4 ways men can call out other men's sexist behavior 

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The authors of the new book Good Guys outlined several specific confrontation strategies in Harvard Business Review for men who witness transgressions and sexist behavior from men in their workplace.

Good Guys is co-authored by David G. Smith, PhD, a professor of sociology in the College of Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I.; and W. Brad Johnson, PhD, a professor of psychology in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and faculty associate in the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  

They say it is critical for men to speak up for several reasons, including findings that observers are more likely to be persuaded when a man confronts sexism and that women who call out poor male behavior are often evaluated negatively and even rated as less competent compared to men who do the same.

Here are four of the intervention strategies they shared with HBR

1. Don't freeze up. Say something immediately. Paralysis can easily set in seconds after another man makes a sexist remark or offensive joke, but it's important to react right away. The authors advise that if nothing else comes to mind, start with a straightforward "ouch!" 

"This buys you a few extra seconds to formulate a clear statement about why the comment didn't land well with you. Then, have some ready responses cued up in advance," note the authors. Three possibilities: That wasn't funny. Did you really mean to say that? Actually, that's an outdated stereotype.

2. Say that the behavior isn't OK with you. Don't make the act of speaking up to be something done on behalf of the women in the room. "I didn't find that joke funny. I don't appreciate how it demeans women," is a much more powerful response than, "Come on, Bob, there are women in the room." The latter implies the behavior in question would be OK if women were absent. 

3. Don't put him on the defensive. If a male colleague says something sexist, pull him aside. Let him know you see him as part of your team. In a direct conversation, let him know you are worried about him and use statements beginning with "I" that aren't accusatory, but do make your feelings clear. 

"In clarifying the precise behavior of concern, be specific in the details, situation, and people involved. You don't have to take the conversation to 'DEFCON 5,' but you do have to make him understand how his behavior is hurting others, sabotaging his credibility and why you care," the authors write. 

4. Ask questions to confront sexist dynamics in groups. Research consistently finds women are interrupted more than men across a range of settings. In meetings, men sometimes co-opt the ideas women had already raised or were in the process of sharing when interrupted. When this occurs, other men can ask questions like, "I'm confused. How is that any different from what Amber suggested a few minutes ago?" Questions like this can also be quite effective to help a male colleague consider an alternative perspective, such as, "I wonder if you've considered that women might experience this differently?" 

Related: Read 28 strategies on how men can show up as active male allies to women in their organizations here


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