6 Scripts to Shut Down Sexist Jokes or Comments Anywhere
Ever been dumbfounded by someone taking a seemingly pleasant conversation down an ugly sexist road?
Shocked by a comment that’s come out of a colleague or bosses mouth? Perhaps your just irritated by assumptions made by people who don’t know you?
Whatever the case, sexism should not be accepted as ‘normal’ despite the fact that pretty much all of us have been witness to outdated and frustrating views or comments.
Whilst it can be tempting to either retaliate with a snappy comeback or do the opposite, and bury our heads in the sand, ultimately we think it’s best to take the high road and lead by example (but also NOT let extremely bad behavior slide).
Maybe you want to make the a person evaluate their behavior without stooping to their level, no matter how delicious it might feel.
Or perhaps you’re in a situation where there are some serious underlying issues that need to be addressed. Whatever your situation- we’ve got six scripts to shut down sexist comments the right way.
Illustrations courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Script 1 | Just Be Honest
Please, could you not talk like that. It makes me very uncomfortable and compromises my feeling of safety.
This is a very direct and to the point script, equally effective when used by males and females. It directly questions the motive behind any sexist remarks, explaining to the offender exactly why it makes you uncomfortable.
This script allows you to quickly set your expectations or boundaries and is a great ‘universal’ dialect. It can be used anywhere: in school, at work, at home or even on the streets, and will provide incredible results in most instances.
Call the bad behavior out and let them know how unacceptable their “joke” or comment really was. Most of the time people will apologize when they are forced to confront the reality of what they just said.
By directly calling someone out on their behavior, you’re forcing them to reevaluate what they think is appropriate to say in any situation.
Reaffirm that it makes you feel belittled or unsafe, so that you can make sure that the person making the comments understands the impact of their words and actions.
As you are directly telling them that you feel unsafe, they are much less likely to make sexist comments to you or anyone else.
Script 2 | At the Workplace
That’s extremely unprofessional. I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk to (or about) me like that, and if it doesn’t stop I will need to make an official complaint.
Sexist comments at the workplace are much more common than they really should be; this script is a great way to remind people that you will not tolerate any sexist remarks and that it is grossly unprofessional in any circumstance.
One benefit of this script is that you are giving the offending person a chance; they might not understand that their words or actions are offensive, so by giving them the benefit of the doubt, you’re allowing them to rectify their actions.
This script also explains that sexist comments are not appropriate in the workplace, which will likely curb their prevalence in the future.
Similarly, this will allow you to identify if anyone is making sexist remarks solely for a reaction. If there is some form of intent, then you absolutely should make a complaint, or at the very least, report them to your line manager.
Script 3 | Make Them Explain
What was that? I’m sorry, I don’t get it – could you please explain what you mean? It’s just, it wasn’t clear and I’m not sure that I understand.
Arguably, the best way to shut down sexist comments is by making the ‘joker’ explain exactly what they meant.
Sexist jokes rely on unfair stereotypes that when said out loud feel absolutely ridiculous, so by making someone explain the punchline to their sexist ‘joke’, you’re forcing them to realize how silly they actually look.
Nothing will make an offensive person feel more stupid than having to explain why their joke is so funny. This can also be a lot of fun.
Make them explain it to you. A simple “I don’t get it” will force the perpetrator to explain to you why they think what they just said was acceptable.
Grown adults often crumble when forced to confront the truth behind the awful things they say. So make this person tell you exactly why this joke is so hilarious.
Having to explain a joke is a painful experience anyway, but when somebody has to explain to you the sexist intentions of a punchline, based solely on toxic predispositions, they will quickly realize the error of their ways.
The great thing about this response is that it doesn’t rely on confrontation in any way – you’re using someone’s own thoughtless actions against them by feigning ignorance through a completely innocent conversation.
Script 4 | Turn the Tables
If that’s really all you have to say (or joke about), it really says a lot about your intellectual capabilities…
There are a lot of ways that you can turn the tables, though these generally depend heavily on the type of comment or joke that was made, or whether it was aimed at a man or a woman.
Sometimes, you may choose to tell a sexist joke back, though this isn’t really recommended – it can make you appear as hypocritical, especially if you’ve previously expressed a distaste in this type of ‘humor’ in the past.
This response allows you to turn a sexist joke into a playful insult. It works especially well if the ‘joker’ is trying to explain their intent as ‘banter’, as it could just be considered bantering back.
