Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry

Southern Poverty Law Centre
January 26, 2015

Examples scenarios and suggested responses.

Sample excerpt: #19 ‘Business As Usual’

A female manager routinely is referred to as the “office mom.” No male manager is ever referred to as the office “dad,” and male managers expect the female manager to handle office birthdays and other non-job-related tasks. “That kind of sexism happens all the time,” she says.

A female employee reports, “One of my male coworkers always comments on the physical appearance of our female colleagues. ‘She’s such a pretty girl,’ or ‘She’s a lovely woman.’ I find these comments inappropriate and have commented to him about them, but his behavior doesn’t change.”

A male employee bakes cookies and brings them to the office. A female employee, arriving later, asks who brought them. She thanks the man, then asks, “Did your wife bake them?” Another man wrote of a co-worker telling him his knowledge of gardening makes him seem “like a woman.”

Be direct. Respond to the speaker in a way that makes sexist assumptions clear. “I’m not the office mom; I’m the office manager.” Or, “No, I’m the baker in our household, not my wife.”

Identify the pattern. Tell your supervisor, “In our weekly manager meetings, I’ve noticed that people expect me to take notes. I’m wondering if we could rotate that responsibility, so it’s evenly distributed between male and female managers.”

Start a brown-bag discussion group. If sexism is a persistent problem in your workplace, start an informal dialogue group to discuss the issue during your lunch breaks. Provide support for one another, and create an action plan.

Use incidents to teach tolerance. Advocate for staff training about sexism in the office; provide trainers with real-life examples from your office.