Live Through This

The Perks of Being a Killjoy

Figuring out how to call people out on their bs.

Illustration by Emma D.

You’ve probably been in a situation at some point where someone you’re with makes a comment—about women, girls, people of color, queer people, poor people, whatever—that pisses you off, and you don’t know if you should say something, or how to say something. We have too. So we talked it out on Facebook.

TAVI: So I’d like to talk about figuring out how to call people out when they say something that offends me as a girl, and calling them out in a way that will actually be effective. Like if you’re with a group of friends and someone says that Rihanna deserved it, or in class when someone says that Jane Eyre needs to quit her whining and enjoy her life as a domestic governess, and you wanna say something, but you don’t know how.

Most of the time I don’t really care if people don’t get what I’m trying to say or do, but in this case, I want them to understand. I feel bad if I don’t say anything, because history (on a large and a personal scale) is full of people who maybe wanted to say something about injustice or inequality but knew that to do so would not make them many friends—and some really messed-up things happened or continued to happen for the sake of the comfort of the people who wouldn’t or couldn’t say anything. (This comment has been sponsored by Say Anything, starring John Cusack, coming out April 14th, 22 years ago.)

If I react in an angry way, I only perpetuate the Angry Feminist stereotype; if I’m nice, I feel like I’m just complying with the idea that women have to be nice and aren’t allowed to be angry. Of course, discrimination can be very personal and beyond my own experience, and I wouldn’t want to tell anyone how they’re supposed to feel or react to anything they feel strongly about. So this isn’t about deciding how angry anyone is allowed to be…I guess it’s about figuring out how to use that anger.

LORI: This issue is so so tricky! Tavi, I think you hit the nail on the head when you describe a certain lose-lose element to calling people out on their bullshit. Speaking up can alienate people or get you quickly dismissed the next time something comes up, but staying quiet can feel like a personal failure or a soul-crushing moral sacrifice. There should be a name for this. The Pansy Paradox? Catch Twenty-[Something]?

I think it’s more of an art than a science to determine when and how to call people out. But I feel like I trust myself to make those split-second decisions based on some loose criteria:

  • Emotional energy. How am I feeling today? Shitty? Powerful? Bored? If I already have a lot on my plate and don’t feel emotionally capable of engaging with douchebags or just some inadvertently offensive party, I’m not gonna. Feminism means taking care of women, including myself!
  • Potential for impact/change. Is this person a card-carrying misogynist, or are they simply ill informed or ignorant? Sometimes people say stupid shit because they WANT to provoke, and sometimes weird comments are borne of true ignorance. I try to engage people and situations where it seems like there is room for growth and change and try to avoid situations where I’m feeding into some deliberate troublemaker’s trap.
  • Environment. Am I in a large group of people or a quiet, private place? Has this offending person made the offending comment in a space where it could be interpreted as particularly hurtful or threatening to people in the room? How much of a difference will it make to speak up right away, in that moment, as opposed to waiting until things have cooled down a bit? Am I putting myself or others in danger by speaking up?

PIXIE: I have found that it’s always better to challenge people than to yell at them. “What do you mean by that?” or “Do you know what that word really means?” or “Did you know that’s actually offensive?” is usually more effective than just saying, “That’s offensive” without providing an explanation as to why. Nobody likes to be accused of being racist/homophobic/sexist, etc., especially people who don’t realize that they’re being that way.

ANNA: I remember when I first got into feminism, I REALLY got into it. I believed that the world could be divided into two kinds of people: those who identified as feminists, and those who just did not like women. I tried to “convert” everybody who didn’t see things my way to the magic of gender equality.

Of course, I still believe that feminism is incredibly important and that we have a lot of work to do. But damn if my older methods weren’t exhausting. Now, part of it is knowing when to pick your battles, as Lori alluded to—sometimes I have to ask myself, “Do I have the mental energy to deal with this sexist prick today? Or is this the type of thing I should try to ignore now and mock with my friends later?”

TAVI: I feel you on the first-getting-into-feminism thing! Lots of rage there. Which I fully support! I think it’s so important to recognize unfair bullshit and be angry about it. And in the moment, when a person in one of my classes says something I take offense to, I do feel angry. But I’ve learned that going off on people or rolling my eyes to make them feel stupid or throwing all these terms of feminist theory at them doesn’t really work. If anything it’s gotten me stereotyped as The Feminist, and then nothing I have to say is considered because apparently I’m just looking for things to complain about.

