How do you handle it?

Linnea Ista lkista at UNM.EDU
Tue Jul 8 14:26:32 EST 1997

On Tue, 8 Jul 1997, paris wrote:

> Kimberly Walker wrote:
> > 
> > I'm looking for information on how to deal with difficult men in your
> > labspace......
> > 
> > How do you all deal with men who remark too much on physical attributes,
> > cultural/racial differences, who exhibit racist/sexist behavior and are
> > all-around jerks effectively?
> > 
> > Kim
> I had the very same situation happen when I was working in a formulations 
> lab in industry.  The guy was a sexist pig and would comment on my 
> appearance every day and then top it off with offensive (I mean really 
> disgustingly offensive jokes) at the time I was only 24 and didn't know 
> how to deal with it until I spoke to another woman in another lab down 
> the hall. She said stick up for yourself and tell him to shut up.
> At first I would also recommend the "What do you mean by that" which will 
> usually get you the answer of " What? Nothing I was only commenting or 
> making a joke, what's your problem"

If I am taking this tactic, usually at this point I "play dumb". Something
like "That's what I mean. I don't get the joke" forces them to explain why
it is funny.  When they explain ask "And why is this
funny?". And keep going. If you can do this with an inquisitive, but
somewhat blank face, so much the better. Eventually they have to embarrass
themselves and basically admit that the basis to the "joke" is sexist or
racist or homophobic. Then you can move in for the kill.  Either
they will eventually "get" why their  humor is offensive or it will be too
much trouble for them to make the offensive remarks around you. Note that
I have only tried this tactic in social situations, not at work.

The only risk you take is them assuming that you have no sense of humor
which they are probably going to assume if you are offended in the first


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