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A frequent response to complaints of sexism is a pronouncement that sums up the problem in a dismissive and often incorrect manner (with advice about how to solve the problem often, but not always, implied). This is a form of Derailing. It moves the conversation away from feelings, effects, or practical problem-solving and puts the marginalized person on the defensive.

The usual format of the this response is “oh, that’s clearly because of $issue” (examples could range from “because you’re new” to “because of the oppression encoded in capitalism”; the format is the problem here). One problem with this response is the declarative format (most often found in mansplaining); it sets the speaker up as an authority over the marginalized person’s experiences. The other issue is that diagnosing another person’s situation denies the complexity of it and their right to try to make sense of their own experience. If the diagnosis is correct, it shuts down the conversation; if it’s incorrect, the marginalized person is faced with the choice of trying to correct the diagnosis or remaining silent and disengaging.

Examples

  • "Oh, that's just because you're new- it will get better later."
  • "That's because you're short."
  • "Airlines are just like that- you've got to take them for everything you can!"

Better responses

  • “That reminds me a lot of when $thing happened to me; I think it’s because of the power differential you’re describing.”

Specific variant: unsolicited medical diagnoses

[Note: this section uses "disabled person" in reference to the theory that people are disabled by society and the choices made in social, legal, medical, and architectural environments (among others).]

A very common (and extra damaging) way that this happens is in response to a disabled or chronically ill person talking about their medical issues. People who are temporarily able-bodied will often claim to have had the same symptoms, declare that they know what the ill or disabled person "has", and proceed to give advice. The unsolicited advice is nearly always present in this case.

As above, this response denies the complexity of the situation and the right of the ill or disabled person to try to make sense of their own experience. It also denies the ill or disabled person expertise in their own issues. Finally, it derails the conversation, moving the focus from the issues a marginalized person is struggling with to the uneducated assertions of the temporarily able-bodied person.

  • The chances that a temporarily able-bodied person knows better than a disabled or chronically ill person and all the doctors they've seen are VERY low.
  • The disabled or chronically ill person now has to decide how to respond and all of the options are terrible.
    • Shutting the privileged person down takes a lot of energy and the privileged person may engage in significantly more bad behavior.
    • Accepting the advice and allowing the privileged person the position of authority is a betrayal of the self.
    • Disengaging may also be perceived as rude by the privileged person who was "just trying to help" and they may respond with more bad behavior.
  • Related to Unsolicited advice, Nonconsensual_lemonade-making

Examples

  • "Oh I had exactly the same skin problem last year and vitamin E oil cleared it right up!"
  • "Oh, I see you have one of those skiing accident braces! I had that too, couple months of PT cleared it right up!"

Better responses

  • "That's so hard, I'm really sorry."
  • "It must take a lot of your time to try to manage that."
  • "That sounds like a tricky thing to deal with- if you want to vent about it I'm here to listen."
  • If you have actual knowledge of the specific issue in question, as diagnosed by a medical professional: "I [have a similar condition/issue] [know a friend struggling with something related to this]. If you'd like to compare notes sometime, I'd be down for that."
    • It's key that this is an offer and that it doesn't require an immediate answer.
    • If you do this, take care that the conversation remains centered on the ill or disabled person and not on you.