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Things I do that are sexist

The other day, I was playing Magic: the Gathering online, like one of the cool kids. I like to play it in the evenings, because I find it relaxing to scream ‘Fuck off with your TWATTY DRAGONS’ at the telly while glugging wine. After half an hour or so of being repeatedly beaten by a bunch of cheating nobheads, I realised that I’d been horribly sexist.

“Oh look,” I’d exclaim when my opponent brought out a ridiculously overpowered beast which which to savage me. “I imagine his bastard ogre will decimate my teeny elf in a manner of seconds.”

And it did. But that’s not the point. The point is I was playing against someone with a generic, genderless username, and yet I’d repeatedly referred to them as ‘he’. In fact, almost every Magic opponent online is a ‘he’ in my mind, despite the fact that I would rage against anyone who told me any given game was for boys or girls.

I am inadvertently sexist and it fucks me off

In a recent blog post I mentioned the fact that I am pretty sexist. It’s not deliberate, and nor is it something I’m proud of. But when I write something ranty and feminist on this blog, I occasionally get guys in the comments – or on Twitter – who’ll point out that they don’t do X particular thing, therefore they’re not sexist.

I appreciate the effort, and it’s hard to say ‘you are, actually’ without sounding like a dick. But we live in a world in which we’re told from a very young age that boys are like X and girls are like Y – and, in fact, that all of us will fall at one or other end of this rigid gender binary. No matter how hard we try, there will inevitably be some things that we’ve absorbed which adhere to these messages. Rather than saying ‘I never do anything deliberately sexist, therefore I am not sexist’, I think it’s helpful to see that none of us are immune from this. Because if you’re immune you’re basically a God who is exempt from criticism, and if we were all Gods then we’d have nothing better to aim for.

I get why it sounds a bit harsh if I just point to other people and go ‘tut, look how he has internalised misogyny to such a degree that he doesn’t even realise that dumping a girl because she slept with him on the first date is a sexist thing to do.’ So instead, here’s a list of ways in which I am sexist:

  • I use all of the following phrases repeatedly: ‘Amazon delivery guy’, ‘Uber guy’, ‘pizza guy’, ‘gas man’, before knowing whether those people will be men or women.
  • If someone invites me to a hen night, I immediately picture hilarious penis drinking straws and expensive Prosecco.
  • If someone leaves a comment on my blog picking me up on spelling or grammar, and they use a non-gendered name, I assume they’re a bloke.
  • Likewise if someone on Twitter who is identifiable only by an egg avatar calls me a ‘fucking prick’, I will likewise assume that person is a man.
  • I still – still – despite having had almost exclusively female bosses for most of my working life, occasionally assume when someone says ‘boss’ that boss is a man.

I’ve picked these examples deliberately, because I expect quite a few people will go ‘but that usually is the case!’ And it may well be. Nine times out of ten the person who reads my gas meter is a man. It’s rare that a hen night involves pints and darts. But there are complex reasons why this is the case, and they’re not just down to the fact that women like Prosecco and men are better at reading gas meters. One of the many contributing factors, surely, is the fact that we all make assumptions about gender because that’s what we’ve been taught to do, thus people believe that they should behave in certain ways according to their gender.

I’m not saying, by the way, that if you do any of the things above you’re an appalling person. But nor am I saying that the things above are totally fine, because I do them and I’m a card-carrying feminist. I’m saying they fall somewhere in between – in that grey area of understandable yet unhelpful behaviour. So screaming ‘not another fucking DRAGON’ and throwing down my controller in a huff is perfectly understandable, it’s still ultimately unhelpful in my end goal of winning the game.

In our brave new future, perhaps we won’t make these assumptions as much. Maybe being aware of the ways in which each of us has little sexist tweaks will mean that we swallow comments or jokes before we make them, question why it is we’re doing it, and decide to do something differently. After all, if we can – over the course of only ten to twenty years – go from conceiving of hen and stag nights as one evening of debauchery and start viewing them as compulsory weekend-long minibreaks, then surely we can change the narrative around what we expect from any given event. Which long ramble brings me to a tediously obvious point – it ‘s easy to point to other people’s mistakes and say ‘stop doing that’, but in order for things to actually change, all of us need to go ‘oh hey I can change this too.’

Maybe in ten year’s time there’ll be an equal split of people who deliver for Amazon, my Magic opponents will all be ‘they’, and thousands of women will call me a prick on the internet.


  • Vida says:

    What a beautiful vision of the future.

    I can confess to worse, I totally failed that joke about the surgeon’s son, the one where the surgeon is his MOTHER, DUUUH. I’m totally automatically sexist about that sort of thing, it’s horrifying. I was born in 1976 though, that’s my excuse. Life did it to us.

    I would have thought women were more likely to correct your spelling, though, speaking as a hyper-critical English teacher who finds it very hard not to do that, and works in a female dominated profession…

    • Girl on the net says:

      That’s interesting, and I am sure that my assumption of ‘angry bloke’ is almost certainly wrong sometimes. But as a general rule, if I tweet/write anything then the most critical comments come from guys, and I think the pedantry feels like an extension of that. Maybe I’m just not followed by many English teachers though =)

  • RB says:

    I had a friend who had a similar-ish issue the other day – he got very annoyed at himself for chatting with someone and automatically assuming that they were straight, when it turns out that they weren’t; he felt that by assuming that they were straight, he was implying that they were against the norm. I was trying to reassure him that unfortunately these things are hard-wired in society, and gradually things will become more flexibly interpreted and that he wasn’t being deliberately dismissive by taking that route. I think it’s the same here, too. The good thing is that you and him have that self-awareness and work on trying to change it, rather than knobs who go around blithely ignoring their faux pas and never learning anything.

