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Jul 17 2012

Another woman in the crowd

There’s a very informative comment on Pamela Gay’s talk, by “Stella Luna.”

I was unable to attend TAM this year due to my work schedule, but I very much wanted to go because I enjoy it so much – and also to be another woman in the crowd. While I personally have not experienced a grab or offensive comment at TAM, I will absolutely make it clear that as a very experienced mid-level manager at the Fortune 500 company I work for, I am the target of off-color remarks, double entendres, “praise” for my skills that might add praise for my wearing a skirt that day, or even unwelcome hugs in lieue of handshakes from the program director. (I’ve yet to see the Chief Engineer receive a hug from the director…)

When it isn’t about me, it’s about some other woman. It’s public, and it’s always just right below the level of out and out harassment by being a joke, a chuckle, a good-natured little ribbing. You know, because we trust each other and all… But it is NEVER a joke made by us women, and never a joke made about a man or about a person’s religion or skin color or country of origin. It is the last haven for obnoxiousness.

My company spender millions of dollars a year on high-profile internal marketing campaigns about Respect, about Diversity, and about Inclusion – the payoff is meant to be higher retention rates of skilled employees and lower hiring and training expense overall. But I think we need to get much more specific about the “woman problem” because it isn’t sinking in that those little humorous punch lines are a significant source of anger, discomfort and reduced morale to those of us who, as a percentage of our baseline, are the most likely to leave this company.

And by the way, I have pointed out very directly to trusted male colleagues who DON’T behave this way that they are still part of the problem by looking away and being silent when it occurs. It is up to them, just as it is up to me, to at least have a side conversation later with the perpetrator and point out how their behavior conflicts with the company policies as well as basic decency. Peer pressure works; let’s harness it for the common welfare.

A significant source of anger, discomfort, reduced morale, and stereotype threat. All those little digs day after day, year after year, drip drip drip, are why members of despised groups are subject to stereotype threat. They’re not “just” annoying, they do damage. It’s seriously stupid (as well as wicked) to damage people (and their abilities and hence everyone’s overall prosperity and well-being) for the sake of a joke combined with a sense of superiority.

 

26 comments

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  1. 1
    julian

    A significant source of anger, discomfort, reduced morale, and stereotype threat.

    All the things Paula Kirby says to nut up and ignore.

  2. 2
    Kausik Datta

    Someone should sincerely sit with Paula Kirby, Dr. Harriet Hall, Abbie Smith and many other women joining the anti-AHP crowd at the FTBullies crashtag (newly learned word!) and read Stella Luna’s post to them out aloud, slowly so that there is no chance of misconstrual or non-comprehension.

  3. 3
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Kausik Datta wrote:

    Someone should sincerely sit with Paula Kirby, Dr. Harriet Hall, Abbie Smith and many other women joining the anti-AHP crowd at the FTBullies crashtag (newly learned word!) and read Stella Luna’s post to them out aloud, slowly so that there is no chance of misconstrual or non-comprehension.

    La la la la la! I can’t hear you! La la la la la! I’ve got my fingers in my ears! La la la la la!

  4. 4
    Hank_Says

    @2, Kausik Dutta:

    Someone should sincerely sit with Paula Kirby, Dr. Harriet Hall, Abbie Smith and many other women joining the anti-AHP crowd at the FTBullies crashtag (newly learned word!) and read Stella Luna’s post to them out aloud, slowly so that there is no chance of misconstrual or non-comprehension.

    You want to patiently explain things to people so they understand your position? Go back to Femicommunazistan, bully!

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    It’s seriously stupid (as well as wicked) to damage people (and their abilities and hence everyone’s overall prosperity and well-being) for the sake of a joke combined with a sense of superiority.

    I wish I could have said this to every fucking authority figure at school and daycare who pretty much blew off the fact that I was being singled out as a target for bullying.

    The people who do these things are bullies, and the people who look on and blow it off are being bullies by supporting the bullies. And a bully isn’t made any less of a bully just because they’re standing up on stage or writing a prominent blog. It makes them more of a bully, because their bullying has influence in the community at large.

    Sexism just happens to be the prominent topic; since I don’t think the propensity of the anti-policy voices to throw ableist insults at the religious and woomeisters has gone unnoticed, or for that matter is any sort of coincidence. I believe there has also been some homophobia and transphobia, and wouldn’t be surprised if I missed some racism in the whole mess of awful. It doesn’t matter what it is, though; whatever comes from the anti-policy assholes is meant to do nothing but bully the decent people into silence.

