I have so many good, strong, spirited people in my life that when sexism is staring me in the face, sometimes I forget to do something about it. But this week I’ve had enough.
I feel I’m taking a risk here. I’m outing myself as a Feminist in a very public way.
A man once asked me if I kept my feminist beliefs hidden because I feared it might prevent me being hired.
I do, because I believe Feminism is grossly misunderstood by men and women.
How many of you, when you read ‘Feminist’ imagined some version of a ranting, angry women?
But today something happened that flipped that switch. I met two outspoken, brave women standing up for what was right in a situation that desperately needs changing.
Let’s put today in the context of the last 48 hours
I’ve been called ‘our marketing girl’ (at 33.)
Twice someone has said, “You’re far too young to remember this, but…” (try me.)
I’ve had: “At your age, you have a challenge ahead of you doing what you do.” (This person didn’t actually ask me what I did.)
Ironically, none of these men ever asked me my age.
In the last week, I’ve heard an MD call a junior sales woman a “floozie” (it’s banter, it’s banter…)
In the last 3 months someone has said, “Ah, [name of man] always finds the most attractive women to talk to at networking events” (He was talking to me because I’m attractive? I thought it was because I had something interesting to say)
ALL of these men have no idea – NO IDEA – how wrong these things are.
Because all of them were trying to be kind. They were trying to help me, support me and protect me. Make a joke, put people at ease…
But today…today riled me.
I was at a networking event that was holding a Ladies’ Day. Necessary, because there aren’t as many women in business as there are men, and this is one of the best ways to invite women in.
During the course of the morning, two comments were dropped. The first was by a man who assured us he’d noticed all of our outfits. (Thanks. Did we make the grade? Did we pass? Your attention on my outfit is so gratefully received.)
The other I didn’t hear, but when a woman stood on a chair to demonstrate her product, someone said something about a lap dance…
That’s 48 hours of pretty inappropriate things. I’m exhausted and frustrated and PISSED OFF not least by my own inaction. I grimace, I groan, I roll my eyes. But I find it very difficult to DO anything because I have or need to work with these people.
Fortunately, I was in a room with two feminist and they both called it out.
I am so grateful.
For the next hour, came the following list of excuses and actions:
- Man knows Woman really well and she wasn’t offended by the lap dancing comment
- Yeah but he’s the nicest man in the room
- We have lots of banter here
- No one will join now BECAUSE SOMEONE CALLED IT OUT
- Not because it HAPPENED, but because SOMEONE CALLED IT OUT
The man who commented about our outfits went on to deliver such a good pitch (it really was good) that he got the weekly prize for best pitch, effectively rewarding his sexist behaviour.
I would also like to add that the FEMALE lead of this networking organisation focused her presentation on how behind every great man there’s a woman because women are well organised and good at building relationships. (Since when have men not been organised or good at building relationships? Also: There’s a man in front of me?!)
But what was so frustrating, beyond the remarks and the flat excuses, was the utter lack of ACCOUNTABILITY and the play for IGNORANCE.
Men are getting it hopelessly wrong because they’re not even TRYING to see it from a female point of view. They know sexism exists. They know it’s not an even playing field but they’re not even trying to make a difference!
And so many women, myself included, often shrug this off as just the way it is. But it is endemic and it is not fair.
Of course, no one means to be unkind. None of this was done in malice. But it was done and I don’t see anyone taking responsibility for it.
And it’s everyone’s responsibility.
How to Not Get It Hopelessly Wrong
I ask EVERYBODY to step up. Call it out. Do more than scowl. Because we’ll never have a level playing field if this ignorance and inaction continue.