“Yes I’ve made my mistakes, but listen and understand, my mistakes are no worse than yours just because I’m a woman.”
“Just Because I’m a Woman~ Dolly Parton”
Photo credit to AAUW
Let’s be very real about how glaring the topic of sexism has been in our lives for the past year.
I am currently home sick with the flu. A nasty, consuming, had to leave work early flu. Its embarrassing enough to be ill at work (especially in a public bathroom.) What is further worse was that a female supervisor chose to subject me to sexism in front of other colleagues. I had my arm rubbed and was asked, “Is it flu or is there something you want to tell me?” Because I’m a woman of my early 30s, the assumption was that “she must be pregnant.” I retorted back a snarky remark of “don’t you think I would be even more awesome if I was getting some?” rubbed her arm back, and excused myself to be sick again.
Sick and pissed off.
A man would never have been asked such a question or had their personal reproductive health issues brought forward. I also have huge reproductive insecurities. I had the shock of an accidental pregnancy & miscarriage in my mid 20s. This was also during the midst of a very emotionally abusive relationship ending. I had cancer removed from my right ovary when I was 27. If I ever do choose to attempt to have children, I will be keeping this very tight lipped. It’s personal, and if I was experiencing morning sickness, not something I needed discussed out in the open. But I’m a woman, right, so my reproductive system is common discussion for everyone?
In a sexist society this is very true.
Spending the day in bed gave me time to reflect about some of the sexist behavior I have personally experienced both personally and professionally. It is hurtful and hard to dwell back on. (words and stories are my own.) Based on the public avidly following #shepersisted and marching for all women; I know I am not alone.
I can recall being out to a “wine Wednesday” at a popular location when I was in my younger 20s and working in off campus housing. Quite a few employees for this company would frequent these evenings, and it wasn’t uncommon for the company CEO to also be there. It was unspoken work event, and it wasn’t uncommon for the CEO to strike up conversation with me. I’m outgoing and not shy (especially after a few pinots.) One of these evenings, the CEO told me how much promise I showed professionally and how lonely his friend was after a divorce. It was very much implied to me that it would benefit my career if “a young, good looking thing like me” helped his friend physically not feel so lonely. So, I was told to sleep with someone 20 years older than me to move up at that company. I wormed my way out of that conversation and stopped attending those “Wine Wednesday off campus events.”
A few years back I walked over to the sports bar near my apartment to watch my Chicago Bears on a Sunday afternoon. I didn’t have the channel the game was playing on. I am very comfortable going places alone, ordered lunch, a cold beer and sat down at the bar in front of the game playing. There were two men about the age of my father sitting near me, who struck up a conversation asking me which team I was watching. I would chalk it up to light banter you’d find at any sports bar with strangers. Near the end of the third quarter one of the men said to me, “why aren’t you married or taken, you are HOT, drink beer, and watch sports!” So despite the fact that I knew stats of my team, had a promising job interview the next day, and was independent enough to go out for a game alone-I should be married.
I had a conflict with a male coworker that kept building, getting worse, and others were aware of it. My male supervisor (supervisor’s supervisor actually) asked me to discuss it with him in his office. I was at a loss for how to move forward with this situation so obliged. I will never forget sitting there and hearing these words, “I am concerned about the amount of anger he has towards you personally.” I looked right back at him and stated, “What you say if your wife came home from work, and told you that her male supervisor pulled her into an office to discuss another male’s anger towards her.” He started to answer and then caught himself before answering as a partner, not my boss. So basically I was told (as a professional woman) that I was responsible for a male coworkers behavior. If had been volatile towards another male, it would have been addressed immediately. As a woman, the initial problem of his anger problem was deflected back to me to correct.
I left that office stunned….
I was a late bloomer and avid runner in my late teens/early 20s. I came home from my first semester of college, finally, well….blossomed. Instead of people asking me how I was enjoying college, I was accused of having plastic surgery openly and from men who shouldn’t have been critiquing my body. Period. I deflected with humor and said, “I started drinking beer, I can’t help where it went” and would walk away from the conversation. Yes its snarky and humorous, but it taught me to be very self conscious about my new found curves. Weight distribution on women often results in curves. So my male friends were asked about gpas, housing, sports teams, and I, was asked why my body looked different.
I have various fleeting examples. I was told by a female supervisor that I should just “play dumb to get ahead” at times. She said it would be easier for me in the long run versus standing up for things I am passionate about. I brought up that the dress code needed to be enforced as a female coworker’s very low cut attire was causing issues and was told if I was saying something out of jealousy…”Is this the hill you want to die on Kate?” My attire was critiqued as being too dressed up in the work place, where a male coworker was praised for his new suit and tie. I’ve overheard conversations about my chest size and marital status by male coworkers who thought I was out of ear shot. I’ve been told repeatedly to “be careful” when out running as I am a woman.
I could keep going with a longer list of things I have experienced. My point, women are routinely judged, treated differently, physically critiqued and sexualized. We just came off of a long election that nearly resulted in our first female president. The media have been swirling with objections and examples of how sexism does or does not exist. I will close with the term “nasty woman” that has become a feminist mantra after our new elected president attacked the female candidate with this term. He didn’t demean her politics, or what she was saying at that time. He, instead, attacked her character as a woman. Because in our sexist society she had committed a solitary crime of being born female and acting female. Being female means you are open to critique of everything. All bets are off.
Still think sexism doesn’t exist?
Miss Weber, if you are nasty, sure as hell does.