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>You can be a jerk unconsciously...

I think that it's very difficult to 'look inside your head' and specifically call out individual beliefs you might have. Someone who thinks it's OK to use languate that objectifies women, or thinks its OK to call a woman a 'girl' instead of a woman (do you know any men who are called 'boy' by a co-worker?) doesn't think its OK necessarily because they believe women are lower than men on a power scale. They probably think it's okay to say that stuff because of the culture they were brought up in - the vast majority of people they know never told them that it was unacceptable.

If I make a joke about how some co-worker of ours might have gotten to her position through a sexual favor, and you don't take offense, that tells me that it's OK to make that kind of joke. If you don't show that it's unacceptable to use that kind of language, it makes it implicit that it's acceptable to use that kind of language.

This means that plenty of people can be jerks without knowing it and without being able to reflect and realize that they were being jerks without a societal change. If all of a sudden, everyone you knew told you it was unacceptable to use that kind of language, it would be unacceptable. You wouldn't use it any more. The next person you saw use that language would be a jerk, and if nobody told him that it was unacceptable, they would be 'a jerk without knowing it'.

In the same way, when you live for years in a society where it's OK to make jokes about, say, how black people are 'built' for physical labor, and nobody tells you that saying that kind of a thing is unacceptable, it becomes implicitly acceptable. This can happen even when there aren't institutional forces at play.

If one or two people out of ten tell you that it's unacceptable to use objectifying language about women, you'll probably still think it's acceptable, but that those one or two people are just really weird, or extreme, or something. Then THEY'RE the jerks, for 'not being able to take a joke', or something.

It's only when six, seven, eight out of ten of those people tell you that it's unacceptable that you'll start to actually think that it is unacceptable. We form our definitions of what is and is not acceptable every day through our language and behavior on an individual level.

Language like this perpetuates cultural power structures in our society that we label sexism as racism.

So, I think that 'being a jerk unconsciously' is a reflection of the society, not the individual. Sure, there are plenty of people who just don't get the message, or really ARE 'unconscious jerks'(bigots), but the majority of the people that may fall under that category are just following perceived societal norms.

We're not at the point where much of the hurtful, sexist language is unacceptable, but we're getting there, so we'll see people from all ends of the spectrum - people who 'get it' and actively call people out on sexist language, people who just use acceptable language themselves and don't see the societal perspective, people who believe that it's culturally acceptable to use that kind of language, and people who know that it's culturally unacceptable, but are actually bigots.

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