Tag - everyday sexism

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Everyday Sexism – Part Two in an Occasional Series
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Everyday Sexism – Part 1 in an Occasional Series

Everyday Sexism – Part Two in an Occasional Series

This wasn’t the blog post I had planned for today. But then I read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald and I had to respond.

Essentially what the link says is that it’s ridiculous that women are asked questions about how they balance work and home life and men aren’t (true), and that the answer to this is not to stop asking women this, but to ask men as well. It’s the latter premise which made me go “Woah, WHAT?!”

This idea is so flawed it makes me want to scream. The problem with asking questions like this to women in a male-dominated (or in fact any) workplace is not that men aren’t asked them too. It’s that they are offensive on a much more fundamental level. Firstly, they assume total incompetence on the part of the person being asked. The subtext is always how could someone like you possibly cope with this job and all it entails and deal with anything else. It doesn’t matter if you ask that question to a thousand men and one women, it’s rude, offensive and built on an assumption that they can’t cope.

Secondly, it also assumes that all the people out there who don’t have kids a) don’t have to juggle home life and work, and b) anything they do is far less important than all the kid things other people are doing. Let’s take a look at that for a second. I don’t have kids, but 99% of the things which make a home run like taking out the rubbish, paying the bills, doing the cleaning, making sure there is food in the house, they all still have to happen even though I have no small people demanding attention too. As for part b, well, I have responsibilities in the form of pets, which also need me to care for their every need because they can’t do it themselves. And let’s not forget all those people who are unpaid care workers looking after elderly or sick relatives. Or those of us who do things for neighbours who can’t – for years my husband and I did the shopping for the lady who lived in the flat above us because her mental health problems made that sort of chore difficult for her.

So rather than asking your employees or colleagues such an offensive question as how do you manage it all, why not stop asking it entirely. Instead, start asking the following question:

Is there anything we (the company) can do which would make it easier for you?

And then see how you can implement that. It might be something small, like someone needing to start earlier and finish earlier a couple of days a week because they need to collect their kids from school or get their horse in from the field before it gets dark, or take their neighbour to a support group, or get to training for the sport they play outside of work. It isn’t about why they are asking, it’s about showing them you trust them to do their job and everything else in their life, and you value them enough to want to help them do everything more easily. It’s about recognising that just because someone doesn’t have kids, that doesn’t mean their life is automatically easier, or more manageable, and that regardless of gender, we all have outside stresses which trouble us at work.

 

 

Everyday Sexism – Part 1 in an Occasional Series

I work in a very male-dominated industry. I’m often (usually) the only woman on the project team, and usually the youngest by about ten years[1].

90% of the time this is totally fine. But just occasionally I come up against some proper everyday sexism. And now I’m going to share it with all of you. Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me rage, and sometimes it does both. Today’s episode is a “made me rage” version.

Many years ago, my boss at the time sent round an email to the whole team saying he had a spare ticket to a black tie do that evening, and did anyone want to go. Myself and a colleague figured that a) there was no harm in being seen out by management, b) we weren’t doing anything and c) there was free booze, so we said yes.

On arriving in the room it was apparent that women were not welcome. The ‘comedian’ booked for the after dinner speech was more Jim Davidson[2] than Eddie Izzard, and the night was topped off by this spectacular interaction between a client and my colleague:

Client: So is that [gestures at me, even though I am TWO FOOT away], Simon’s[3] girlfriend?

Colleague: Err no, this is

Client: [cuts in] Well why is she here then?

Me: About that free booze. . .

My colleague made a valiant effort to introduce me as a useful member of society, but it was clear none of them wanted to know. So I made the most of the free drink, stayed until I could leave without looking like I’d run for the hills, then got a taxi home. Which I charged to the company, because I figured they owed me for not throwing a drink over the client.

I was about 25 when this happened. These days, I call people out on that kind of stuff, as you’ll see in future episodes.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Ok. Maybe more like five years these days.
  2. If you’re American and don’t know who he is, don’t google him. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  3. Names have been changed. Obviously.

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