Have you noticed, however, that in the last years when you try to talk to someone and point out the sexism of a remark or worldview, the person gets defensive and accuses you of being "politically correct?" I'm not sure how to get beyond their defenses. I myself am getting very tired of being silent in the fact of a lot of sexism, but it seems nowadays that when a feminist speaks up, people get verbally "loaded for bear" and go after the feminist with everything they've got. Any ideas on how to cope with that or get beyond their defenses?
Believe me, I'm interested...*sometimes* I've been able to challenge people successfully, but other times it's fallen flat on its face...any thoughts?
I thought that was a great point, and worthy of a new post. I think that confronting bigotry is really hard at the best of times, but it's still a really important part of being active in helping to make change. After all, while blogging is a lot of work, and very rewarding, there's a certain level of preaching to the choir that happens. When you're out and about and someone says something really sexist, though... what do you do?
The reality is that it's really difficult sometimes to confront people about their behavior, even when you know they're wrong. You never know how people are going to react- particularly people who've already shown a willingness to be shitheads. It's certainly easier if it's someone that you know really well, because they're more likely to understand that you're not attacking them personally, just a behavior that they've exhibited. Still, it's hard to do.
Another problem, that autumn harvest points out quite well, is that:
A lot of people seem to implicitly think that racism, misogyny, and homophobia are fairly rare things in our society. The corollary to this is that racist beliefs are only held by racists, and racists are the sort of extreme aberrations from mainstream society who burn crosses on people's lawn. So when you say that what person X said is offensive, they think "No way! Person X wouldn't burn a cross." I think this is where "it wasn't intended to be offensive, so it must not be offensive" comes from.
That makes a lot of sense, and I think goes a long way to explaining where some of the "it was just a joke" comments probably come from. Most people probably don't think of themselves as racist/sexist/homophobic, so they take things personally when you suggest that they've engaged in a bigotted behavior. In other words: "Sexists, and only sexists, engage in sexist behavior. You've called my behavior sexist, so you must be calling me sexist. I'm not sexist. Therefore, my actions weren't sexist, either."
Because of this, I think that it's important to have multiple strategies for dealing with people who say or do sexist things (or any bigotted thing, really). When it's friends and family, I think that things are easier because you've already got a personal relationship with them, and they're less likely to take your comments as personal attacks, so you can more easily engage in dialogue with them. What about when it's a stranger, though? Say, someone on the bus with you?
So, what about it? Any ideas? What's the best way to react to someone who says or does something sexist in public? To someone else? To you? How do you think that feminist men should respond to sexism when they see it?