If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em
Yesterday I wrote a post about the insidious nature of sexism in the workplace. Then, based on a bit of positive response to it, I decided to post it on Reddit (in their Feminism subreddit). I would call this a mistake, but putting things on Reddit to share with a wider more targeted audience isn't a mistake.
The mistake for me is ALWAYS going and see what people thought about it. As has happened before, I posted something and was judged rather harshly about my interpretation of events. Basically, according to four anonymous people on the internet, I am a fool for going to a sports bar with people I don't like and finding that I dislike the people and the subject of sports. There was more, but you can go read the comments for yourself. I shouldn't have, except that they have managed to get the wheels in my brain turning now that the fog of self doubt has begun to lift.
It's not actually a big deal in any rational sense, but I am a pretty sensitive person and I question myself very easily. Upon reading these things, I immediately thought that I had completely overreacted, that it was indeed my fault for being in the situation, and that yes, I suppose it is the price I have to pay to play with the boys.
Does any of this sound familiar?
It's true. It was my fault for going to lunch with these guys. When talking about where we should go, the place we went was called an Irish Pub by the person who recommended it, but yeah, I should have asked if it was a sports bar and then upon finding out that it was a sports bar, I should have either protested, not gone, or should have pretended to be interested...or simply be quiet (please note, I did do the last two things, like a good little girl). And if I was being ignored, it's because I didn't have anything to contribute worth listening to. I can't expect to be listened to if I'm not saying anything of note. And if my political comments were misunderstood and used instead to comment about how hot conservatives on Fox News are, then, well, I shouldn't be pushing my political agenda on anyone. I should just listen to the conservative boys and suck it up.
Of course, I can't really blame them. I didn't put a ton of background into the post about things I have endured over the past several years...things I just sucked it up and dealt with to be an agreeable cog in this particular machine. It was suggested that my dramatization of what conversation might have happened had I not been there was ungenerous and simply showed my extreme dislike for these people. Well, sure, I guess it could look that way...but I have walked in on conversations like that when they didn't think I could hear. I have very good hearing, and have listened to countless homophobic references, racist remarks, and watched as visiting female salesmen from other companies have been objectified by boys looking out windows.
What I also didn't say was that this was a professional situation. And in careers like mine, if you want to really get ahead, you have to make your mark. Here this meant that I not only had to look good in the technical meeting, but I also had to either not go to lunch and be less visible by management and customers, or go where ever they wanted and...suck it up. There is a fight happening everyday for women everywhere to be respected and accepted as professional equals in the workplace. What some people don't seem to understand is that part of being a successful professional is feeling comfortable socially with coworkers and customers.
And then there is a big difference in how you are accepted. One way to be accepted is to be quiet and docile. No one knows a thing about you that way, but they also don't have a problem with you. By being this way, everyone feels comfortable with you being around. There is comfort in that, for sure.
Another way to be accepted is to become one of the guys. For me here this means being insensitive, mimicking their sense of humor, being bawdy and inappropriate.
Both of these methods of acceptance don't really work for me. The easiest times I've had is when I've been at work/social functions and have gotten tipsy with people and not minded the flirtation or ridiculous sexual comments (not usually aimed at me). Instead of continuing to employ either of these strategies, over the last couple of years I have just tried to show more of who I am. I am funny, confident, and dynamic...but am also separate from absolutely everyone. I get along with everyone, but am just a little too this side of weird to really connect. I am not a recluse, but I do not have friends.
But really, this whole thing got me thinking a lot about entitlement, privilege, and the hoops we jump through in life to get what we want. My story yesterday was one with a feminist theme, but was my story special? Is my being female, and a female of strange persuasions the same as anyone with an anxiety disorder or odd interests or whatever else makes you different from the norm? Am I being rejected solely because of my personality and should I just suck it up and deal with the fact that my personality is getting in the way of my being accepted and respected truly? A man with bad social skills probably can't become CEO easily either.
I can't tell anymore. When you mention a realization about how you are treated differently because of sex, a lot of people want to immediately label you as oversensitive and just plain wrong. It starts to feel like the fact of being female is a disease or disorder that needs to be treated with self denial. I used to be one of those people, but as I said yesterday, once you see the way sexism colors everything, you can't really un-see it. My post yesterday wasn't about hating football. It was about not being valued as part of a group. That is what it's like to be a woman in a man's world. Sure, if I loved football I would have been able to throw more comments in, but I did try (because I do like football and watch it and know enough to be part of a conversation) and when I said it, it was ignored, but when a man said it, it was brilliant. But sure, that was my fault for not being brilliant enough. I didn't have the right statistic at the tip of my tongue. I didn't have the right nasty name to call one of the coaches. It was my fault I wasn't having a good time and for being wrong.
Yes, it was just a shitty lunch period, but are people so far removed from what is often going on in these settings to see the real reason it was shitty? It wasn't shitty because I was bored (I get bored when people talk incessantly about art too, but I don't end up having a philosophical/cultural crisis at the end...usually). It was shitty because I didn't matter and I didn't matter because I wasn't a boy. You can accuse me of reading too much into this because it hasn't happened to you or because you deal with shit everyday and you don't write blog posts about it. I am very happy that these things don't happen to everyone or that they don't bother everyone. Why would I wish that on anyone ever? But I do see, and it does happen, and I do blog. I am a voice that should exist.
Anyway, here's a picture of baby badgers, because I shouldn't take myself so seriously and shouldn't hate the entire internet. I mean, I found this picture on the internet, so how could it possibly be so bad?