Not everyone is such a straight-up asshole. For most people, it's probably totally unintentional. We've all spent our lives absorbing TV and movies in which women are rarely portrayed as smart, and when they are, there's always a smarter male character not too far away. It's easy to slip into that pattern. It should be a simple fix. When someone does this, anyone who notices can point it out, and the explainer (wo-minimizer? eh? eh?) can quickly change course. No conflict needed.
Unfortunately, the person who notices it is usually a woman (being the target and all), which is where we run into a bigger problem ...
Women Want To Be Believed About Not Being Believed As Much As Men Are
That title will make sense in a minute, I swear.
People talk about the "wage gap," wherein women are said to make 70 cents for every dollar a man makes (a hotly debated subject for another time), but we have an even broader problem of a "credibility gap," wherein every statement a woman makes gets 70 percent (or less) of the credibility of a man making the same statement. A man complains of excruciating pain? It's probably excruciating. A woman complains of excruciating pain? Well, wait, we need to run that through the hysterical woman filter to find out how much pain she's REALLY in. Because you know how they get.
The hilariously frustrating thing is that when women bring up the credibility gap, that itself is a statement by a woman, and is filtered through the negative credibility multiplier. "It's probably only 70 percent (or 50 percent, or 30 percent) as bad as she is saying it is." This comes out in statements like, "It's only a tiny number of weird sexist guys who do that, so don't act like it's a big problem that's everywhere," or "It's not nearly as bad as it is in Iran," which collectively come out to, "It's almost all better, so we don't need to do anything about it."
This pushes women to use stronger and stronger language to get their issues on the radar ("complain more," as the doctor advised my mom), which skeptics just use as "proof" that women blow everything out of proportion and you have to mentally dial back everything they say. So women get louder and angrier ... etc.
knape/iStockHonestly, we're pretty pissed at this point.
Depressingly, it seems like the most effective way for a woman to get a problem taken seriously is to have a man repeat it, like in the case of Buress and Cosby. Alright, whatever it takes.
Editor's Note: This is John Cheese, a male editor with a penis, and I endorse this message.
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