The XX Factor

How Not to Be an Overt Sexist

As much as you like these boots, it’s probably best to keep that opinion to yourself.

Photo by Daniel Liebl/Getty Images

Most gentlemen these days have become accustomed to the idea that women are permitted to speak in public, hold jobs with real power, and yes, even play a part in democratic governance. Yet a few remain traumatized by the discovery that they are allowed to disagree with men. A couple of these no doubt well-meaning gentlemen got into hot water recently at a county commission in New Mexico, which had been called to discuss the minimum wage. Observe their rookie mistakes, so as not to make them yourself.  1) Do not use the word “bitch.” Upon realizing that the young woman from Working America was not actually there in a decorative capacity, but to testify in favor of raising the minimum wage, Bernalillo County Republican Party executive director Steve Kush registered his dismay on Twitter in a fashion that, in retrospect, seems ill-advised: Uttering the word “bitch” makes it easy for your ideological opponents to call you a “misogynist,” a word that you will discover you dislike being called, no matter how accurate it may be. 2) Avoid dwelling on the lady’s clothes, body, or “hotness.” Unable to contain himself, Kush moved on from Twitter to Facebook: It is probably best to keep your opinion on both the woman in question’s sartorial choices and on her general attractiveness to yourself. This is true whether or not you consider her attributes adequate to satisfy your sexual desires.   3) Under no circumstances should you make a reference to prostitution. This lesson was learned by Bob Cornelius, the former holder of Kush’s position. Cornelius also found himself distressed by the discovery of a woman speaking her mind at the county commissions meeting. He responded to Kush’s mention of the young woman’s boots, “Maybe she uses those shoes to walk Central.” Central is apparently a street in Bernalillo County, NM where prostitutes hang out. While it may feel momentarily exciting to suggest that a woman sharing her opinion at a public meeting is a sex worker, giving into that urge will be something you regret later.  N.B. Following these simple steps may not be sufficient to shield you from accusations of sexism. As Dylan Byers recently learned, you can also draw the accusation simply by implying that it’s improper for women to be authoritative. Still, you have to start somewhere, right? And once you’ve mastered hiding your disapproval of women with opinions, you’re free to practice actually listening to their arguments.