    I’ve never called another woman a prick, before. I might start. Only the most deserving, though.

  • D. says:

    In ten year’s time, the only reason your Amazon order wouldn’t be delivered by a drone rather than a he or a she is that said drones will probably have risen up and destroyed humanity before then. Still, now would be a good time to start using gender neutral pronouns for a gentler segue… he->they->it->oh god is that a gun?->argh

    • Girl on the net says:

      D. I have informed Amazon of your comment and they have assigned a customer service unit who will assist with your concerns.*

      *come to get you.

  • As a female gamer, I often find myself being sexist in the gaming world as well. Everyone is naturally a guy. Likewise, assumptions happen on their end – they assume I’m : a) lying about my true gender if we become close enough to ask; or b) an obese female who is single and lonely.
    Sometimes stereotypes are just there. I appreciate anyone who points them out, even if I blush that I am myself make those same assumptions.

    • Bev says:

      Man, I am an obese female who is single and lonely. I don’t play MTG online though, because I fear losing all my money to the booster pack abyss, and I certainly wouldn’t play it to reel in helpless nerd boys with mentions of my magical ladyparts. It’s much easier to do that at boardgame nights where they can actually see the J-cups.

  • ‘with which’ LOL couldn’t resist!

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Well said as usual. We are all sexist (and racist, and probably homophobic and many other prejudices besides). Not through choice, usually, but simply because society is those things, and you can’t help but absorb them to some degree. The only difference is that some of us recognise those things, accept our faults and try to address them. Accidentally saying or doing something prejudiced doesn’t make you a monster; it just makes you human. But overreacting to accusations of prejudice and saying ‘How dare you, I take offence at that, I haven’t got a prejudiced bone in my body!’ definitely makes you an ass.

    It would be nice if people agreed on these things, and made less of a big deal out of it all . Unfortunately as it is, we have a situation where when someone famous unintentionally says something slightly offensive, there’s a massive media backlash; and in turn, plenty of famous people (and their fans) react furiously to being criticised for saying something slightly offensive. It results in an ugly vicious circle that just entrenches existing attitudes rather than helping anybody.

    Oh well. At least we can all agree that people who buy expensive dragon decks and use them to beat down on lowly newbies are dicks.

  • Beautifully said, X.
    I try my damndest to be the most inclusive, non-sexist, open-minded human on the planet, and I still find myself telling my nieces, “Oh, aren’t you a pretty princess!” It just comes out. I MEAN to say, “Oh, look how brilliant you are, you smart thing you! I can tell you’re going to be a scientist!” But then I see a pink onesie with kittens, and I drool.
    It’s ingrained. And admitting that we have this embedded way of thinking allows us to move on, one step at at time, toward the future we want.

  • Orathaic says:

    Please continue to rock!

    Should i also call you a prick?

    Ok, so i think ‘stop doing that’ is a good place to start.

    We might also teach kids in school how to react when told to ‘stop doing that’ – i think this is particularly important when it comes to men who want to support feminists but don’t know how. If all they are told is ‘Stop’ but not ‘Hey, you should try it this way instead, because that way hurts us’, then they end up confused and annoyed – some men turn into MRAs; not that i think these are the same men who wan to support feminists.

    Also, i don’t necessarily feel the responsibility for teaching these men should fall on you. Or on women in general. Infact i think it should be taken up by all the male feminists out there! Act as positive male rolemodels for all the chauvinistic men who were made this way by the world.

    Oh and GOTN, thank you. I would like to offer this one piece of advice. If you think i have good ideas for how to make men less sexist, try reversing the gender and applying them to yourself, that might make your less sexist. If my advice is shite, feel free to tell me!

    • Orathaic says:

      Oh my god, that bit on the end seems so condescending. I wish i could edit it. Apologies if i come off as an absolute prick.

      • Girl on the net says:

        hehe, don’t worry – I don’t think you sound condescending. Your point about ‘stop’ versus ‘stop, and do X instead’ is a valid one, although I suspect I’m probably not the only woman on the internet who’ll be thinking ‘that just doesn’t work though.’ Often pointing out certain sexist behaviour is simply an open door for someone to then argue the point with you, insisting that you spend a lot of time and effort persuading them, when in reality they do not want to be persuaded and aren’t willing to listen. A wise friend of mine once advised me to remember that you need a variety of approaches – so while some people will get angry and say ‘don’t do that you nob’, others will say ‘do you understand why you shouldn’t do that?’ or even ‘here’s a suggestion of a better thing to do.’

        And yeah, I know it’s not my responsibility – it’d be arrogant of me to think it was. I kind of feel like it’s a collective responsibility, and one which I hope more of us take on when we can, while accepting that not everyone can do it all the time =)

        Thanks for your comment – and sorry I don’t have an editing facility! FWIW I don’t think you were condescending at all.

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