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Recently I removed a page with jokes about women (internal logic is faulty, their partners have to spend their whole pay cheque on accessories for them etc. - the old, typical, sickening jokes) from a bulletin board at work. I put up a new message, asking people to refrain from using the board to insult and degrade the opposite sex. I stayed anonymous, as the women are outnumbered by the men by far. I confessed to a female colleage that I had written the message and her comment was that women ARE different from men and that I could not take a joke. I was shocked and disappointed. How do I make her see sense?

We are both programmers. If our male colleages read those jokes and laugh about them, how can they have respect for our work (in which logic etc. plays a very important role)? I also frequently hear sexist comments from a male colleage next door ("the world is in a mess because women try to be men"; "women should not have too much power - that's looking for trouble" etc.) The worst thing is that if you stand up and don't accept that, you are made out to be childish and stupid.

Do you have any advice on how to handle this, especially my female colleages who are content with being made fun of because they are women. Thank you , Linda, South Africa

Thank you for your note to FEMINIST.COM--and for whatever it is worth, I know what you are feeling. I, too often, sit at a table where I am constantly misunderstood and entirely frustrated that others just don't "get it."

For starters you can tell her that "different" doesn't mean "better" or "worse" and you are more likely to find great differences among all men than between men and women....the same goes for race. Also there is more and more evidence that if men and women are nurtured--from birth--in exactly the same way, then their unique selves will come out, not one limited through a pre-described gender lens. Proof of this is that we have seen women who possess "male qualities" and men who posses "female qualities." Realizing these examples gets us to a place of seeing them as qualities not based on gender.

Personalizing it also helps......is she more different from you than she is from her father? I don't know her so I can't think of examples. The reality, too, is that many women fear their own equality. If she can get over that and realize her unique potential as an individual that could be a start. We have to get beyond "group" identity and toward "individual" identity.

The ideal goal would be that men could begin to say "that isn't funny" to sexist jokes, just as as a white, heterosexual person, I need to say "that isn't funny" to racist and homophobic jokes. Good luck and I hope this helps.


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