Like when we read Things Fall Apart in English and we had to say whether we would want to live in the Igbo culture or not and one guy made a half-serious joke that he would because then he could have multiple wives and abuse them. Once I was literally met with applause for just for speaking up and telling that specific guy off, but it was way more the girls. I think the guys felt attacked.

So then…where’s the place for this RAGE? What are some ways to express it when you don’t wanna be perfectly nice and thoughtful, when you just wanna be mad, as you deserve to be, about how messed up things are?

ANNA: That reminds me of something that happened to me once at a party. I decided to call someone out for saying something, but I did it in one of those super-elaborate, trying-to-avoid-confrontation, “don’t you think there is a better way to go about this conversation” kinda ways and it was followed by an awkward silence where I thought, Oh crap, now I’ve ruined this party for everybody. But my point was taken and the subject was changed and within minutes the tension was gone. Later, a woman came up to me in private and said, “I was thinking the same things but was too nervous to speak up.”

The moral of this ambiguous anecdote is: sometimes when you think you are being the “humorless feminist,” you might be saying something that everyone was thinking but didn’t want to be the one to bring it up.

Melissa McEwan wrote a wonderful essay about the relationships between women and men for her blog Shakesville, called “The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck.” There is this one line that particularly resonated: “Swallow shit, or ruin the entire afternoon?”

CINDY: Here are my two cents on “calling someone out”:

  • Always do it, and make yourself do it even if you feel uncomfortable. If you don’t, they’ll never learn.
  • Always do it very calmly and nicely, which in turn means…
  • Phrasing it pleasantly and politely (e.g., “Actually, I feel uncomfortable when you say that, because…”)
  • A lightness of touch/sense of humor where appropriate in doing it can help get through to the offender more effectively.
  • Make your point. If the other party starts getting defensive and it starts heading down a bad path, close the dialogue down gently but firmly (“Anyway, that’s how I feel and I just wanted to let you know. Now, let’s talk about something else…”).

ANNA: Humor is SO important. I mean, sometimes I have that feeling that Tavi mentioned where I think if I try too hard to be funny I am just buying into that “feminist are humorless” stereotype by being determined to prove them wrong.

I feel that this post by our own Sady Doyle on her site Tiger Beatdown is relevant here.

TAVI: I’d like to add though that sometimes it’s just the wrong time, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you weren’t sure how to say anything so you just didn’t. Most of the time I’ve been glad I said something, though. Also, GUYS I THINK I ANSWERED MY OWN QUESTION ABOUT THE RAGE THING! Because a bunch of rad zines just came in the mail. Zines! And music! And art! Taking all that anger and energy and doing something that makes you feel a release, feel creative and productive—and bigger movements, I think, like the energy at SlutWalk—are amazing. But now that I think about it, I guess I am composed when I wanna get my point across but I let Bikini Kill act as my therapy…

ANNA: Sometimes, having all that rage by yourself can feel overwhelming. But when you can channel it into an artistic outlet or political movement—I mean, goddamn. It’s like an extra “fuck you” to the patriarchy when you can take all the shit they throw at you and turn it into something beautiful. ♦


  • JennaF October 18th, 2011 3:15 PM

    There are so many ways to do something. Some of them are pretty simple, like NOT reacting. If someone says a dumb offensive thing and everyone laughs because ya know they’re not a Raging Feminist or whatever, just not laughing can be powerful.

    I was gonna say humor, but you guys got around to that.

    Another method I’ve found to be very useful (I’m a disability advocate and so have done a lot of this stuff!!) is to act like — you don’t have to really believe this, just act like you do — you think that the person who has been offensive is a basically nice person. Of course they get why this thing would be a problem, right? ‘Cause obviously for this this and this reason, right? And give ‘em openings, and praise them when they “get it.” EXACTLY! Right, that’s a good way to put it! Etc.

    If you can work in your own previous misconceptions that’s even better. (“I know, I used to think that too! Then I met this one guy, and…”)

    Holier than thou doesn’t seem to work very well. But every now and then a towering justified rage can be quite enjoyable.

  • Raindrops October 18th, 2011 3:35 PM

    I hate these situations, when somebody says something really crappy about women or homosexual people, recently some boys of my class were telling jokes like (translated from german so I hope you will get it) “Why do Women have smaller hands than men? Because they can clean better the corners then” and I thought SHUT UP but I just couldn’t say it. I hated myself for that, because I think you really gotta tell someone when he’s talking like that.
    But I thought the boys would just laugh at me. I hope next time I WILL say something.
    And by the way, Thanks Rookie for being so damn awesome and supporting :)

  • sarahispi October 18th, 2011 3:35 PM

    If someone tells an offensive joke, say something like ‘Huh? I don’ get it. How is your joke about x funny?’. Hopefully, they’ll realise it was offensive and apologise or at least watch what they say in future.

