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Have you been called one of these sexist pet names in the office?

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Megan Murray
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The shade these women have been throwing at their male employers is just glorious. 

Sexism in the workplace can rear its ugly head in all sorts of insidious ways.

We know that the gender pay gap, being passed-over for promotions and discrimination around pregnancy are all issues women still face at work, but sometimes it’s the subtle examples of sexism that can grate the most.

You know what we mean: the presumption that you’ll make the tea or tidy up the office instead of your colleague Dave over there, because as a woman you’ve been automatically stereotyped into roles relating to domesticity.

But one of the worst, and yet most common, ways that women are made to feel lesser than their male counterparts or managers at work, is the idle dropping in of pet names like ‘sweetie’ or ‘love’.

Fully grown, capable, professional women are often patronised with sickly sweet vocabulary that would be more appropriate in a nursery than an office. 

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Girlboss, the professional network for ambitious women, recognises this and has asked its social media followers to share their worst examples.

Alongside an epic video of Lizzo doing the robot (which ends in her sticking her middle fingers up – to the patriarchy, we’d like to imagine), the collective writes: “[This is] me whenever a man calls me ‘sweetie’ in a professional environment. What’s the most annoying/ diminishing pet name anyone’s ever called you in the workplace?”

The post quickly racked up thousands of comments, a sad indicator of how many women are made to feel dismissed in this way. 

And the comments from the hordes of brilliant, smart and frankly hilarious women actually make for some empowering reading, as many share their comebacks to male colleagues who have done this, or their stance on staying resilient. 

One woman shared the pet name that she’s been called before, simply writing: “Kitten.” To which another Instagram user chimed in, saying: “That is alarming. Can you reply by calling him baby hippo?”

Another retold an example of how patronising a woman at work lead to one man, rightly so, missing out on business opportunities: “My husband tried to save a deal because his boss called the client sweetie. Ultimately my husband lost 15k of commission because of his boss’ choice of words.” 

“*and his lack of respect,” another commented agreed. 

As a lawyer in the Deep South, this woman shared the sexist experiences she comes up against, writing: “I am a lawyer and I used to practice in Texas. I got ‘little lady’ a lot. Some context – ‘now calm down, little lady’ if I was too passionate or articulate for some men to handle.”

Have you experienced workplace sexism?

“On a film I directed, the producer introduced me to the composer and the man PATTED ME ON THE HEAD. So not a pet name, but he literally pet me,” commented another. 

We really enjoyed the sass levels in this woman’s response: “[I’ve been called] sweetheart, kiddo and referred to as a girl instead of a grown ass woman.”

Reading this empowered response has reignited the patriarchy-crushing fire in our bellies: “I create my own businesses and life so that I don’t have to pay attention to that stuff. If someone in my life does that, I walk right past that crap and keep on slaying! If it goes on too long, I correct it and then keep on slaying some more! Own your power!”

 But our absolute favourite has to be: “Whenever I get called a term of endearment by a man I don’t know, I like to reply by calling him ‘shmoopy noodle.’”

Yep, we’ll definitely be using that one. 

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Images: Getty / Instagram

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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