Dear Dr. Faizal,
I love my husband and he loves me too. I know that. But he has a habit of making sexist jokes about women and I don’t like that at all. Yesterday, we saw a well-dressed older woman and he said, “Oh! She’s a hot oldie!” I have confronted him on this on many occasions that this needs to stop. How can I make him realize that it’s wrong??
– Angry Wife
I believe that any form of discrimination – whether it be racism, sexism, ageism, etc. – is wrong and should not be tolerated, regardless of whether or not you love the person who is violating this very basic social rule.
The example you shared of your husband’s comment – “She’s a hot oldie” – demonstrates both ageism and sexism. My first impression of his reference was that women who are mature (or older) are not supposed to be attractive and that seeing one who is attractive is surprisingly “hot,” a term that sexualizes, or objectifies, women. I can see how these comments would be offensive to you.
Giving your husband the benefit of the doubt for a moment, I’m wondering if he actually appreciates how such references to women are offensive to some people, most especially you, his wife. There could be many unconscious reasons for his comments. Could it be that when he calls a woman “hot,” it’s his way of complimenting her for her hard work in maintaining her physique and taking care of herself, in general? Could it be that by commenting on the outer appearance of other women, he is sending you a subtle message that he would like you to appear more sexual to him? Nevertheless, the point here is that these comments bother you, and he must respect this fact.
I would prefer you to sit your husband down and have an open, honest, and non-judgmental talk with him. Tell him some of the qualities you love about him – the traits he has that you fell in love with. Then tell him that you would like to fall even deeper in love with him, but this one particular quality he has (of objectifying women) is getting in the way. Share with him how you feel every time he makes a sexist comment. For example, you could say, “Honey, I feel sad when you call other women ‘hot’ because then I think that you aren’t satisfied with me,” or “Sweetie, I feel angry that you only see the physical parts of women, and I know that the man I love is better than that.”
If this nurturing approach doesn’t get through to him, and he persists in this type of behaviour, you may need to fight ‘fire with fire.’ The next time you both are together and you see a man with a noticeably firm derriere, you could say, “Wow, I bet you could bounce a quarter off that but!” Or, if you’re watching a romantic movie, you could find the opportunity to whisper, “I love how he’s so sensitive to his wife’s needs. It turns me on.”
If your husband truly has affection for you, as you say he does, eventually he will ‘see the light’ – not from the glimmer of another woman’s manicured hands, but from the warm glow of your unconditional love.