    It’s not terribly surprising to see a movement that welcomed a big loud bully in a suit as a major spokesperson for bullying the right people (most of the time) displaying a huge bully problem.

  7. 7
    Kausik Datta

    Brian at #5: May I ask you what exactly is the point you are trying to make with that article you linked to? There are quite a few issues with that write-up, not the least of which is the giant strawman the author, Bettina, creates and proceeds to smack down:

    Sexual banter, the exchange of jokes and flirty comments can be the welcome spice of life for women, as well as men, and it’s foolish to let the prudish in our midst determine what is appropriate behaviour.

    I don’t know about this Ms. Anders or the episode that Bettina refers to, but in Rebecca’s case, where exactly has she or any one else supporting her or expressing solidarity with her said or indicated a prudish, sex-negative attitude? If you think she did something of that sort, please cite the source.

  8. 8
    Brian

    Kausik, I was posting a link to an article that I thought Ophelia might find interesting. I apologize , but it was the easiest way to pass something on to Ophelia that I could think of at the time.
    I think the article is shite, personally. Ophelia referred to the Anders case not too long ago, if I remember correctly, and I thought she’d like to see this.
    Apologies again.

  9. 9
    Brian

    Here’s one post Ophelia did on the Marty Klein guy mentioned in the link I posted…
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/06/squicked-again/

  10. 10
    Brian

    Post mentioning Anders…

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/06/the-flourishing-of-entrenched-and-vicious-misogyny/

    I knew I didn’t just imagine it. :)

  11. 11
    julian

    That article linked to in comment 5? Why I will never be sex positive. That group needs to stop pretending sexual harassment isn’t a real thing and it’s wretched and a clear sign of repression to not want sex 24/7.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    Blegh.

    Funny how much attention Australians pay to US bloggers! Why do they care so much?

  13. 13
    Brian

    Ophelia #12. ‘Cause you’re smart and interesting, and genuinely give a shit. I guess that’s why this ozzie pays attention to this you. (I presume you live in the USian part of the Pacific North West and this is your blog). :)

    On a more meta level. Ozzies are insecure, and we look to the UK, US and rest of the world for validation. Here’s the leader of the Queen’s opposition letting Washington know we’re your slave.
    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/abbott-criticises-australian-defence-cuts–in-us-20120718-22989.html

  14. 14
    Amarantha

    Hah! As soon as I saw Brian’s URL to that Age article I knew who probably wrote it, and then Kausik’s comment confirmed (no way in hell was I clicking). Arndt is a known rape apologist and Chill Girl, and is the main reason I stopped reading the Age.

  15. 15
    tigtog

    Another Aussie here who loves a good Arndt-mock session too, but it is off-topic for Ophelia’s post, surely? Since you found the previous relevant thread when challenged, I feel compelled to ask Brian why you didn’t find it earlier and leave your comment there? Ophelia could have seen it in context then.

  16. 16
    Brian

    OK, my bad. I apologize again. I don’t know how Ophelia’s blog system works, and had it occurred to me to post it on a thread that was more relevant, I would not have, unless I thought she would see the comment, which would mean she does full moderation I presume, which doesn’t appear to be the case. However, I fucked up in posting it. I will take my leave.

  17. 17
    callistacat

    At my former job there was a temp guy the company had come in when we had an overflow of work. He would constantly, I mean CONSTANTLY, make sexist comments. Not even pretending he was joking. Not sexual, but things like women can’t do anything right, of course that project was messed up, a woman did it, women are so “lame”, etc. This went on for months. I took the approach Paula suggested and just ignored him. Until he interrupted a conversation I was having with another co-worker about a concert I was going to. He said something about how women can’t play instruments, so it’s going to pathetic and suck and he wouldn’t waste his money on a concert by a female musician.

    I finally had it and asked my supervisor if he could please tell him to shut up already, I said I let it pass so many times but I was just so sick of his nonstop sexist comments. He (my supervisor)just laughed and did nothing. One of my male co-workers came to my defense and said, to be fair, when another female co-worker complained about them making Jesus jokes, they stopped. So one person got that it would be unacceptable if it had been snide comments about someone’s religious beliefs, but he was the only one who sort of got it. I can’t imagine him making comments like that based on race, sexual orientation or nationality and get away with it.

    Then there was the guy from another department who sexually harassed me the whole time I worked there, always staring at my chest, calling me a slut and telling me that the guys who were nice to me at work were just trying to trick me into sleeping with them. I tried to ignore him but the more he saw it wasn’t getting to me, the more aggressive and crude he got. When I finally did complain I got laid off a few weeks later. I had just received a raise and a glowing review, but the HR person said it just didn’t seem like I wanted to be there after I complained.

