I was playing on a co-ed sports team last night. One of the guys complimented a teammate on persevering through an opponent's attempts at cheating by saying

You acted like a man when he acted like a woman

I was right there, and he immediately looked at me and said "No offense". As always happens in these situations, I froze up and didn't say anything. But I started brooding over it, wishing I had make some kind of scathing retort, put him in his place, etc. etc.

But then I decided to do it differently. I wanted to get mad at him, and I think I would have been justified in doing so. However, this ties back into something I've been thinking on a lot recently.

Am I a feminist for my own benefit, or am I a feminist because I see inequality in the world and want to change it?

For a long time, it was the former. Feminism was like a lifeline when I was going through some times where I hated myself for being a woman and didn't know what to do about it. It finally gave me an explanation and a framework for dealing with sexist shit that got thrown at me.

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I think I'm ready to start working on trying to change things though. Specifically, trying to change people's behavior and opinions. I've always figured that it was a total waste of time trying to get people to be less sexist, that I should write them off as a lost cause. But I've recently seen male friends with feminist girlfriends start saying some pretty enlightened things. One of the most sexist/racist guys I know actually got into a facebook argument defending women. It gives me hope that people can change, and it also makes me ashamed that I let my friends' girlfriends do all the heavy lifting without trying to back them.

So.

I took my teammate aside, and even though I wanted to swear at him or act really hurt or tell him that it was fucked up to say that, I just said super casually, "Hey, I know you didn't mean anything by it, but I'd really appreciate it if you didn't use 'acting like a woman' as an insult". And he actually apologized, thanked me for calling him out, and said that he knew he shouldn't have said that as soon as he did.

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Obviously this was the best case scenario — back when I used to call people out more often, I got a lot of angry responses. But I think I'm onto something here, calling people out in a gentle and casual way but firm way.

I would be within my rights to get mad, but is that ultimately a useful reaction? All I would have accomplished would be to turn off another guy from feminism. I think a lot of people have never thought about these patterns of behavior or speech because in a patriarchy, they never have to. It doesn't make them bad guys, they're just people who need to be shown a different point of view. How else will they be exposed to these ideas if someone doesn't kindly and non-judgmentally inform them?

Besides, that could so easily have been me. It was me, 10 years ago. I was really sexist and also had a ton of class privilege that I never examined. But if someone had gotten mad at me about it, I would have become defensive and closed off as a kneejerk reaction.

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Working in a male dominated industry, I encounter these microaggressions on a regular basis. I need a strategy for stopping them without alienating people that I need to work with. I'm not saying this is a responsibility feminists have or saying that everyone needs to do this, but for me at least, this is the course of action I'll try to pursue.