all laugh about how hilarious it is. And I’ll probably get away with it because you’ll be too embarrassed to say anything, and if you do you’ll be accused of being overly sensitive. Ha! Won’t that be a hoot?
Perhaps women’s familiarity with such episodes is why writer Heather Thompson Day’s tweet about asking her male boss to explain a sexual joke to her has had such an enormous response. Day told a story of working at a radio station when she was 19 when her boss, who was in his mid-40s, made an inappropriate comment:
“When I was 19 my boss said I should be a phone sex operator & laughed.
I said ‘I don’t get it’
He said ‘it’s a joke’
I said ‘explain it to me’
& that’s how I learned that once sexual harrassers have to explain why their inappropriate jokes are funny, they stop laughing.”
Day’s tweet has been shared more than 130K times. Other women also chimed in with similar stories of stopping sexist men in their tracks with their responses to inappropriate jokes.
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What’s baffling is that some men may think that women actually might respond positively to such jokes. One woman simply responds to random harassers with “Please tell me about the last time this worked on an actual woman for you.” Works every time.
Of course, sometimes it takes more than just a no nonsense response to get some dudes to back off.
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Sometimes it simply takes repeatedly being called out, especially if a man holds a position of power.
As one woman pointed out, it might take the threat of being documented to put an end to it. (Or, you know, actually documenting it can do wonders as well.)
Several men jumped into the conversation with words of support—and even a wicked burn about mansplaining.
Because of course plenty of men are bothered by sexist “jokes” as well and understand that genuine jokes can be explained without hesitation or embarrassment.
Men can also use a similar approach when confronting their friends, acquaintances, and colleagues when inappropriate comments or jokes come up.
In fact, Heather Thompson Day said it was her dad who originally instructed her on how to respond to men’s inappropriate comments. “Don’t laugh,” he told her. “Ask them to explain the joke. They will stop making them.” Well done, Dad.
It was also pointed out that this approach works with “jokes” that are racist, homophobic, or otherwise harmful as well. When people have to explain their prejudice and bigotry, they usually can’t.
And then there’s always the next level “You remind me of someone heinous” response, which may be a bit brutal, but is sometimes necessary to drive home the point.
People in marginalized groups have had to put up with hurtful jokes for far too long. Asking people to explain them and making them sit in the discomfort of their own filth is an excellent way to shut that garbage down.
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