Diversity Technology

Now what was that joke again?

More from the Women in Linux paper:


Don’t tell sexist jokes

Sexist jokes are the number one way to drive women out of any group, and they are more common than many people realize. I have more than once heard a man say that he doesn’t make that kind of joke, and then hours or minutes later, hear the same person make a joke about pregnant women or PMS. Sometime he just doesn’t realize that he made a sexist joke, for example, “blonde jokes” are actually “dumb women” jokes. Sometimes he tells me that it’s okay to make a sexist joke if it’s true, or it’s funny (funny to whom?). What some people fail to realize is that jokes about gender of any sort almost always make fun of women, and will make most women angry, regardless of the context. It doesn’t help to first make a sexist joke about men and then one about women.

You can argue that women shouldn’t be so sensitive (and I will disagree with you) but even then, regardless of should or should not, your comments and jokes are driving women away. If that’s not what you want, then don’t make sexist jokes. If you’re not sure if your joke is sexist, find something else to say.

Do protest sexist jokes

The next time you see someone joking about women on your local mailing list or in person, complain about it. It’s difficult to do this without making yourself a target for ridicule, but it’s even more difficult for a woman to do the same thing. Women keep silent when we see sexist jokes because if we protest, we will immediately be attacked for being over-sensitive, uptight, or a “feminazi.” (emphasis added by Bb) (Note: NEVER use the term “feminazi.” It discredits all feminists, and trivializes the victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Consider how ridiculous it sounds to call people like Rush Limbaugh “male chauvinazis” and you may understand why “feminazi” is so emotionally loaded.)

The best way to fight back against sexist jokes is with humor. If someone replies to a post about the technical achievements of a woman with “Is she single?” reply with, “Gee, Jeff, no wonder YOU’RE still single.” Every time a woman sees a sexist joke or comment, she feels angry, left out, and belittled. Every time a woman sees a man stand up against this behavior, she feels included and valued.

Déjà Vu, all over again.

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