What DO You Say?

Whaddya Say? The Video and Model

We’ve all been there: we overhear a sexist comment at a party, a work colleague makes a homophobic joke, a friend-of-a-friend says something grossly inappropriate, we are talked over in a meeting, we know our rights and our dignity are violated. Yet in that very moment, what do we say?

As something of an expert on life in the modern gender space, I get asked a lot of questions. And this topic comes up more than anything else: what do you do or say when unexpectedly confronted with a comment that is racist, sexist, homophobic, or misogynistic?

We all know – or should know – that doing nothing is absolutely not a suitable response. Taking it up later or ignoring it ‘just this once’ is exceedingly damaging to all involved. Yet too often that is what happens. We are not prepared to respond, to advocate for ourselves in an everyday context. Even my exceedingly aware, forward-thinking, woke activist colleagues struggle with this one, especially if the comment is heard at a social event.  The truth is, most of us are not prepared with an appropriate response. We often don’t want to alienate social contacts, we are not sure what type of response will be effective, or we’re surprised into speechlessness.

I’ve given lots of advice and compiled many lists of appropriate responses. They range from the straight-up, in-your-face outrage to sarcasm and humor and, yes, even calm rationality. Any or all might be an appropriate response, depending on the people and the setting. But the planning, the practice, the preparation is key!

For a lunch event, I crafted a slightly different but very effective approach: a mock game show illustrating possible responses to those all-too-awkward and insulting comments. Perhaps what these “contestants” say will offer you some inspiration?


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