What to do when you’re wrongly accused of sexism

Vedanova asks:

One thing that really bugs me is how easily things get misinterpreted as sexist. I admit I have treated girls ‘a certain way’ because they were girls in the past, but now I have improved and I try to treat everyone the same regardless of their sex, or for that matter, anything. But I still get accused of it.  For example, a couple of days ago, when playing basketball, I didn’t pass the ball to a girl, it wasn’t because I am a sexist or anything. It is just a game and I am not thinking about gender when making split-second decisions. But people jump to conclusions and label me as sexist, and it doesn’t feel good of being accused of something that you did not do. Just please tell me how to handle these kinds of situations.

Hi Vedanova –

Your sexism question is difficult and complex, I agree.  The history of the human race is one of oppression, and women (just as with racial and sexual and religious minorities and so many others) have every right to be furious at how they’ve been treated over the centuries.  In my country, this issue reached a height a few years ago, when everyone expected us to inaugurate the first female president, and instead the country got a male who regularly insulted women, and had even bragged about assaulting them.  So instead of women feeling more accomplished, they felt more under attack than they had in decades.

So does that mean you need to pass the basketball only to women?  Does it mean you have to apologize constantly for being male?  Does it mean you are always wrong?  Of course not.

But there’s something you can do, that very few men do, that would raise you in these women’s eyes. And that is to ask. Without defensiveness, just honestly, ask, for example, that woman (after the game of course) what you did that bothered her. If she says you should always pass her the ball, then there’s not much you can do with that. But if she says “No one had passed me the ball once, the whole game, and I was open,” you can tell her what you told me, that you made an instant choice and didn’t see that she was open. And then you can tell her that you certainly realize how much it must SUCK to be ignored on the court, and say that you will try to look for her when you get the ball next time. 

What would that accomplish?  It would make her feel HEARD. And CARED ABOUT. More than anything else, the frustration for people trying to move past oppression is that it seems no one is taking them seriously  (At its craziest extreme, you’ve probably heard about the movement in my country over the past five years or so, “Black Lives Matter.” MATTER?! A whole section of the population feeling, with some reason, that many don’t even feel their lives mean a thing. That’s INSANE – and racism, sexism, etc. are all insanities!).

The very best thing, of course, that you can do when you talk with a woman about this is if you DO see a mistake you’ve been making. “Wow, I just always assume girls are bad at math.  That’s awful.  Thanks for waking me up, and showing me that that’s not always true!” That’ll make that woman feel GREAT. And in a small way, your doing that will change the world for the better.

Of course the great irony in this is that you know very well what they’re going through, as you’re a member of a sexual minority as well.  Even though things have shifted in you over the past three years, you’re still a male who has craved to wear women’s clothing, who has been attracted to men, and who still is attracted to some men. 

The change in the world is happening, and people all along the sexuality spectrum are beginning to speak up and declare themselves in new ways.  So the woman who feels okay calling you sexist is just a little further along in empowerment than you are.  But deep down, you and she are fighting the same battle.

Honor it and honor her.

As I honor you, so very very much!  


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