Talk to Me: Sexist Friend

Q: I’m a girl. I have a guy friend who is always making sexist comments about women. I’ve tried calling him out on it but he blows it off. How can I get him to realize what he’s saying is messed up?

A: Oof, that is an uncomfortable spot to be in. You’re caught between wanting to be close with a friend who is being difficult and trying to defend half of the world’s population on your own. Both daunting tasks.

Let me start by saying that it is very possible that nothing you say will change the way he feels about women and how they fit into his life. Since I’m guessing he is not a child, whatever he believed about females while growing up is ingrained pretty deeply into his psyche. After all, we are dealing with thousands of years of women’s inferiority here. So, don’t feel discouraged that you have been unable to sway him.

That being said, his comments, whether aimed at you or other women, are a direct insult to you as part of the female gender. You have every right to be offended by his remarks and you are absolutely right that he should stop making them.

Unfortunately, like I said, I don’t have a magic phrase to make him see how cruel he’s being. The fact that you have tried to point it out to him before with no success leads me to believe that he really doesn’t see himself as in the wrong. That’s not so simple to change.

Don’t worry, I don’t have only doom and gloom to share. The good news is that this guy is your friend. Friends care about how you feel and don’t want to hurt you. My guess is that it hasn’t even crossed his mind that his comments are offending you. So tell him.

Tell him that it impacts you when he says those things and that you would really appreciate it if he didn’t speak that way when you’re around. No, that’s not going to change the way he thinks, but it certainly spares you the blood-boiling moments of having to listen to it. If that doesn’t stop, then walk away whenever he does it. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. Just quietly remove yourself from the conversation. Make it clear that you will not engage with him if he wants to talk like that.

Show him you are a strong woman who does not put up with that kind of intolerance. Maybe that’s just the kind of thing he needs to see.

In the, hopefully, rare case that he continues to be shamelessly sexist even after you’ve tried all the above, then maybe this isn’t a person you want to be around. If he doesn’t respect women and he doesn’t respect your friendship, then it’s probably time to put a little distance there.

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