How Male Allies Can Call Out Other Men’s Sexist Attitudes During Conversations At Work
Male allyship refers to how men, who belong to an advantaged group in a patriarchal society, commit to check and understand their privileges. The allies try building collaborative system of gender equal power-sharing, be it in personal or institutional spheres of our society. This is undoubtedly a vigorous process requiring constant efforts and vigilance to recognise sexism and address gender inequities around them.
This allyship is not an easy task, not at all. Of course, times are changing and we see a lot of men not only acknowledging their privileges, but also working towards levelling the ground equal for both men and women and dismantle the status quo.
However, studies suggest that 77 per cent of men claim that they are doing their best to support gender equality. Meanwhile, only 41 per cent of women agree that men do enough to promote gender equity and equality. This points out the fact that men allies have to ponder more over what is wrong with their present approach.
Promoting gender equality is not just about claiming to support women and their pursuit of gender equality and being a passive onlooker. It is also, and very importantly about how men also actively partake in dismantling systemic misogyny by contributing in meaningful ways, through actions and attitudes.
Male Allyship in Workplace
In an article W. Brad Johnson and David G, Smith wrote, “Many men do their part in interpersonal allyship — mentorships and other professional relationships and support to push women forward — few are helping with public allyship — becoming courageous watchdogs for equity, dignity, respect, and fairness in the workplace.”
They further went on to state there is however, still a long way to go to make workplaces a gender-inclusive social space. By gender inclusive, we don’t just mean the admission of women in these spaces. It is also about establishing a safe space free of bias, harassment and male domination where woman can be at par with men; where there is no inequality and deprivation of opportunities because ‘she is a woman’. Genuine workplace comfort and liberty for women are what many workplaces lack in even today.
One of the problems with many working men who don’t display sexist attitude and actions is their silence on their fellow male colleagues’ problematic behaviour. Many might object to such misdemeanour, but don’t feel the need to call it out so as not to invite unsolicited consequences. Active confrontation of misogynistic behaviour tends to be overwhelming, but not speaking up against sexist comments, derogatory and ‘raunchy’ jokes, mansplaining, and sexual harassment enables an exclusionary and inhospitable environment for women in the professional milieu.
How men can call out fellow male colleagues’ sexism
A workplace is where a woman is able to work and add meaning to her social standing and become financially independent. So, it is a dire need to make these spaces inclusionary by standing up against sexism in workplaces. Hence, in order to be a genuine male ally, it is important to call out both outright and casual sexism exhibited by male colleagues in the workplace, no matter how cordial one’s terms might be with the person. There are many ways to confront such problematic behaviour in an easier and fruitful manner.
This can be an useful response when one is an active participant in a conversation, be it a group or individual. When a male colleague passes sexist and disrespectful comments or ‘jokes’, just say something which shows indirect disapproval than make allowances for its acceptance. Say something forcefully like, “Ouch! That was too harsh a joke.” or “That’s an outdated stereotype.” The point is to bring out your disapproval subtly via tone or witty framing. One can use humour to lighten the blow, but also knocking some sense into their head. For instance, when a colleague regularly interrupts or speaks over your female colleague in a meeting or mansplains her, crack a witty, humorous response like toss a yellow sticky note on the table (football reference), and say, “Penalty! That’s 10 yards for interrupting.”
The Socratic strategy of questioning
This is a technique which also makes the offender question their own line of thought while you stand up against gender bias. When the person passes the comment or joke, ask him to explain the joke by saying, “I didn’t get you.” When he explains it, ask something like, “And what makes you think that this is funny/making sense?”
Stand up even when there is no woman around
It is important to take a stand against sexism even when there’s no woman around. This is because male allyship doesn’t stem from the notion that it will offend women. Because then it implies that the colleague’s behaviour would be acceptable if women aren’t around. Be straight forward about what you stand for and open up to the offender not with shallow and half-hearted confrontations. “It is demeaning to women, brother.” has far more weight than “Hey, there are women in the room, man!”
Talk to him in private
Although it is important to point out when a person is acting sexist right away, it is highly advisable to talk to the person in private and let him know that his behaviour is problematic in length. Try being assertive and congenial at the same time as many people tend to listen and understand when the other person has a mild and convivial approach. This will also make him think from an alternate perspective rather than getting upset and defensive. Try explaining him by drawing examples from your own experiences to explain the issue better and why you have a problem with such behaviour and also why it is problematic not to address it.
Some actions need direct confrontation
Matters like sexual harassment and misconduct, stalling women’s opportunities and such below-the-belt and harsh acts need hardline direct confrontation. Never be a bystander when you witness such acts of injustice and nastiness and let your workplace become a den of misogynistic iniquity.
Views expressed are author’s own