Covert Sexism & the Messages in Media

fashion man people woman
fashion man people woman
Photo by olia danilevich on

I’ve posted about Sexism in Chapters previously on my feminist blog, as well as talked about Twilight and other things referring to covert sexism. Here’s the problem: most people do not believe covert sexism exists. And anyone who tries to raise awareness is called sexist or mentally ill at best. The truth is

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It’s Not Our Fault

The thing is that it is not our fault that we are prejudice. We live in a prejudice society that reinforces prejudice behavior from infancy. The little girl who plays with dolls is praised, while it is frowned upon for little boys to do the same. A little boy is given Legos or action figures while a little girl is given Barbie dolls. And, these are the more obvious examples. People are treated differently in the media based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and so much more. If you are not a rich white man, you are in the minority, and society teaches us to hate the other, people who are different from ourselves. Even if many people are not outwardly sexist or racist or any of those things, their true attitudes come up in covert sexism or micro aggressions.


Merriam-Webster defines micro aggression as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)”. According to Vox, some people think micro aggressions are really just people being too sensitive. That has honestly been my experience. Any time I have brought up a micro aggression, I am blamed for being too sensitive and overreacting.

According to Harvard Business Review, there are three ways to respond to micro aggression: let it go, address it immediately, or address it later. Each has their own advantages and drawbacks. (Although HBR focuses on microaggression from racism in the workplace, the principles are relevant across prejudices).

Let it Go

A lot of times, people just let it go. The problem with this is that nothing changes and micro aggressions build up causing emotional and psychological damage to the person affected.

Address it Immediately

If you address it immediately, you have immediacy on your side, which means that it is easier to pinpoint exactly what happened, and the other person will not have forgotten. The problem is that the other person can become defensive–this has happened every time I have addressed a micro aggression.

Address it Later

You can also address it later, which helps to ensure that cooler heads prevail. However, the problem is that the person who committed the microaggression may not even remember what they had said.

HBR continues by adding that which of these you choose will depend heavily on how important the relationship you have to the person who is committing the microaggression–how important is it? I highly recommend reading the rest of the article as it is extremely informative. It even gives the actual steps of confronting a micro aggression should you choose to.

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