6 Sexist Things You’re Accidentally Saying at Work

Annoyed woman


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Leah Thomas866
April 14, 2024 at 11:32AM UTC

This is the time to end everyday sexist vocabulary. We’ve developed bad habits of incorporating old discriminatory words or phrases into our jargon — and it’s time to recognize it. While we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves, we still must take action in order to improve our wording and our language. Let’s replace commonly used sexist phrases with ones that support and empower women, rather than hold them back. 

1. “Man up.”

Telling your coworkers that in order to be tough you need to be a man or sprout male genitalia (you know what we mean) is enabling the patriarchal agenda we’re trying so hard to diminish. Just don't say it. Women are tough, too! 

2. “... like a girl.”

This is another phrase that attaches female qualities or actions to the act of being less than. People may say you “run like a girl,” “fight like a girl,” etc., to mean that you are slow, not athletic and weak. Women are strong, and we need to acknowledge this. An easy way to start doing so is by eliminating this phrase from our speech. 

3. “You look tired.”

Every woman has heard this at least once in her life. Women are expected to balance their career, family, social life, everything life throws at them, as well as putting on makeup and looking presentable each day. Being told you look “tired” is a sexist insult that insinuates you probably didn’t put much work into your appearance that day. 

4. “Smile!”

Along with balancing all of the aforementioned, women are expected to constantly be happy. We're given impossibly high standards each day, and we are allowed to look/feel tired, frustrated, angry, etc. without someone telling us we can’t. If you see a woman who looks anything but happy, instead of telling her to smile, mind your business!

5. “Calm down.”

Telling women to calm down is the equivalent of saying their emotions or feelings do not matter. While all people should maintain professionalism at work, that doesn’t mean expressing emotions isn’t justifiable. If women are upset about something a colleague said or did, rather than telling the woman to calm down, we need to address the behavior of said colleague. 

6. “Sweetheart,” “dear,” etc.

Being called a pet name at work by male (or female!) colleagues or superiors is nothing but patronizing. If you wouldn’t call a male colleague by the same name, you should refrain from using it when speaking to anyone.

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