Language is a funny thing. I'm not just talking about the English language, which moves beyond 'funny' into 'holy-crap-what-were-they-thinking?' Words shape how we interact with our world and influence how we interact with each other. Which is why, when the topic of sexual harassment and rape culture come up, one of the main focuses is on changing how we speak about it. I get that perpetuating stereotypes is harmful. I understand that our language and how we speak to each other is one of the main ways that sexual harassment isn't taken as seriously as it should be. The men who are harassed are unwilling to speak up for the most part. The women who are harassed are afraid to speak up, not only out of fear of reprisal, but out of fear they won't be taken seriously. Our language actually hurts us with victim-blaming and the idea that rape is ok if the person is generally a 'good person' and just 'made a mistake'. Catcalling is considered 'paying a compliment', and mansplaining is 'being helpful'. There are a lot of things we as a society need to change in our language if we want these types of issues to be taken seriously.
But I gotta ask, where is the line? Do we each have different ideas of where that line is, or should it be the same for everyone?
I've got a lot of male friends. We joke all the time. Some of those jokes, out of context, would be offensive. But I know they're joking, and I've been known to give as good as I get. So where's the line for that? There are things I don't joke about and will call someone out on them, but there are things I think are funny as a joke. I'm in an all girl player RPG group. It started as an experiment and we've stuck together for many types of games. Our second DM called us a sewing circle with dice, and we honestly can't refute that. To us, that's funny. To some, it's derogatory because the 'all women sew' stereotype exists. So do we have to stop laughing at it? HSpoon has been known to joke about the 'make me a sandwich' cliche. He's not saying it seriously and I usually have a smartass reply for it. Do we have to stop laughing at that? I've joked around in person and online about girl gamers, being one myself. I get the spiel about girl gamers sucking, I make smartass remarks back and we laugh about it. Is that not allowed anymore?
And how much of my attitude is due to being a woman in the society we have now? I was taught to be nice and polite and don't start fights, but that went for everyone, nothing special for guys. Yet while I was also taught that it's ok to defend myself if I need to, there was the undercurrent that I would probably only need to defend myself against men. I have always hated confrontations, of any kind. I'm the one who usually tries to work things out, or in some cases, avoid it. Is that because, as woman, I'm afraid of antagonizing the men I'm speaking with? I would say no since it doesn't matter what gender, race, or whatever, I just hate confrontations. But for many other women, the answer would usually be yes. So how do I even start anaylizing my actions and words? How much should I separate what's ok to laugh about with certain people what's not any more? Where does that cross the line into being harmful?
You're thinking to hard about this!
Yes, I probably am, Imaginary Reader, but that's part of my point. These are things we as a society rarely touch on and are now being forced to look at. What we say and do unconsciously is important. There's a great deal of soul searching going on, and maybe there aren't any hard answers. I suspect that's the case, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't pay more attention to what's being said around us and try and change things that actually are harmful.
So if you see a guy friend joking about maybe raping a woman they think is hot, even if you believe they never would actually rape someone, call them out on it. That's not cool and never will be.
If your boss comes in and refers to you or your female coworker as 'sweetie' or something along that lines, call him out on it. Having boobs shouldn't change how a person is spoken to and doesn't impact a person's ability to do their job.
If a friend catcalls a woman walking down the street, call him out on it. She's not put on earth for to look good for you, and she really doesn't want those comments. If you as a woman are catcalled while walking down the street, call him out on it. I'm not saying turn around and deck him, but ignoring him won't make him stop and doesn't let him know that it's not appreciated.
Overall, I'm not suggesting an uprising to overthrow the patriarchy or whatever it's called now. But I am suggesting you look at how you use language and maybe think about how it's negativity affecting people you know. That's the kind of change that's slow and subtle, but will make an amazing difference in how we treat each other in the long run.