  • voguezombie October 18th, 2011 3:42 PM

    Just the other day my friend mentioned she wanted to be an “indian” (meaning Native American) for halloween. Since I still really like this friend, and I know she isn’t hostile at all towards Native Americans, just uninformed, I tried to make it natural, and not to kill the mood. I said things like “Why??” and “I dunno, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that because I would feel like I was making fun of their culture!” Sometimes it just helps not to SHAME anyone, but just to get the CONCEPT into their brain. If they can to some extent make it their OWN idea and belief, rather than your own which you impose on them, that’s really productive (though I understand not always practical in different contexts). I went on to suggest she be Florence Welch instead (so much more fitting for this gorgeous, tall roux) and we’ve since made a project of finding the right Gucci-style dress.


    • Chimdi October 18th, 2011 8:19 PM

      Thank you! I’m not Native American but I hate how they’re portrayed as scantily clad tribes who skin heads even though plenty of them are successful businesspeople and actors/actresses!

  • diny October 18th, 2011 3:43 PM

    i told my friends that i am a feminist today (or yesterday. oh different time zone). it makes me feel better. boys become so jerk sometimes. that time, when you talk to a boy, and he didn’t look at your eyes but he looked at your breast! it is so annoying. can he just don’t do that? it is hurt. so much.
    SlutWalk is a great movement. boys, don’t be jerk please. you should think about something else instead of women body (especially the ass, breast, or whatever).

  • Hazel October 18th, 2011 3:44 PM

    About Pixie’s challenging people than yelling at them, I often adopt a fake-confused look and do the same thing. Act like you honestly want to know more and then just keep challenging them and challenging them. Sometimes they might even get angry, which makes them look SUPER terrible, especially in front of a large group of people. When someone can’t argue calmly, they’re usually not very logical.

    You know, I’ve been a feminist my entire life. I’ve always assumed the label because my mom was a feminist, very much so. And although I wouldn’t say my peers would call me “an angry feminist” I do have a lot of rage. I think rage is good, I think rage is necessary. It’s only when someone (not feminists, just anyone) uses rage as some argumentative blitzkreig that people develop this idea that the person is ANGRY all the time about an issue. I save my rage for things that really enrage me. For example, I’ve learned that I can’t correct everyone when they say “fag.” But, if someone starts spewing hatred towards gay people I WILL speak out, angrily. When you use your anger wisely, it will take others by surprise. And then people will know that you’re not just an angry person, your anger is connected to specific issues.

    This was a great post!

  • insteadofanelephant October 18th, 2011 3:49 PM

    personally, i get really cheesed when i see girls with facebook statuses that read:

    “just did laundry and made a sandwich. i’m gonna be such a good wife someday!”

    seriously. what the hell. I never know what to say because it’s women putting themselves into a stereotype that I, personally, don’t find all that funny. Being that women are good only for cooking and cleaning. Hey, I mean some women might want that, but it still pisses me off when 20 of her male friends “like” the status.

    i know i shouldn’t be angry that some women want that for her life, but it’s still frustrating to see girls enhance a stereotype that so many women also fight against. then again, i guess it’s that way for a lot of issues.

    thoughts on this?

    instead of an elephant

    • Chimdi October 18th, 2011 8:11 PM

      I agree. Whenever I try to call out friends acting on this, however, I am swiftly called a feminist, laughed at, and moved on from. Girls do it too!

  • puffytoad October 18th, 2011 3:51 PM

    I get tongue-tied when I try to call people out. My mom called someone on TV a “dough boy” and I just said, “How rude!” Then she complained that she had to be PC in her own home. I couldn’t think of a way to explain that it’s not good to say offensive things even if the person you’re targeting can’t hear you.

  • WitchesRave October 18th, 2011 4:07 PM

    I have a driving education teacher (A fat 30-something year old man who looks like Timothy Spall, who thinks he’s entertaining) who teaches my class every week and UGH he annoys me so much.

    For example, we were talking about people not paying attention when driving and he said ”Like women putting on makeup in their cars in the morning? Gotta look good for their boss, get that promotion!” this was met with laughter (we’re an all-girl school too) and I interrupted by saying in a dead-pan voice with one eyebrow raised”Just like men who shave in their cars or?” He kinda mumbled and swiftly moved on to talk about traffic lights.

