A few years ago, my insanely smart, insurmountably sassy friend Cathy inadvertently created The World’s Best Response to
b) people who drop the n-word or r-word
c) anyone who just generally says ignorant, offensive stuff on the regular
Cathy was walking to the bus after work, deep in thought. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a man trying to get her attention.
Putting on her best Polite, Accommodating Voice she inquired:
“I’m sorry. What did you say?”
The man stammered/blushed/mumbled/stumbled away and that’s when Cathy realized he’d actually been catcalling her and she’d inadvertently politely confronted him. And when she actually responded to him, he nearly turned inside out with shame and cowardice.
From then on, Cathy used this method with almost every man who catcalled her. And apparently it has a 90% success rate of inducing shame!
And really, I think you can use this whenever anyone says something offensive that you both know they shouldn’t be saying.
Some direct eye contact and a polite “I’m sorry. What did you say?” goes a long way. Usually, people know they shouldn’t be using those words, but they might be testing the waters to see if they can say them around you. Or they might have forgotten themselves.
Asking them to repeat the words that they probably know are hurtful forces them to recognize their word choices.
If that doesn’t work, I like to say something like “Yeah, that move suuuuure was homosexual. Lots of homosexual sex in that film!” Or you could even say “I think what you mean is the movie was poorly plotted and acted. Right?”
Of course, this won’t work every time. Sadly, there are down-to-the-bone racists that exist in the world and men who would see a polite inquiry as an opportunity to yell crass things in your sweet face.
But most people? They’re good and just need a reminder that there is a human on the receiving end of those unpleasant words.