Shut down sexist comments with these snippy one liners

by May 23, 2024

Shut down sexist comments

Shut down sexist comments as very often these microaggressions have a macro impact and in the worst cases can cause trauma.


Sexism is rife and 90% of women encounter it every day in the workplace and inpersonal lives. However, up to 75% of incidents are not reported. Very often these microaggressions have a macro impact, and in the worst cases can cause trauma.


One of the reasons that women don’t deal with sexist incidents on the spot is because they:

  • are overcome in the moment
  • feel humiliated
  • are upset
  • fear repercussions on their careers
  • they don’t want to create a bad atmosphere

How to shut down sexist comments

The most effective way is to call out, and shut down sexist comments or any other inappropriate remarks in the workplace is to prepare a script. This means that whenever something comes up you will be prepared. You might fluff it up the first time, but I am reasonably confident you will get the opportunity to for a repeat performance. When in doubt rehearse with your dog, partner, or goldfish – it doesn’t matter.  Record your responses on your phone if you have to. If it sounds terrible it’s probably because it is and you need to keep practising. You are a work in progress. This is when better done than perfect comes in to play.


How to create a speak-up culture – 3 Plus International


1. Look suitably confused and perplexed.

  • Why exactly are we discussing my XXXX? (bum, boobs, length of my skirt, general appearance, tattoos.)
  • Help me understand why my (bum, boobs, length of my skirt, general appearance, tattoos) is relevant to this topic?
  • Did I hear you correctly? Would you like to say that in front of “the boss”

Although some behaviours do need to be reported, frequently targets of sexism perceive H.R. to be part of the problem, so that threat can appear hollow.

Sometimes there is place for passive-aggressive adulting.

“Did you really just say that out loud? You know that could get you fired?

2. Note their contribution

When you get exaggerated comments about your behaviour or personality or someone suggests you talk too much, or are hysterical/emotional/other stereotyped characteristics – note their contribution.

I hear your perspective  – can you clarify why it’s relevant to the topic in hand?

Men who call you “emotional” are often quite emotional themselves and are projecting onto you.

3. Nail the small issues

Every day sexism isn’t always about big incidents. Usually, it’s the constant barrage of irritating benevolent sexist comments. Here’s how you can respond:

  • Tell me what you were thinking when you said that…?
  •  “Sweetheart”…. really? What are you, my dad?
  • What does Jeff say when you call him sweetheart?
  • Did you really say XXX ?


4. Call it out

These relaxed semi-joking ways can work in informal settings and with peers, but with bosses, a more formal approach may be required.

Using the C.I.A. methodology you can:

  • Set out the context
  • Establish intention
  • Agree next steps and actions


When the perpetrator is a boss it may be better to “call it out” that is to speak to the person later.

Creating a speak-up culture requires a sustained commitment from leadership, ongoing communication, and continuous efforts to build trust and empower employees to voice their concerns. Learn how to step-up, speak up and self-advocate – 3 Plus International

One liners

These snippy one liners are not going to bring about cultural change overnight, but you know if enough women self-advocate you’ve got yourself the “feminist beach.” One grain,of self-advocating sand will create a shift until we’ve built a beach.

Setting the scene for a spirited response instead of passive acceptance is always a step in the right direction.


Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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