ADDRESSING GENDER STEREOTYPES WITH YOUR CLOSE FRIENDS IS HARD…BUT I DID IT!

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I love being friends with guys- they’re easy, funny, and call me out when I need it. I live with four guys, and I love them all more than anything in the world. We do everything together, hang out and watch movies, get food, go to Dunkin, and watch sports together. Recently, all of us have been attending the JMU Basketball games. As mentioned, I love them all more than anything because they are my family, but it is here where I have had to call them out on their gender stereotypes and blatant bias about and against women. Going to these events with my guy friends has allowed me to see the misogynist tendencies my friends engage in and the importance of communicating with them about it to aid in discussing their way of thinking to conduct change around gender stereotypes.

I love basketball, and I always have. I don’t necessarily watch it on TV, but I love supporting my school. I am generally interested in it, so when my guy friend found out about this, they were surprised…but also a little confused. After we had just won against George Mason, I went to get food with one of my best guy friends, and we talked about the game. I was bringing up a few things I noticed, and he started to laugh. After I asked, “why?” he said, “I am just surprised you’re so into it because you’re a girl.” I didn’t say it then, but that genuinely pissed me off.

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I continued, but I went home and thought of other stuff they had said at the game. Then, a Women’s sports ad popped up while we were watching, and they said, “f that who even watches women’s sports.”

I was yelling one time at a bad call, and one of my friends said, “Yes, you tell them *insert my name.” That comment made me feel weird, and I realized why he was saying that. He made fun of me because I am a girl, yelling and putting my sense into a men’s sport.

Just realizing it now, these words affected me—they hurt me. I felt uncomfortable after they said it and small. I didn’t yell again, and I didn’t bring up sports again. These microaggressions made me feel like I didn’t have a voice and couldn’t say what I felt. Now, I know my friends didn’t mean it like that, but this is how it came across to me. Instead of letting it go, though, I sat down and told them how I felt.

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It is important to note that not all men do this, but this is what happened with my friends. I felt it was important to speak up so other women they may be friends with now and down the road didn’t feel like this. Here is what I told them.

I said, “Do you guys know what microaggressions are?” and they responded with, “yes, sorta.” So I continued and said, “well, gender microaggressions are also a thing, and I wanted to talk to you guys about them. Since we are so close, I feel like I can come to you guys about anything. For example, lately, I feel like you guys have been saying some out-of-pocket stuff at the basketball games, and I just wanted to bring that to your attention. Luckily, it is me, and we can have these conversations, but when you guys say stuff like, ‘well you are a woman or f women’s sports,’ it makes me feel uncomfortable.”

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They responded well to this conversation, and since then, I haven’t heard anything. But this made me realize something about my guy friends. Without me bringing it up, they probably wouldn’t have even known. So, change starts with us and conversations with our friends. It saves my friends from an uncomfortable interaction down the road, makes me feel more comfortable, and allows them to engage in a safe space for dialogue. So, it does start with us and just a simple conversation.

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