  18. 18
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    julian #11:

    That article linked to in comment 5? Why I will never be sex positive. That group needs to stop pretending sexual harassment isn’t a real thing and it’s wretched and a clear sign of repression to not want sex 24/7.

    Er, isn’t sex positive specifically in reference to the debate regarding pornography and sex work?

    See, that argument doesn’t even come off to me as feminist in the first place; it sounds far like one of Christina Hoff Sommers’ pseudo-feminist “assume patriarchy and then cover that up by glorifying the woman’s side” (when she wasn’t complaining about how irresponsible leftist economic equality somehow hurts women/feminism) screeds.

    Or, in short, it sounds like what an MRA would say if they were a woman and trying to sound like a feminist. “Frigid bitch” just morphs into “slave to the feminazi prudes”.

  19. 19
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    And now I’m trying to think of a good name for the people like Hoff Sommers who call themselves feminists only to start defending the patriarchy in the name of ‘empowerment’.

    I would like to say FIDOs because it fits so well with them being the patriarchy’s trained REAL Woman™ attack dogs, but I can’t think of a word beginning with D that fits into “Feminists In _____ Only” and makes it the same as RINO/DINO (Republican/Democratic In Name Only).

  20. 20
    tigtog

    Setár, you’re right that Arndt is off the Hoff-Sommers school of reliable paid-by-the-word everything-feminists-do-is-wrong trollumnists. Casting feminists as prudes is just this week’s wrongittyness, next week she’ll be bemoaning our wicked slutty ways.

    Brian, I was just offering an opinion. It’s not my call at all – it’s just that we’ve stopped discussing the OP, and I really don’t like seeing that happen.

  21. 21
    tigtog

    P.S. Setár, I hate the idea of the FIDO acronym. There’s too much history of bitch/dog being used as slurs against uppity women of all types, I don’t think it’s possible to reclaim a word suggestive of all that no matter how good a pun it might make.

  22. 22
    Bruce Gorton

    And by the way, I have pointed out very directly to trusted male colleagues who DON’T behave this way that they are still part of the problem by looking away and being silent when it occurs.

    On blindness

    To the gender blind and the race blind
    Those who put difference out of their mind
    Thinking to announce themselves so
    Does some form of enlightenment show

    Since when was not seeing sight?
    Since when was ignorance right?

    Proclaiming so proud, in terms loud
    To gain the admiration of your chosen crowd
    Reveal in your actions you cannot see
    The various goods injustice delivered to thee

    Since when was not seeing sight?
    Since when was ignorance right?

    For deference you claim no difference
    In your sight which seems the only relevance
    And ignore society that bribes eyes shut
    To follow this criticism with another “yes but”

    Since when was not seeing sight?
    Since when was ignorance right?

    The great wrong ignored grows strong
    What you choose not to see grows to belong
    I too thought as you do in the past
    But such naivety makes sure harms last

    Since when was not seeing sight?
    Since when was ignorance right?

    Gender does blind, and race does blind
    Tight with the strings of the social mind
    Lies and illusions remain with vigour
    Unchallenged in shadows free of rigour

    Since when was not seeing sight?
    Since when was ignorance right?

  23. 23
    echidna

    callistacat:

    I tried to ignore him but the more he saw it wasn’t getting to me, the more aggressive and crude he got. When I finally did complain I got laid off a few weeks later. I had just received a raise and a glowing review, but the HR person said it just didn’t seem like I wanted to be there after I complained.

    That sounds illegal.

  24. 24
    Bjarni

    callistacat #17

    Holy crap that’s awful! Isn’t there an employment ombudsman or something you can raise that with (I’m another Australian, so if it were here I’d be suggesting ‘Fair Work Australia’ or something. That company’s conduct amounts to official endorsement of harassment, and I would think there’d be some way to see them punished for that!

    Makes me happy (yet again) that the only time I’ve seen anything like that at my work the individual in question quietly ‘resigned’ shortly after it came to light.

  25. 25
    callistacat

    This was about nine years ago. I had no idea what to do about it and I had friends who still worked there, so I thought it might cause problems for them. I just wanted to forget about it, so I just let it go. It was my real first job and I was just too young and stupid I guess.

  26. 26
    Tracey

    Actually, in an at-will employment state, a company is free to fire or lay off any employee for the most minor of reasons. “Not fitting into the corporate culture” is perfectly legal and the employee has no redress.

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