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A woman said it's okay

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A variant of "even women find it funny" silencing tactic. Used as a scenario in the Ally Skills workshop.

Summary
  • women are not interchangeable
  • the other woman might not be a feminist
  • the other woman might be sexist, or benefit from patriarchal bargaining
  • the other woman might not feel empowered to tell what she really thinks
  • making this argument employs the male privilege to choose which woman's opinion is more convenient
  • making this argument reveals an attitude that one will choose the most convenient woman to represent the whole of women
  • making this argument represents an implied challenge: "[the woman I approve of] has no trouble with $PHENOMENON -- are you [not worthy of my approval]?"
  • dismissing any person's opinion by simple contradiction is disrespectful.

Analysis Edit

The existence of a single woman who finds a particular sexist comment funny is not proof that that comment doesn't harm any women. First, not all geek women are feminists -- more so, some women actively advocate for outcomes that are harmful to other women (see internalized sexism and patriarchal bargaining).

Second, women may not feel free to tell you (if you are a man) their true beliefs, especially women you have power over: for example, your employees, and (usually) your family. Even for women you are not in an obvious power relationship with, the underlying structural power imbalance between men and women means that many women are unlikely to be honest with men they don't know well and trust when it comes to issues of sexism and misogyny. A woman who says "sure, that's funny" may be agreeing with you because she fears the consequences of expressing disagreement: starting with all of the silencing tactics that many men apply to women who challenge male domination, and escalating from there.

Third, a hallmark of oppression is the framing of oppressed classes as monoliths and oppressor classes as collections of individuals. One way in which women (and other people in oppressed classes) experience oppression is the subordination of their individual feelings and experience into a monolith that the oppressor class (as well as some others) impute with a single set of actions and thoughts. This erasure of individual differences within a marginalized group is an example of objectification and/or dehumanization. The argument "I know a man who thinks it's funny" is rarely used to justify jokes about violence towards men or about "misandry" -- rather, these jokes, when women make them, generally stand on their own. This is true even though some men do think these jokes are funny. However, "a man thinks it's funny" would never hold water, because we all understand without needing to say so that men do not all agree with each other about what's funny: in other words, that men are human beings with a myriad of different opinions and experiences.

Standard format Edit

Trigger warning: sexist language, suicide mention

In a private mailing list discussion, reposted with permission, Kathy Sierra suggested the following script as the standard format this excuse takes:
My ________ (wife/girlfriend/female co-worker) thought it was ________ (hilarious/silly/not offensive).
You must be ________ (over-sensitive/easily-offended/a feminist) and if that ________ (“joke”/comment/story/ad/video/booth-babe/“criticism”) bothers you, you might want to ________ (get off the internet/find another profession/kill yourself).

Examples Edit

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