On Battling Sexist Jokes In The Workplace

Question: How do I handle sexist jokes that is culturized by people more senior than me at work, one is my supervisor? I don't want to get into trouble by telling them off. But I am not comfortable with their distasteful jokes about women.


Dear FReAK,

Thank you for your question. It is a sad thing that in the year 2017, we as society must still encounter seniority, and feudalism, which is not only still happening in Indonesia but also in the world. But in the case of sexist jokes, it is your right to stand up for yourself. You can always stand up for yourself in an assertive way, so that those who are your seniors (upper levels) does not feel like they’re being attacked but more to be critically argumented.

Being assertive means that you can present the fact, to avoid showing your sentiment. For this case, I don’t know what kind of jokes your seniors are making, but perhaps this can be an example:

‘Don’t get mad easily, are you on your period?’ If their kind of “joke” was like this, you can say to them assertively ‘Sir, I think it’s not wise to make a joke for something that we experience almost every month and relating that to our feelings. We are discussing the work (or your topic of discussion) and this reaction is purely based on the dynamics of our conversation, and not anywhere related to my body experience as a woman. So, let’s focus on our discussion.” In this way, not only that you’ve stand up for yourself and other women, but also educating them to not make fun about women.

Other example that can be related perhaps something like this, ‘Wow you’re wearing a mini skirt, do you want attention from us!’ you can respond fiercely by saying, ‘I wear clothes that makes me comfortable and makes me feel good about myself, Sir. Not for the purpose of your attention.’

I know it takes a lot of courage to say things like the above to your seniors, especially if its your boss. And that sometimes, standing up is hard, especially if the one you are standing against you are your seniors, but in order to create a healthier culture and safer environment for you and women, we might consider the response. Since those kind of people (patriarchs and feudalists) prolly don’t like confrontational argument, giving them the silent treatment and not participating in their laughter, this can be our sign that we are uncomfortable with the "joke". This can be done if we are in a weaker position to give arguments to our seniors. Remember that, maintaining your job is also important.

I hope this can help you to tackle every day’s joke about women. And I hope those sexist jokes will be eradicated soon.


Freakily yours,


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