    Then last week he demonstrated to us how to change the wheel of a car ”in case your boyfriend cant help you!” which was met with “Omg! I wish I had a boyfriend! (like i said, all-girl school, we don’t have contact with the male species that often..) I just scoffed..

  • Whatsername October 18th, 2011 4:08 PM

    I rarely hear sexist comments in the school I go to but there are a lot of homophobic comments I overhear. One of my best friends is gay and tends to “call them out” and I always want to pitch in but I just sit there quietly feeling stupid. What would be the proper thing to do if you’re a bystander and someone is already taking care of the offensive comment? Should you pitch in or just leave them to it?

    • Pashupati October 18th, 2011 6:06 PM

      Since he’s your friend, I’d say pitch in if you’re comfortable with that.
      I think it’s more effective if the bystander support the person taking care of the comment, but then you might not be comfortable enough.
      The fear would be the commenters going against you and giving you personal offensive comments, especially if they often offense individuals because they’re part of some group and not only the group as a whole (not that it’s less offensive, just that in the first situation I’d fear they might be physically aggressive.)
      So they key: do it if you’re comfortable enough.

  • saranev October 18th, 2011 4:13 PM

    My Women’s Studies class this semester has made me realize that I have a TON of anger bottled inside that has just been waiting to come out. I’ve gotten really frustrated with some ignorant and/or sexist remarks and I’ve realized I’ve only perpetuated the angry feminist stereotype… although the one day I got really upset, one guy yelled back and I had to leave the room because I didn’t want him to see me cry. Which made me think that I was just giving off the fragile, hormonal, emotional woman vibes… JUST CAN’T WIN.

    I’m so new to this, that I get riled up very easily. It’s so hard to be polite or to inject humor. And then when I lose steam or knowledge and can’t prove a point… I don’t know… it’s just hard sometimes.

    Thanks for this.

  • emilyelizabeth October 18th, 2011 4:40 PM

    thanks for this! i’ve definitely encountered this problem. at the gay straight alliance meeting at my school just last week we were talking about this. i mentioned that my roommate when talking on the phone to her boyfriend says things like “you’re so gay” or “you’re such a fag” and i wanted to say something because i really dislike that, but i didn’t know how to bring it up. especially since i have to live with her for the rest of the year, and i don’t want to make things awkward.

  • Hanbanan October 18th, 2011 4:46 PM

    I, like puffytoad, often get tongue tied when I try to call someone out on their shit, because it needs a split second response, and I have trouble getting my thoughts in order in time. I’ve always been more reflective, and I find it helpful, when possible (and sometimes it isn’t) to pull people aside and try to explain fully why you’re offended about something.

    If it is someone you care about or someone who cares about you, they should not only be willing to listen to why you’re offended but also be willing to rectify their mistake.

    This was such a great post. Thanks!

  • Katig October 18th, 2011 4:56 PM

    I love this post so so so much! I kind of want to send it to all the people I got way too heated with after my first semester of college. I had just REALLY gotten into feminism for the first time and I started noticing all of the obnoxiously covert misogyny that existed within my friend groups and even my family. I would call things out that I maybe hadn’t fully formulated in my mind yet and have arguments that were entirely productive. I think the most frustrating part was feeling like I existed in two totally different worlds: when I was at school, I felt like feminism was the norm and even cool, but at home it was the total opposite. People would laugh at rape jokes and slut shame out the wazoo, all while telling me that feminism wasn’t necessary anymore. It drove me crazy!! I would get so cranked up and spent way too many evenings crying in my car and feeling incredibly misunderstood. Thankfully I think I’ve come a long way in learning how to channel my anger, but I’ve also done a lot of trimming in my life when it comes to people who I don’t think respect me and my beliefs. I’d like to think showing some of those people this post would help them to understand where I was coming from, but honestly who knows? One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that some people are not going to be reached, at least in the time frame that I would prefer. There’s only so much you can do, and that’s okay! The important thing is that I feel good about my interactions and the life I live. Everything else is just gravy…

  • Madie October 18th, 2011 5:00 PM

    I love this article! Its so ~real. These are the problems that us teen girls come across and need advice on. I feel so empowered from reading this, I’m gonna go work on my latest feminist sculpture. And then bring up how sexist that class is

  • Annie October 18th, 2011 5:02 PM

    1. I love this SO MUCH. I’m always overhearing those dumb “go back to the kitchen” jokes, but I never know what to do about it. I want to shout and get angry but I know that’s never going to get me anywhere and if I’m polite about it I’ll just get the old “it’s just a joke, calm down.” I think I would have gone completely bananas by now if I didn’t have riot grrrl therapy.

