A handful of North American women pastors and church leaders sparked a great Twitter conversation Friday night with a simple technique. They wrote down all the discouraging, sexist things people said to them along their career path. Then they replaced "she" with "he" and "woman" with "man." A sample:
The meme was just too delicious to remain about one profession. Women of diverse backgrounds and professions began chiming in.
I started thinking about some of the sexist things people (men, mainly, but some women) said to me over the years. One man suggesting I should "bat my eyes and flirt" with men to sell raffle tickets at a fundraiser. A workplace where women were expected to organize the holiday party. A friend who was told her voice was too high-pitched for her to be taken seriously in business. My mother remembering when people assumed women only went to college to find a husband.
And of course, the worst was when people were dismissive of your dreams, assuming that you'd get married, have kids and forget all about doing whatever it is you wanted to do beyond that.
The results were startling and shined a light for me on how deep sexism or any kind of discrimination can go. It's shocking how accepting I can be of certain cliches about women, but how strange they sounded when you changed it to be about men.
I loved the #sexismturnedaround conversation and found it illuminating of just what kinds of stereotypes I still had rattling around in my head. Words are powerful. We need more conversations like this, and definitely more kindness, respect and compassion for others, instead of snap judgments and stereotypes.