Feminists and allies need to avoid bad sexism comebacks for a few reasons:
- they may not work
- they may further/buy into other oppressions
- they might actually be sexist
- they might be otherwise morally objectionable
- they may derail the discussion
So here's some things to avoid!
- 1 Appeals to rape culture
- 2 Appeals to violence
- 3 Appeals to feminist cookies
- 4 Appeals to homophobia
- 4.1 "That sexist thing you said! That was gay!"
- 4.2 "That sexist thing you said! That was icky! Like you having sex with a man would be icky, see?"
- 4.3 "That sexist thing you said! That was icky! Women would hate that, so that makes you gay! Which is bad!"
- 4.4 "Imagine if we had booth hunks! Imagine how squicked you as a man would feel!"
- 5 Appeals to androcentrism
- 6 Appeals to the purity of women
- 7 Appeals to genitals/bodies
- 8 Appeals to ageism
- 9 Appeals to racism
- 10 Appeals to ableism
- 11 See also
Appeals to rape culture
"You deserve to be raped because of that sexist thing you said"
Telling a sexist that they deserve be raped makes you no better than them.
Appeals to violence
"Say that again and I'll..."
Threats of violence potentially reinforce the very oppressive structures you're correctly objecting to. If you are a white man, it's likely that you can jokingly make these threats and not be treated as if you really mean it. A man of color would not be as likely to be comfortable responding this way. Conversely, if somebody does treat your threat as a credible one, in many countries, you may be liable for criminal charges.
"Just try saying that to my face."
Thinly veiled threats are still threats.
"Go and kill yourself."
Not a threat, but still universally unacceptable behaviour and again verges on the unlawful. Moreover, potentially triggering to people who have experienced suicidal ideation, or who are already experiencing it presently. Before issuing such a command, consider that some people may actually act on it.
"You deserve to be beaten up for that sexist thing you said."
"Women won't have sex with you if you do sexist things!"
This isn't actually true: women sometimes have sex with sexists. And we don't want it to be true. There is no promise of having more sex associated with being feminist.
Plus you might be talking to someone who doesn't have sex with women.
Appeals to homophobia
Don't fight sexism by implying that being a sexist is like being queer! And don't fight sexism by implying that every man you've heard be sexist must be straight. He may not be.
"That sexist thing you said! That was gay!"
"That sexist thing you said! That was icky! Like you having sex with a man would be icky, see?"
"That sexist thing you said! That was icky! Women would hate that, so that makes you gay! Which is bad!"
"Imagine if we had booth hunks! Imagine how squicked you as a man would feel!"
Things that are wrong with this:
- The objection to booth babes is not precisely that women are not attracted to booth babes (some women are!)
- A man, especially a straight one, might feel squicked by booth hunks. And some of it might be due to his body shame or his feeling of being compared to them, thus analogous to women's experiences. But part of it is quite likely to be internalised homophobia.
- A gay or bi man will feel invisible: you've just assumed he is straight and that men are of no sexual interest to him.
Appeals to androcentrism
That sexist thing you said! That wasn't very manly!
Don't. Substitute moral or aesthetic words rather than invoking fear of femininity.
Appeals to the purity of women
"I wouldn't want my mother or sister to hear that kind of talk!"
Again, this might mean your mother or sister in the sense of a person you care for and don't want to experience sexism. OK. But what it sounds like you are saying is that you, a man, are keen to defend the purity and innocence of your mother or sister. (See White Knighting.)
Appeals to genitals/bodies
These are very common even among feminists (see hive vagina)... but. Not all women have vaginas. Some women have penises. Some men have vaginas and uteruses. Trans women and non-binary people experience sexism, trans people also experience transphobia.
Samples of these include things like "and then someone with a penis spoke up and the magical penis made everyone listen" (try adopting the term Magical Man Sparkles instead) or referring to women as "having an innie rather than an outie" etc. At best, these other trans people. Likewise using "having a Y chromosome" as a shorthand for being a man.
Appeals to ageism
"I know it wasn't thought as sexist in your youth, but thinking that now is senile."
"Stop talking like a 12-year-old!"
Argument mostly used against seniors or teenagers.
Don't imply that someone's age is the reason to hir sexist ideas or imply being sexist is acting like someone of $age, it'll only stigmatize and/or trivialize other people of $age.
Appeals to racism
"I know your culture taught you sexist values, but make a little effort!"
Again, this is more likely to stigmatize other persons of that cultural background or who looks like they are part of that cultural background.
Appeals to ableism
You must be insane to think those sexist things!
Yet again, this is more likely to stigmatize people with mental illnesses.
That sexist thing you said! It was retarded!