    2. Unrelated, but it’s been over two weeks into October and nobody has brought up when Linda Cardellini played a witch on Keenan and Kel. I just want to make sure that gem doesn’t slip past you guys.

    • Tavi October 18th, 2011 5:20 PM

      wait WHAT? that’s it, the whole rest of our month will be devoted to lindsay weir as a witch on kenan and kel.

  • jayne October 18th, 2011 5:07 PM

    Oh god, I had this problem all the time in my freshman year when “woman, get in the kitchen” jokes were popular. It was just said so often, and by so many people, that I was afraid to interject. I thought that if I was the only one fighting this misogynist joke, I would be the sole killjoy feminist. Which, in retrospect, kind of sounds like a wicked title. At the time though… not exactly my ideal reputation.

  • sobrina October 18th, 2011 5:29 PM

    Oh my goodness, thank you for this, Rookie. This is so important!!

    Also, it’s good to remember that just because a confrontation didn’t happen exactly the way you wanted, you’re not a bad feminist, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. I did this recently, and then my BFF told me that at least I planted the seed of a new idea in his mind, and even if nothing comes of it, I at least learned about standing up for myself and my beliefs.

    Just do your best! You might not be remarkably eloquent at first, but that doesn’t make what you’re saying less important.

  • Stealthy October 18th, 2011 5:38 PM

    Here I was thinking this would be about ‘Killjoy’ as in ‘the nickname for My Chemical Romance fans’. xD

  • Pashupati October 18th, 2011 5:47 PM

    It really speaks to me.
    I mean: even if it is just a “joke”, it still speaks about what you might think of the category I’m from. Humor is an intellectual game, and mainly people think x can be funny because they don’t really think x, but you can’t really tell first hand whether they really think x.
    Example: I was at that LUG encounter and that dude told me in a serious tone that it was weird that there was nothing in a girl’s bag. I felt forced to justify/explain myself (which ended in me babbling: uh, I, hm, uh), and reminded that people viewed me as female and that they associated things with me being female. He said it was ironic.
    Had his tone been ironic, it might have translated as meanness.
    One thing I’ve used: remind the person of precedent similar experiences the other person might have lived/encountered. If the person isn’t considered female by most people, it can be the person is colored or teenaged.
    When I was 11, I remember being “mocked” by adults or older minors for being young, so in the end I was ashamed of being interested in some things because I was 11 and finally dropped my interests (some I’m interested in again but less.)
    I’ve talked to people and it’s a “popular” experience, so I bring it out not only when people are mocking someone’s age but also when they are mocking one’s gender or anything.
    I hate when people just criticize/mock a group in which you fall: if you bring it up, they may say “c’mon, it doesn’t apply to you, you’re different!” but it still reminds you there are some things people may associate with you by default.

  • SilentKid October 18th, 2011 5:47 PM

    This article is interesting, as it seems my views are in line with all of what your saying.
    Yet I normally fail to recognise the content and react fast enough. Most recently watching videos on youtube with my brother, e=mc vagina is pitiful, distressing and disturbing. The proliferation of the use of gay as for bad/lame/etc is disappointing, and just a ridiculous use of the word. Though very occasionally I catch myself saying things that would be considered sexist or homophobic, at least I realise and correct myself (unlike the majority of teenage boiz I have met).
    In conclusion stick to your guns and bring it up in a polite way.

  • eloise October 18th, 2011 5:50 PM

    First of all, this is by far my favorite piece you’ve done yet. The advice you guys gave is going to be so helpful to me in future situations.
    It was interesting reading that little example Tavi said about how people say “Rihanna deserved it”, because I got into a weird disagreement (not a fight at all) about this with my best friend (of all people), who I thought was much more open-minded. She sided with Chris Brown on that issue sort of casually, which annoyed me greatly.. but she’s my best friend so I just kind of stated my opinion and tried to forget about it. I’ve brought it up a few times before because I really want to make her see the ignorance in her words without completely putting her down. It’s a weird situation because she’s not some sexist douchebag who I’m not friends with, and to talk about it I’d have to bring it up again. Any suggestions?

