5 Subtle Ways Men Are Misogynists at Work

May 1st 2016

Most people can identify blatant sexual harassment and sexism at work, but it can be more difficult to spot more subtle forms of misogyny. These are usually called microaggressions, a term originally used to describe subtle forms of racism, but can be applied to other everyday forms of discrimination.

ATTN: talked to Rosanna Hertz, a professor of sociology and women's studies from Wellesley College, about microagressions. "They are ways in which people are made to feel othered," she said. She used the example of a lesbian couple out with their children. "Say a lesbian couple who are in the food store and someone comes up and says 'Who is the real mom of these kids?" The question implies that the family is strange without bluntly saying it.

This happens to women at work everyday. Victor Eduardo Sojo, a researcher at The Centre for Ethical Leadership at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences in Australia studied sexism at work. He told ATTN: that there are various microagressions men can make toward women in the office.

"People making sexist jokes, receiving sexist emails that are later construed as jokes, being asked questions about your personal life, particularly aspects of your sexual life or identity, people questioning your gender identity, people might insinuate you are less of a woman if you work in a male dominated area or are more assertive than they expect you to be ... I can keep going on here, the point is that there is a diverse and wide range of harmful experiences that women are exposed to at work."

Although there are a wide range of examples, here are five subtle ways men are misogynists at work.

1. "Why are you carrying that heavy thing? A man should be doing that for you."

Sometimes ladies have to get heavy things from shelves, carry water to the office cooler, or in some cases carry equipment in front of a professional athlete. You know, the things that everyone does at work. However when a Facebook user who asked to remain nameless did this at Fenway Park, she received some apparently unintentional sexism from future baseball Hall-of-Famer David "Big Papi" Ortiz.

"One time I was shooting for [redacted local sports reporter] for Red Sox post game in the locker room and 'Big Papi' said " what are you making her carry the camera for, she should be in front of it, not you." Which felt like a compliment at the time, (thanks Papi!), but now I realize is sexism."

A different anonymous Facebook user told ATTN: that she often gets some mild sexist comments when she's carrying equipment for her job. In one incident she was carrying heavy items through a retail store.

"The manager said to me something like 'see, aren't you regretting the whole women's rights movement now? You have to carry heavy stuff.' A few times a week people pity me and the fact that I have to carry heavy things without a man, but that was the worst."

2. Mansplaining.

Sometimes men talk to women like they're stupid and sometimes they also do it at work.

Jimmy Kimmel hilariously explained the concept of "mansplaining" to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a frequent victim of the phenomenon, even though she is a former secretary of state. He even mansplained while he was giving the definition. Clinton said that mansplaining happens when a man explains something to a woman in a patronizing a way. But Kimmel made sure to correct her.

"Actually it's when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending way, but you were close," Kimmel said.

Sojo said that this condescending concept often comes up during meetings. Men will ignore women all together or speak to them like they are inferior. He said that this type of sexism can be the hardest to fight.

"For policymakers and practitioners, covert sexism: sexist jokes, ignoring women during meetings, talking behind women’s backs, is one of the most challenging issues to tackle," he said. "Organizations should have zero tolerance for low-intensity sexism, the same way they do for overt harassment."

3. "Don't take it so personally."

Hertz said that men like to characterize women as overly emotional in the workplace.

"One I would say is men saying that women are too emotional or anything connected with your response to emotional things. 'You shouldn't get worked up over this. You take it too personally,' as if men don't", she said. "What it's saying is that men don't show their colors and women really do."

4. Women are more understanding.

Hertz also said that she experiences sexism behavior from the all-female student body at Wellesley College. Hertz said female students and faculty expect her to be more understanding of excuses and they also take liberties with their conversation. "Female faculty at Wellesley, we're supposed to except their crap more often," she said. Hertz also said that women will make comments about her clothing and jewelry that are meant to flatter her.

"A boss of mine in the administration makes comments on my clothing or my jewelry but a male knows better than to do that because I could slap Title IX on him," she said.

Title IX is a federal law that protects people from discrimination "on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity," according to the Justice Department.

5. Sexist jokes or stories.

This one should be the most obvious, and yet, it still happens. A Facebook user told ATTN: that she's experienced all kinds of "jokes" at work. One guy watched everything she did because it turned him on.

"He somehow sexualized me climbing behind a cooler, cleaning dishes, and even sitting down. I had another production assistant calling me his girl, which led to a few others calling me '[his name's] girl.'”

However she said the majority of her co-workers have treated her just fine. "There were plenty of people who appreciated me for my work and treated me as an equal on that set, but thinking of the other side of it still makes me angry years later."

Another anonymous Facebook user told ATTN: about a bad experience at lunch.

"A coworker, during lunch, described what it must have been like as Bill Cosby [during his alleged sexual assaults]. 'I mean, there's a beautiful woman just laying there.' This person has too much tenure to get canned."

Regardless of the severity of misogyny at work, Sojo said that all types can cause damage to women.

"Even if we think one small stressful event, such as heavy traffic, won’t have an impact on our health, the accumulation of a bunch of small stressful events do impact our health," he said. "The same happens with subtle sexism, which is very frequent and harder to call out but a phenomenon with an accumulative impact on women’s occupational well-being."

Sojo said that over time women can become dissatisfied with their jobs and hold negative feelings for their bosses.

"Women who are targets of harmful workplace experiences are more dissatisfied with their supervisors than with co-workers," he said. "Supervisors have the main responsibility to set the standards of expected and acceptable behaviors in organizations and to advocate for and protect the personnel under their leadership."

RELATED: The Sexism No One Really Talks About

Share your opinion

Have you experienced subtle sexism or microaggressions at work?

No 16%Yes 84%