Last night, I was (finally) catching up on the massive backlog of blog posts in my reader, and I came to this post called The Hidden Cost of Acceptance from Cloud over at Wandering Scientist. In it, she discusses how the acceptance of sexism as “just the way things are” makes her life, and her job, harder, and how it rankles when the answer given seems to be to be, “Eh, just deal with it.” (She puts it way more eloquently than I do, you really should read it).
While I was reading it, I found myself thinking, “Whew, I’m so glad that is not my norm.” I’ve been incredibly lucky in my 13 years in the working world to be employed, with one six month exception, at places that are dominated by women, or at bare minimum that are an even split between the sexes. I’ve worked for 2 companies with female CEO’s. With the exception of one 5 month transition period, I’ve never had a male boss. I am surrounded by females who set policy, who drive business, who run the freaking show. So a lot of the sexism that Cloud talks about is NOT a part of my day to day work life.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen though. I had one guy I worked with who assumed all the women in our department were there to get him coffee, all the way from the assistants up to the VP’s. He never asked that of the men. I worked, briefly, with this sales guy who practically sneered at any idea that came out of my mouth…but when my male coworker would present the same idea a week later (at my request), would think it was the best ever.* Then there was the old school guy who called all the ladies “sweetcheeks” and was known to openly ogle any woman who came into a meeting with him. Skeevy. And of course, my favorite–the guy who, in meetings, would always address my (male) employee for answers that only I could give.
But in general, my work experience has been free-er of the sexism that so many experience in so many other fields, and for that I am grateful.
That doesn’t mean that I think it’s not a problem. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t think we need to continue to address it. Just because it’s not MY day to day, doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge that it’s SOMEONE’S day to day…and that it’s wrong. Or that it may someday BE my day to day. I am a woman working in America, it happens to me on occasion even in this industry that is very heavily skewed female, and it will likely happen to me in the future.
I think a lot of the struggles people have get dismissed by “well, it doesn’t happen to ME, so it doesn’t happen.” Or “it doesn’t happen to me, so it’s not a big deal.” There is this inherent lack of empathy in so many of our interactions with others, with our dismissal of others’ struggles. There is a lack of ability to put ourselves in the shoes of the people around us. Imagine how much would be at least DISCUSSED if we could get rid of “Well, it doesn’t happen to me…”
I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I know that there’s no easy answer, but it just seems to me that this is on the list of things that women shouldn’t have to just “accept” in order to work in this country. As Cloud says in her post, the extra weight this puts on her at work makes her life harder, and that just isn’t the way it should be. But I think it will take people who AREN’T in this position acknowledging it as a problem, imagining what it must be like for the people who DO experience it, before it will be something that we can fully address.
So what about you? Have you experienced, or seen, sexism in your workplace? Have you felt it get better or worse as you’ve been employed longer? Do you think that a lack of empathy contributes to the dismissal of sexism as a problem?
*Many of these were ideas that would make my working life easier as far as systems. I decided I cared more about making the changes than getting the credit. That guy wasn’t with the company for long, apparently he pissed off his (female) boss one too many times with not listening to the tasks she had given him.
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