  • rebecca October 18th, 2011 5:56 PM

    when i first got into feminism, i had similar conflicts and would always get into screaming fights with this super douchey tight-lacoste-wearing kid in my grade. looking back on it, i definitely didn’t help him grow as a thinker and probably could have found more creative ways to approach the situation. still, i think all that rage and angst might just be a phase everyone has to go through to begin their quests for gender equality- it sort of helps you figure out who you are and what’s important you, and also which battles are worth fighting. also i LOVE lindsay weir as a witch on kenan and kel!maybe there can just be, like, an article devoted to Girls with Great Hair on Beloved TV Shows Playing Witches On Late 90s Sitcoms and then you can include that time that dj tanner was in an incredibly creepy witch cult on that halloween episode of boy meets world and her clothes are just like black and mesh and really cool.

  • WordyDoodles October 18th, 2011 6:00 PM

    Well, as a woman of color, for me it is SO heartening when someone speaks up in support of women or people of color. (Like the person above who brilliantly shifted the dialogue with her friend about being “Indian” for Halloween.)

    We can and do speak for ourselves, absolutely, but there is something so wonderful knowing that you’ve got allies, a team, people who actually have some empathy and grace and are willing to use those qualities to make the world a little better.

  • erin October 18th, 2011 6:06 PM

    I had an experience just like this a couple of years ago. We all had to write papers for or against current subject for my 9th grade english class, and I chose to write a paper that was for gay rights and marriage. I go to a very conservative school, and whenever people found out what I was writing about, they freaked. “Gayness is wrong!” they’d say, with no further explanation of why. And I’d simply stutter, while blushing profusly, “Everyone deserves to be happy.” That was all I could say, because I’ve never been a good speaker, and they were so persistent in their simple, under-thought convictions, so pressing. I’m still not a good speaker, but I think that next time someone says something against what I think is right, I’ll keep this article in mind and hopefully be able to argue in a much more efficient way.

  • bewarethejabberwock October 18th, 2011 7:03 PM

    I know what you mean about the ragey feminist thing. I always thought myself to be not very good at the whole calling-people-out thing, but I’ve become a lot more aware of sexism recently and for some reason that has now got me branded as the ‘Feminist One’ in class.

    Which, obviously, results in guys saying random stuff to provoke me into retaliating, and I actually LIKE debating so I always respond. Stupid, I know.

    I’ve tried to become more moderated in my arguments, rather than randomly unleasing ‘Feminist One’ for their personal entertainment, but stereotypes stick and it annoys me when no-one else says anything. I’ve sat in silence grinding my teeth in frustration too many times, I think.

    Although a girl sitting next to me at one point said that she ‘found feminists annoying because they always make a big deal out of stupid stuff’. Hmm. Subtle.

    I kind of wish it wasn’t my job to ‘educate’ people about this sort of thing, plus I’m never very good at telling whether people are joking or not (even so, it’s obviously not HILARIOUS). But the more educated I become about feminism, the more instances of sexism I see all over the place.

    … OK, so this totally turned into a personal rant. Sorry. I’ve had a long day, guess this struck a chord.

    tl;dr: grr grr stereotypes!!!!!

  • DEM October 18th, 2011 7:17 PM

    I found the best way is to ask a question. I always tend to have the person repeat what they said. Sometimes it just came out wrong and they didn’t think about it. A lot of the times they admit their fault because they really didn’t mean for it to sound like what it did. If they say the same thing again that’s when I usually say something like “You know that’s offensive, right?” or “You might want to re-think the way you’re saying that.” And then I explain why. Being kind to the person and taking the time to explain things is way better than being a Raging Feminist.

  • rhymeswithorange October 18th, 2011 7:26 PM

    I’ve found that most everything we do, we don’t regret or we move on from it, but we often regret what we DON’T do. I have definitely had times where I wanted to say something but felt I couldn’t articulate my ideas. It happens.
    This is an important conversation to be having. How to stay true to your beliefs but not act all I AM RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG!

  • October 18th, 2011 7:42 PM

    I think the more the more personally I take the comment, or the more offensive I find it, the less I’m actually likely to say anything or react to it at that very moment. And I think that’s because there’s too much to take in and any response I’m likely to make in the heat of the moment will be bad (as will have been proven from past experience).

    But I’ll go away and think about it. I’ll think about why the person said it, and I’ll think about why it hurt me. Doing this allows me to identify the kind of weakness in my armour that allowed this comment to get through, and then I’ll take measures to reinforce this weakness. Whether that’s listening to some music, reading something, watching a movie, looking at a painting…

    Then when I encounter this person again, I will present to them a different countenance! And this new countenence will show itself in the way I talk, the way I look, the way I react around them. So in this way you’ve never actually said anything, but they will get the message, and that message will stay with them (at least whilst they’re having to deal with you!).

