A colleague sent an email to our department yesterday that opened with the line, “Other tip offs that our computers are like women…”
What followed was pretty (and predictably) contemptible; four bullet points of absurd stereotypes, ostensibly humorous, comparing computers to women.
I was… quite upset. I debated how or if to talk to the coworker, and ultimately decided to have the conversation when another colleague was like, “Hey, don’t send stuff like that!”
So we talked. I was still hand-shakingly upset, so I didn’t press the points I should have. Instead, I listened to the “ask anyone who knows me; I’m not a sexist” thing, the “I don’t do sexist things” thing, and the “actions should speak louder than words” thing. They did sincerely apologize for offending me. I did not go into the idea of feeling contemptuous rather than offended. I was pretty much all the things.
Unfortunately, I think what they came away with was, “Melissa is sensitive about these things and I should keep that in mind because I’m an empathetic person.”
I don’t think I did a good job of explaining that this wasn’t about whether they as an individual are sexist or not. It’s about the environment emails like that produce. The fact that I can be sitting at work, and apropos of nothing receive an email full of denigrating stereotypes about a category of people?
That’s a damn problem.