It will allow you to give them a taste of their own medicine, hopefully preventing them from making similar comments in the future.
Aside from being an insult in itself, this script also allows you to set boundaries by making it apparent that you are not comfortable with any sexist remarks.
Script 5 | Don’t react
One of the most powerful responses to sexist remarks, comments or jokes is to simply not react. When people make these types of jokes, it is usually to either express an unfair opinion or to get a reaction – whether that’s a debate, an argument or just a laugh.
If you don’t react at all to their sexist joke, the person making it will feel incredibly uncomfortable. You can make a confused face at them, or even raise an eyebrow – bonus points if there’s an uncomfortable silence!
By not reacting to these types of comments, you’re not encouraging them. Most people, once they realize they won’t get what they want from you (a reaction), will just not continue.
Try using this response if you don’t like confrontation or if you want to completely avoid the potential for an argument.
Script 6 | Tell Their Mom! (If They’re a Kid)
How do you think your mom would react if she heard you talking like that? Why don’t I tell her? I’m sure she’ll find it as hilarious as you do.
People are universally afraid of how their mothers might react, especially if they know they’re in the wrong. Use this to your advantage and threaten to bring them into it!
Obviously, you don’t actually have to share their comments with their parents – the threat alone is usually enough to make someone realize that they’re being ignorant. In this interconnected world, though, it’s incredibly easy to find out information by using Social media…
This response works especially well if a woman is receiving sexist comments from a man; a woman will be able to connect with their mom, who is more likely to sympathize or understand the impact that sexist remarks can have.
One thing that makes this script great is that it can briefly allow someone to understand how it feels to be made fun of – they wouldn’t want anyone to talk to/about their parent like that, so why should they be doing it to you?
At Never the Right Word, our aim is to give you practical examples of how to handle life’s difficult conversations. If you have an awkward situation that you’d like example templates for, request a topic here.
Lastly, if you found this content helpful or want to share your own examples, let us know in the comments. We’d also be delighted if you shared this article and joined us on social media too!
Never the Right Word
Hi there! I’m Amy, and I’m the person behind Never the Right Word. I’m a designer-by-day who’s fascinated by human psychology; you’ll find me learning about what makes others tick through all types of media and good old-fashioned conversation. Learn more about me here.
In 2019 Never the Right Word was born to fill the gap of ‘how-to’ websites with copy and paste examples showing you EXACTLY what you need to say to steer difficult conversations into positive outcomes.
Relevant Books We Recommend...
In 2012 after being harassed on London public transport Author Laura Bates, started a project called Everyday Sexism to collect accounts from other women on the issue. Overwhelmed by the responses and the wide range of stories that came pouring in from across the globe, Bates quickly found out that the situation was bad- it was clear that sexism had been normalized. To take a stand, this incredibly intelligent and bold book is the first to give a collective online voice to the protest against sexism. This book is a crusade of stories, often shocking, sometimes funny and always poignant - we would recommend it for every inquisitive, modern woman. CLICK HERE to get your copy from Book Depository.
In Caitlin Moran's How to Be A Woman, provocative observations on women's lives are combined with laugh-out-loud hilarious scenes from her own experiences being a woman. The book takes a witty look at the complicated life of the modern woman and all the challenges that outdated views present to her. Moran interweaves her life from adolescence to her development as a successful writer, spouse, and parent. Lastly, Moran outlines the argument, that there should be more women from all walks of life taking up space and having more power in the world. Her suggestion is to just take it. Get your copy of How to Be A Woman by CLICKING HERE.
In Caitlin Moran's How to Be A Woman, provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own experiences being a woman. The book takes a witty look at the complicated life of the modern woman and all the challenges that outdated views present to her. Moran interweaves her life from adolescence to her development as a successful writer, spouse, and parent. Lastly, Moran outlines the argument, that there should be more women from all walks of life taking up space and having more power in the world. Her suggestion is to just take it. Get your copy of How to Be A Woman from Book Depository by CLICKING HERE.
In this personal, well-articulated account– We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the world we live in now, a definition that is rooted in inclusion and education. Drawing from her own experiences and deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie outlines in great detail what it means to be a woman now – and why we should all be feminists. This book gave us food for thought and we think you'll get a lot from it too. You can get your copy of We Should All Be Feminists by CLICKING HERE.
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