    I guess it works in the same way that ‘passive aggression’ is felt, only in this case it’s more ‘positive self-affirmation’ :-)

  • Chimdi October 18th, 2011 8:07 PM

    great article! but as a (half-Igbo) Nigerian, two things:

    1.”Ibo” is either spelled Igbo or Egbo. It doesn’t matter what the American spellchecker says.

    2. Things Fall Apart is written in an OLD time period. Although the culture is still pretty sexist in thought, no one in the Igbo (or any!) Nigerian culture has multiple wives anymore.

    Not angry, just clarifying :)

  • asleeptillnoon October 18th, 2011 8:10 PM

    Thank you for this. Unfortunately, I always find myself in this situation when I’m conversing with a group of people. Someone always has to make some sort of sexist or racist remark. I’ve always bit my tongue because I fear I might just lose it and make a fool of myself. But not saying something doesn’t make me feel any better.

  • HeartPlant October 18th, 2011 8:14 PM

    I have so much rage sometimes it feels like I don’t know what to do with myself! Especially around my friend’s parents who are openly homophobic and think that it is terrible that their niece has just come out. I don’t really know how to cope with this amount of anger in a controlled and mature way.

  • unicorn October 18th, 2011 8:22 PM

    so, the other day, i am talking to some guy and he said that is SO gay.
    so, i say, why are you saying it like that? my best friend is gay.
    and so he sort of blushes and says, oh im sorry, its just that everyone says that.
    and i say, well that isnt very nice of them.
    and so he just sort of says uh, ok.
    and i was a bit disheartened at first with the way he was just brushing me off and being a bit, oh look, another girl telling a guy what to do.
    but, later that day, i was walking by his conversation and heard him say, you know, you shouldnt say gay like its a bad thing.
    and i felt happy.

  • LoversSaintsSailors October 18th, 2011 8:55 PM

    I really liked the format of this post. Such an awesome opportunity to have an insight into a really interesting and important conversation.
    I hope you guys do more like this in the future.

  • Caligirl October 18th, 2011 11:20 PM

    Once I had a teacher who liked making sexist remarks to provoke the girls in the class to argue with him. He clearly enjoyed this but I found it annoying and boring. Not that the girls were boring for disagreeing, but I knew he was just trying to wind them up and it was the same argument every time. I typically opened a book and pointedly ignored him when he started this, and he always changed the subject as soon as I did.

    Other times, I will speak up and have noticed as other have mentioned that people listen more when I say it calmly (although I’m not always able to do so, I try). It never occurred to me to channel any anger into something creative. How do you do that? Usually, I just try to calm myself down – go on a hike, to the beach, talk to a friend.

    I’m not a teenage girl (and hope you don’t kick me out because of it), but am surprised by how much I relate to a lot of this – issues that remain with us our whole lives of being female, things that I’d forgotten for a long time but realize now that I never got over.

  • Waifu October 18th, 2011 11:44 PM

    I often find that sarcasm works particularly well in these types of situations. When someone makes a sexist/homophobic/racist comment, I pretend to be in total agreement and quickly respond with a long list of ridiculous things that women/homosexuals/various races also shouldn’t have the right to do/own/be etc…
    It shuts people up real fast. However, you need to make it obvious that you’re being sarcastic. I admit it’s a negative way to handle this but it does work for me. I also react sarcastically in most situations without even thinking though…
    I’m losing my train of thought. The point is, if it seems appropriate, go for it. Rip em a new one. It feels fantastic and gets your point across.

  • Emily Condon October 19th, 2011 1:06 AM

    Recently someone I know who would absolutely consider herself a feminist suggested that someone got semi-famous by “sleeping her way to the top.”

    Nobody would EVER say that about a man. But I know I’ve said that or something similar at some point. Misogynistic, racist, homophobic, etc., sentiments have been drilled into our brains.

    All the more reason to call someone out!

    I’ve had people do it to me in a nice way (brother talked to me gently about using “gay,” as an insult, best friend talked to me about “retard”). So glad to not sound like a jerk anymore!

  • Cosmo Beatrix October 19th, 2011 3:54 AM

    Tavi what did you say i’d really liek to ear it ..

