Monday Sexism

Today I had an interesting experience. I spoke with a man for 40 minutes, interpreting/helping a female coworker who is a highly qualified light/photography engineer. The man we were speaking to argued with us for 40 minutes about how what we wanted was wrong, but then immediately “understood” when our male coworker weighed in to explain. This leads me to come to the following conclusion:

“Women’s voices are high pitched, like dog whistles, and only some dogs can hear them.”

Joking aside, I’m pretty proud of myself for the way I handled it today. The last time I was in a similar situation, I let someone waste so much of my time that I finally said to the guy: “I’m going to be very direct. I wasn’t born yesterday. Please stop lying to me or I can’t help you”. I wish I was one of those people who could just smile and nod, but I’m not. Not yet. I wonder if I would still be me if I was that kind of person.

I suppose one has to choose their battles wisely, or else they will spend their whole life fighting. If someone is lying to me, my first instinct is to call them out, but in the world or work, that doesn’t usually result in cooperation, especially when dealing with male egos.

I’ve informed my male coworkers who aren’t cave dwellers that from now on, I want them to speak to this third party. I can’t change him and his ingrained opinions, nor the fact that he refuses to listen to smart women who have different ideas from him. Life would be much easier if I were a man (e.g.not having so much ridiculous and time consuming pressure on my appearance, traveling on my own, people taking me more seriously and allowing me to be a leader instead of cutting me down), but I’m not, and that’s that. I’m only here a few more weeks, I don’t care about this guy, and if he wants to discount what I have to say out of hand because I am a woman then he can talk to my male coworkers, they can say the same thing, and he might be less emasculated by that. But I need to bite my tongue from saying “You’re not listening because we are women”, because unlike Madrid, few people are direct here, least of all women to men. (After all the difficulties that I overcame in Madrid, who ever thought I would miss that city?)

Needless to say, it made me miss my partner terribly. He speaks to me like an equal in all things, he’s not scared to tell me that he disagrees with me, nor is he scared to admit when I am right. He never suggests that my map reading abilities may be sub par, even though we often “discover new destinations” when I am copilot in the car. He’s man enough to cook, and sing, and laugh and be silly.

Then I think about the girls at the home. They live here, they live in this culture. They are highly intelligent, beautiful young women, on their way to university. Will they internalise this crap, sitting in some office doing someone’s paperwork, thinking more about their hair, nails, and makeup, than they do about who they are and what they really want from life?




3 thoughts on “Monday Sexism

  1. genderneutrallanguage

    I expect this has much less to do with sexism than poor communication. You where failing as a person to properly articulate the points. It is not the audiences job to understand the speaker, but the speakers job to be understood. Language has a great deal of nuance, and you can get that very wrong very easily. My Mother was trying to explain material tracking to the people on the shop floor to people in India. She kept saying “They need the SAME number”, and no one understood. Someone else, a man, better versed in the local nuance of language and said “The numbers must match”. It wasn’t sexism, but poor communication. Why that nuance was important is beyond me, but it was.

    1. Sarah H Post author

      Interesting point. I don’t think that example applies as this conversation took place in Spanish (which was this guys native language). As that’s not my native language, I tend to speak very plainly, and I was saying things like “no, that’s not what we want” and “that’s not necessary”, going so far as to show him images from google of the kinds of lights we were looking for in the show. There was no way that he couldn’t have “understood” me, and he kept on and on and on until our male coworker (who was just passing through) said exactly the same thing we had been saying (also in non-native Spanish), and he seemed to respect this chaps opinion.
      Although I wouldn’t hold up the US or the UK as perfect models in terms of gender equality, the experience really made me appreciate the English speaking world.
      I liked your article on gender quotas. I have been thinking a lot about gender equality this year and am leaning more and more towards the idea that men need to have their “revolution” to break society’s labels for them. Also, I think that if men were given a longer paternity leave (by law), that would mean that women would be at less of a hiring disadvantage in the job market. We need to radically change men’s rights to see their children too. Equality needs to work both ways. What do you think?

      1. genderneutrallanguage

        LOL I agree completely that equality needs to work both ways. Equality can ONLY work if it’s both ways. If one is arguing for only one direction “equality” what they are really arguing for is that gender’s superiority.

        My opinion is that at this point addressing Men’s Rights is the best way to correct the problems that feminism is fighting about. Paternity leave as good or better than Maternity leave so that fathers can and do stay home with the children more, leveling the hiring field. Addressing the 300 women for every male homemaker will do more to fix the 1 woman for every 5 men in the Senate than any actual addressing of the inequality in the Senate. Addressing the gender bias in Family courts that default custody to the mother will do more to address women and children in poverty than any poverty assistance program. There doesn’t exist a gender issue that doesn’t affect men. By not talking about how it affects men for the past 40 years, we have developed some real problems.

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