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You're Cute When You're Mad: Simple Steps for Confronting Sexism
You're Cute When You're Mad: Simple Steps for Confronting Sexism
You're Cute When You're Mad: Simple Steps for Confronting Sexism
Ebook69 pages56 minutes

You're Cute When You're Mad: Simple Steps for Confronting Sexism

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



About this ebook

As she admits in the first salvo of her enlightening new guide to battling gender discrimination, award-winning author and radio journalist Celeste Headlee is herself … a sexist.

But aren’t we all? Indeed we are, no matter the strength of our convictions otherwise, and herein lies the crux of Headlee’s examination of inherent—and often unconscious—cultural biases: Whether we can admit it or not, we all bring instinctive and learned prejudices to our interactions and conversations, to the detriment of everyone.

Fortunately, Headlee presents a thoughtful, practical, and cogent manual on becoming aware of, and reversing, the sometimes subtle sexism with which we all struggle, actively or not. With the same empathetic and circumspect approach seen in her 2017 book We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter, Headlee lays out the fundamentals of creating allies, rather than alienating those who may simply be playing prescribed cultural roles. But deprogramming people without making them defensive (and dismissive) is easier said than done.

The culprit? “Benevolent sexism.” As Headlee writes, this pervasive daily frustration for at least half the population is “hard to address because people often fail to recognize so-called friendly sexism as harmful.” To combat this, the author walks us through an often surprising and always illuminating three-step process, drawing on human psychology and refreshing common sense. In the end, we’re rewarded with a compelling take on one of our most insidious problems—and, happily, a way to bring people together in these divided times.

Editor's Note

Stopping sexism…

Compliments based on a person’s gender can be just as damaging as overt insults. Journalist Headlee supplies practical advice for dealing with microaggressions and mansplaining in the workplace in this Scribd Original. “You’re Cute When You’re Mad” isn’t just for women: it’s for anyone who wants to create a more equitable and inclusive society.

Release dateMar 16, 2022
You're Cute When You're Mad: Simple Steps for Confronting Sexism

Celeste Headlee

Celeste Headlee is an internationally recognized journalist and radio host, professional speaker and author of bestselling book We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter, and Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving. Her latest is Speaking of Race: Why Everyone Needs to Talk About Racism and How to Do It. Her TEDx Talk, 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation, has been viewed over 26 million times. In her 20-year career in public radio, Celeste has been the Executive Producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Broadcasting and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, Here and Now, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as co-host of the national morning news show, The Takeaway, from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Celeste is a regular guest host on NPR and American Public Media. She is the host of Newsweek’s “Debate” podcast, and hosts a podcast for the National Gallery of Art called “Sound Thoughts on Art.” She is also the host of “Women Amplified,” a podcast from the Conferences for Women, the largest network of women’s conferences in the nation, drawing more than 50,000 people to its annual events. Celeste is also the president and CEO of Headway DEI, a non-profit that works to bring racial justice and equity to journalism and media through targeted training and interventions. She is the granddaughter of composer William Grant Still, known as the Dean of Black American Composers and she is a trained operatic soprano. She lives in the DC area with her rescue dog, Samus.

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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    I love it though I think I missed the relevance of the title.

Book preview

You're Cute When You're Mad - Celeste Headlee

Hi, there, I’m Celeste. I’m a passionate feminist and a sexist. Nice to meet you.

Perhaps you’re surprised to hear me admit to having sexist beliefs, or maybe that resonates with you. I’m willing to bet, whether you realize it or not, stubborn pockets of bias are hanging out in your innermost mind just like they are in mine, regardless of how passionately you believe in fairness. That’s often why conversations about sexism are tough; we don’t usually recognize our own bias, and neither do other people. So if someone says that a specific remark was misogynistic, the most common response is, What are you talking about? I’m not sexist.

This is the unspoken subplot running beneath the surface of all our conversations about sexism. If we are going to have an honest and productive discussion, we must contend with both sides of our personality—both the anti-sexist and the sexist.

Sometimes, my own gender bias is expressed as a positive preference for women. In that, I am hardly alone. Research shows females are almost five times more likely to prefer other women than males are to show preference for other men, and both will actually associate positive qualities with other women.¹ Psychologist Laurie Rudman has cited a series of studies revealing a clear pattern in which men do not like themselves as much as women like themselves.

Of course, as you might expect, society’s good opinion of women seems to disappear when females move into the workplace or positions of power.² We should probably talk about that, just as much as we should address that most people like women better if they are not feminists.

The sexist inside all of us is preventing honest discussions about sexism, and I know this personally because I am not free of bias based on gender expectations. My conscious mind believes in gender equity and equal pay. Deep in my subconscious, though, are stereotypical beliefs and assumptions that were planted there by watching years of shows like The Brady Bunch and Three’s Company, in addition to learning from teachers who had also been taught women are nurturing and kind, while men are assertive and courageous.

Decades of seeing my female friends take months away from work in order to care for their children—some of them never to return—while their husbands rose through the professional ranks had an insidious effect on my subconscious mind. Fifty years of watching men get promoted over their female colleagues has taught my innermost mind that men are better suited for leadership, all while I’m actively protesting the inequity of it all.

While doing research for this book, I took both of the gender-related IAT tests offered online by Harvard. IAT stands for Implicit Association Test, and it is one of the only tools scientists have for detecting unconscious bias, far more accurate than simply asking people whether they are sexist or not. The website has a generous catalog of tests,³ allowing you to identify your own unconscious bias associated with race, age, sexuality, and disability, among others.

The tests I took measured bias in the sciences and professional work, and my results were disheartening. On the gender-career quiz, my results suggested a strong automatic association for Male with Career and Female with Family.


It’s hard to accept, but there is obviously a lot of sexism lingering in the depths of my mind. It will take dedicated work to root it out.

To be clear, I’m not worried I’ll say anything overtly sexist. On a conscious level, I am a passionate feminist and never hesitate to speak up in the face of gender bias, even if it makes someone like me less. I have no patience for those who want to limit opportunities for women, or have expectations of how a female should behave. Yet something inside me, some stubborn bigotry implanted decades ago in my developing mind, assumes women are more connected to home and family, while men are inherently associated with career and work. That bias most likely leaks out of me through small comments and behavior known as benevolent sexism, which will be the focus of this book.

Benevolent sexism is the type of gender bias you are most likely to encounter on a regular basis and will therefore be central in most of your conversations. Not only do most people hear (and see) examples of benevolent sexism on a daily basis, but it can also be hard to address because people often fail to recognize so-called friendly sexism as harmful.

There are three steps to improve conversations about sexism:

Increase awareness so you can not only recognize benevolent sexism but also appreciate the seriousness of the offense.

Confront sexist comments when they

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