Call Out Sexism When You See It

Call Out Sexism When You See It

We are all prejudice is some way. Every single one of us.

All of us hold conscious and unconscious beliefs about other people – particularly those who are different from us in some way.

  • Different heritage or ethnic background
  • Different social class
  • Different religion
  • Different political views
  • Different sexual preferences
  • Different lifestyle choices
  • Different gender!

It’s just how we’re wired – to make judgements about people. Which wouldn’t be a problem except that our judgements can drive us to act in ways that are neither fair or respectful.

During my recent interview on ABC I was asked to comment about a recent case in which a senior medical doctor said that female surgeons (and doctors in general) need to just ‘suck it up’ when it comes to the sexual advances of male surgeons. Needless to say, her comments incited hot debate in the Australia media.

There’s no doubt that sexism is still – in the 21st century! – rife in some quarters of our society. Yet it disappointed me that a highly educated woman in a position of power and influence would discourage younger women (with less power and influence) to stand up against it.

One of my three sisters is a doctor and she has many friends in the medical field. All of them have a trove of anecdotes about sexism in their profession. But just because something is ‘normal’ – sexism, racism, ageism – doesn’t make it right.

Just because sexism is normal doesn’t make it right. We have to call it out whenever and wherever we see it. Only then will those who perpetuate it realise they no longer can.

Obviously there needs to be more support systems and process put in place that make it easy for women to report cases of discrimination and abuse. If women feel their voice will not be heard, their claims dismissed and their career irrevocably damaged they will question whether speaking up is worth it.

However, every single important change throughout human history has required people to speak up against the status quo and put themselves – their career and sometimes their lives – on the line in the process.  But as I wrote in my new book Brave, “Cowering to those in power has never ever ever resulted in positive change.”


Which is why I want to encourage people to be more courageous and outspoken in calling out sexism when they see it. And I’m not just talking to women here. I’m talking to men too.  Men who truly respect the equality and dignity of women need to step up to the plate and hold other men to account – not to shame them, but to let them know that their behaviour will no longer be tolerated.

And just as I encourage my kids to stand up for themselves against bullies on the playground, I believe every single woman has to stand up for herself – vocally, bravely and consistently – to those who might otherwise step on their dignity. As I wrote in another recent post, we treat people how to treat us. When we do nothing to stop something we don’t want,  we become complicit in it. 

Will that be easy? Of course not. If it were easy, we’d all be doing it all the time already! It will take us really stepping in to our own power, owning our innate worth, and making a bold stand for not just our personal dignity but for the dignity of every single woman on earth and all those yet to be born.

I often write about fear. Its potency and its power.  Some fears serve us and keep us safe; others keep us living small. When it comes to stamping out sexism – in every workplace, in every home, in every society and in every country on earth (yes, no small dream) – we have to be willing to take action in the presence of it.

No more cowering and tolerating the intolerable.

Much more calling out the behaviour we wish to see less of.