Feminist icon Gloria Steinem has some solid advice for women who confront sexist double standards on a daily basis: disarm those doing the discriminating.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan's Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles, Steinem expressed frustration that, in 2015, female ambition is still interpreted as aggression. "If you don't do what you're supposed to do, you get to be a loud black woman or a bitchy white woman," she said.
When Coles asked what we can do to push back against that kind of bullsh*t, Steinem had the greatest response:
The best thing I've ever thought of to say when somebody calls you a bitch is "Thank you." I mean, it totally disarms them. They don't know what to do. Marlo Thomas always used to say that for a man to be called aggressive, he had to take over your business, but for a woman to be called aggressive, she had to only put you on hold. It's just a terrible double standard. We have to call them on it. If you call them on it, it changes people's heads.
Being a woman involves a near-constant negotiation of social norms and trying to push back on said social norms. Steinem wants none of that.
As she said during an Oct. 21 one-on-one conversation with Coles at Hearst Tower:
So, what can we do to combat this everyday sexism, the kind that often feels so mundane that it goes unnoticed? Steinem recommends calling it out. "Saying something is almost always better than swallowing it and then thinking about it for two days," she told Coles.
And sometimes the best way to say something about sexism is through humor. Steinem told Coles she learned that trick from the incredible Flo Kennedy, her close friend and fellow feminist activist:
I learned from Flo Kennedy, who was a great civil rights lawyer and who was my speaking partner for a while. Nobody was better at a comeback. Some guy in some audience would say, "Are you lesbians?" and she would always say, "Are you my alternative?" and everyone would crack up. Again, it's fun. And it's consciousness-raising because you're not just doing it for yourself and the other person, you're also doing it for the people around you.
Gloria Steinem: Laughing at misogynists since 1934.
To read Joanna Coles' full interview with Steinem, head over to Cosmopolitan.
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