Here’s a Handy List of Six Casually Sexist Things You Should Really Stop Saying at Work

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U.S. News has rounded up a handy-dandy list of six patently sexist things you should really stop saying at work. Given U.S. News’ standard highly-corporate demographic, seeing them write about these things is nothing short of refreshing. Some of these are pretty darn obvious to you and I, but a few are pretty subtle things that most folks likely haven’t thought about.

Here, take their second question as an example: “Jane, can you take notes at the meeting?”

It’s a really good example of the kind of casual sexism that most people would take as innocuous or completely harmless. It’d be appropriate to ask Jane to take notes if she was an administrative assistant or if it was her job to do so. But this question is usually a holdover from some old-fashioned (and wrong) beliefs that women are only there to take notes and not contribute.

It’s important to note that this isn’t to say women should never be asked to take notes. Not at all. It’s actually just a call to consider why it is you might have defaulted to asking a woman to handle notes. Do your best to make sure this responsibility gets passed around and the work is shared, eh?

One of the most subtle suggestions is the usage of the words “girl” or “girls.” Alison Green, who wrote this U.S. News piece, explains the subtle sexism (and incredible double standard) behind these words well. She said:

It’s still common to hear phrases at work, such as “the PR girl” or “the girls are all at lunch.” But you rarely hear the “the PR boy” or “the boys are in the conference room.” Referring to adult women as “girls” isn’t generally intended to be infantilizing or patronizing. But language has power, and girls are rarely taken as seriously as women. And it’s worth noting that women can be the worst offenders on this one.

… If you’re unconvinced, think about women who are universally recognized as having gravitas and power – say, Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel – and ask whether you’d refer to them as “girls.” If not, then ask yourself why it’s okay to refer to other women that way.

The bit about women being the worst offenders is especially poignant. Just because a few women may be okay with the term doesn’t mean that all of them are. Don’t lump women together in that way–we’re not monolithic. Chances are, the people you’re lumping under the “girls” umbrella would likely prefer that you not use that to refer to them.

The whole list of casually sexist phrases and terms is worth a read. And again, because it bears repeating: just because it doesn’t seem sexist on the surface does not mean it isn’t sexist. The language and words we use to speak to and refer to each other have small but impactful effects on the way we see each other. Make the effort to think critically and ask yourself why you’re saying what you’re saying, because while these may seem like nitpicks, the small effort you put in here will go a long way to keeping your work relationships healthy and happy.

Isn’t that what we all want?

(image via Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi)

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Jessica Lachenal
Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.