Casual Sexism Is Hardly Harmless

Sense of humorSure, we can all agree that sexual harassment and Mad Men-era sexism have no place in a modern office. But what about when, say, someone jokes about women being overly emotional—that’s all in good fun, right? And women who get offended by it need to calm down and get a sense of humor, right?Actually, women have a good reason for being upset by sexist jokes. Thanks to researchers at the University of Melbourne, we now have scientific evidence to verify what many women have long known intuitively: casual sexism does damage. In fact, it may be just as harmful as the more blatant, outrage-inducing stuff.The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 88 workplace studies published in the last 30 years. One of their big findings: “more intense yet less frequent harmful experiences (e.g., sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention) and less intense but more frequent harmful experiences (e.g., sexist organizational climate and gender harassment) had similar negative effects on women’s well-being.”In other words: that “harmless” joke you just told could be affecting your female colleague’s job satisfaction, coworker relationships, and even her mental and physical health. And that in turn is making it harder for her to do her job well.Let’s all agree to make sexist jokes as retro as bouffants and pillbox hats. After all, we live in a world where people like Donald Trump and Kanye West exist; finding alternative things to joke about shouldn’t be difficult.