  • Cleo October 19th, 2011 8:31 AM

    I know what you mean when you talk about not wanting to fit into the typical ‘Angry Feminist Man Hater’ stereotype. It can be frustrating sometimes having to step back and think ‘is it worth it?’ but it is good to learn to be able to pick your battles. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this for a long time and picked up every guy on anything he said that i deemed sexist or offensive. Sometimes the soft approach works better than the what-the-fuck-did-you-say-you-sexist-pig approach, though sometimes they ask for it :)

  • EnidEnvy October 19th, 2011 9:08 AM

    What is really infuriating is the fact that people assume we are angry just because we have an opinion. No matter how we say it. It seems like when a man shares his opinion, he is being thoughtful, challenging and smart. When a woman shares her opinion, she is just being a bitch. And let’s face it… A lot of the times it is OTHER WOMEN who draw that conclusion.

    I think that it is important to deliver your message in the right way, without anger. If you get too fired up and start acting defensive and angry, a lot of times you are just sinking to the same level as the people who make you angry.

    There is a difference between saying something in anger and saying something with PASSION. Does that make sense?

    I also think you should never dumb yourself down. When you are asking someone to explain themselves, don’t pretend you don’t know what they’re talking about. Ask because you are genuinely curious about why they feel the way they feel.

  • RachelNgaire October 19th, 2011 9:47 AM

    I have a plan,
    I’ve been called a slut a couple of times in my life. And, first of all, i don’t really believe in the term. How receiving pleasure can be a bad trait is beyond me. I find it ridiculously sexist that guys can do what they like, but girls shouldn’t please themselves. To me, that’s wrong.
    So i felt like i needed a plan of what the hell do i say if i ever get slut branded again.
    It goes as follows,
    Boys: “you’re a slut blah blah”
    Me: “you have had more sex than I??”
    Boys: “yeah, but YOU’RE A GIRL”
    Case rested.

  • Slaughtered Lamb October 19th, 2011 1:44 PM

    The kids of these days are real big A-holes, they may think that their words dont hurt the victims but unfortunately they are… There are always kids killing themselves because of those jerk-bullies especially the gay kids :(

  • natia October 19th, 2011 3:16 PM

    I totally agree! One thing that bothers me is the demeaning language that girls my age, my friends, will use for each other. Calling someone a whore or slutty for the way they dress, even jokingly, is perpetuating such negative ideas. I never know what to say…after you bring it up a few times you feel stupid for mentioning it.

    The same goes for ‘retard’ and ‘gay’. I don’t understand it, I mean I have a friend with a retarded brother, and she uses the words in an offensive way all of the time. I don’t think that makes it okay, but as you said, I hate to be seen as the killjoy.

    At the moment I’m writing a letter complaining to this horrible teacher that stands at the doors to school in the mornings, demanding everyone pulls their skirts down before they go inside. He says it so rudely, and it feels so good to get all my pent-up anger down on paper, through reasoning (reasoning, he’s the deputy head, I don’t want to get kicked out for being too rude!).

  • aliceee October 19th, 2011 5:35 PM

    I was just reading this ( ) & found this: “When I think of all the wrongs that been heaped upon womankind, ” wrote Stanton. “I am ashamed that I am not forever in a condition of chronic wrath.”
    There’s so much to be angry about in the world but no one can stay that way all the time… admittedly, people do get angry often: I wish all the anger people direct at Rebecca Black or changes on facebook were directed at useful, anger-worthy things. Because in addition to creative outlets & calling people out, anger pushes us to activism & working against what causes our anger.

  • Pashupati October 20th, 2011 7:17 AM

    I was searching information on something else, and noticed there were articles specially dedicated to books stereotyping teenage and younger girls here:
    (and also somewhere else on the whole site)
    These articles can help if you’re willing to argument with someone that is willing to hear your arguments (it happens!)
    The “catty” stereotype amongst others is also used against older women.
    I don’t know if there are genderfacts, racefacts or gayfacts out there too, but would be willing to discover something similar.

  • Geniius of love October 20th, 2011 11:32 AM

    Let’s burn our bras already! :)

  • Purrception October 20th, 2011 4:56 PM

    Where I live, it is popular to make jokes of telling women to “get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” because that is a woman’s true place. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with it, but even other girls will make those jokes and laugh about them, so I feel if I say something I’ll be outcast for not having a sense of humour.

    But I think it’s getting out of hand, and slowly turning from a joke to a more serious tone, so I think I’ll bone up on my women’s rights history, and maybe next time step up and call them out.