Are we there yet?

Spoiler: We are not there yet.

I have two infuriating stories to relate. They’re real-life stories, I’m sorry to say.

Story One

I was at a conference a few weeks ago, and during the morning of one of the days, I staffed a table for WooCommerce. My role was to answer questions about WooCommerce, essentially. It was a busy morning, and I quite enjoyed my time (although it turns out that I’m not used to three hours on my feet). However, towards the end of my shift, someone came up to me and asked if I could go get someone technical, because they had a technical question. In a piece of fiction, this would probably be a man, someone leering and careless. But this is a true story, and it was an older woman who looked no-nonsense. I stared blankly for a moment, leaned closer to her and blurted “I am the technical!” She looked flustered, and immediately apologized and made it worse, by saying “I’m so sorry! I just assumed you were the booth babe!” Then we both inspected her mouth to see if there was any chance of getting her foot back out. Based on her face and demeanor after she called me a booth babe, she was mortified. I suspect she was flustered from her first slip, and it just snowballed on her. I helped her move on from it, and we had a good chat about what she wanted to do with her site. But still, it didn’t feel great. If you look a post or two back, you can see the link to my talk; that’s what I was wearing for staffing the table as well. It shouldn’t matter. I should be able to wear a dress and still be taken seriously.

Story Two

This story isn’t about me, but was related to me by one of my close friends. She works shift work. She’s got a bachelor’s degree, and has been with the same place for the past 14 or 15 years (I think – might be 13 or 14). Anyway, a significant amount of time. She’s the backbone. She never calls in. She switches holidays with people who have small kids. She covers shifts when others are sick. She works extra for anyone at any time. And she’s done this for more than a decade. A few years ago, she applied for a posted job at her work to move to a different shift – one that is significantly more popular because it’s first shift. She got the job, and was assured that she could move once they found someone to replace her, in the far less popular second shift. The replacement was never found. The job went away. More recently, she applied to be the manager of her group. She’s got the tenure, she’s got the degree, and she’s got the professionalism. She’d genuinely be great at it, too – she has great rapport with people, and can keep a lot of things in motion at the same time. A far less qualified man (in all ways – no degree, no tenure, bad enough people skills that my friend was actually asked if this man really swears all the time) ended up in the role. He bragged later that he had been through so many internal interviews that he knew what to say. My friend is looking for a new job. She resisted for so long because she was loath to be at the bottom of the heap again, except that she’s never gotten out from under the heap in the past 14 years. What can she do? There’s nothing left but to leave, and start over somewhere new, with no guarantee it will be any better. A qualified woman shouldn’t be passed over for a less-qualified man, much less one who apparently swears at customers too much.

It’s all infuriating. I mean, I’m glad that some men who use their power and influence to rape and otherwise sexually assault women are getting held accountable, but that is really only part of the problem. It’s a huge part, and we need to fix it, don’t get me wrong. But there’s also the passive sexism – the status quo – that people have trouble seeing or don’t think they engage in until they catch themselves doing it because it’s so ingrained, that we also desperately need to fix. If we don’t, we’re not going to rid the world of the people who think they can touch a woman because she’s there; they’ll keep re-forming in every new generation. There isn’t a quick or easy fix. This is going to take a long time, and we can’t ever give up. Look at the history: women have only had the right to vote (in America) for fewer than 100 years. White men have had the right to vote for the past 241 years in America. And of course have controlled all of society forever. So yeah. It’s gonna be a slog.

58 thoughts on “Are we there yet?

  1. Great and important post. Thank you. My mother, who would have turned 100 this year, died in 1974. She would be absolutely appalled to know that we as a society still have so far to go with gender equality and expectations. Absolutely appalled.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. In the first story, I also think there is a good point about first impressions. I have seen,and experienced, that when we don’t look like your stereotypical techie we often get overlooked. Brains and beauty don’t have to be mutually exclusive. (But hey take the booth babe thing as a personal compliment.)

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I was getting ready for a deployment where we were all invited to wear civilian clothes. At every information booth my husband was looked directly in the eyes and given information and then they turned to me and said I could ask for help while he was away…over a decade in the military and most of my family make posts thanking the male military members in the family for their service.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I believe sharing our stories will eventually raise awareness and solidarity between us all to work on changing the status quo. I added a link of your post (are we there yet) to a review I just posted on ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ( it’s an amazing work you should check it if you haven’t already)
    in case you want to check my review: https://zainabbooklover.wordpress.com/reviews/

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  5. I hate this discrimination. I have a two year old daughter and I think about this issue everyday. One of my older relatives have two boys and he generally makes a comment that how thankful he is that he didn’t have to deal with having a daughter, hearing that makes me so mad. Thanks for sharing you story, we all need to speak up against this discrimination.

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  6. Being a Paediatrician who comes across gender bias every time a girl child is born, I can totally understand why we’re not there yet! Thank you for testifying it out loud!

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  7. I think your friend should not look for a new job but get a good lawyer and fight for the position she wants. If they truely picked someone with less experience and is not professional then they should have to show why. If she is not willing to stick her neck out for the job she wants then she puts at risk each and every person (man or woman) who is qualified for future advancement. Why would anyone be motivated to work in a company that doesn’t select the most qualified and professional people?

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for putting words to the ingrained passive sexism. I see it daily too, and it’s usually a small thing, but so pervasive and poisonious. Sharing our stories is so important! Thank you!

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  9. And, black men — former slaves -=- were deemed worthy of the vote in the United States 50 years before the most educated white woman. Sexism is the most intractable “ism” in our culture, and though women in appalling numbers are raped, beaten and killed in their own homes by the men who are supposed to love them, this garners far less attention and outrage than expressions of racism, and especially racism that specifically harms black men (as opposed to black women). One would have a hard time gathering convincing evidence that female lives matter in this country.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You make an excellent point that needs more awareness in our culture! Eradicating discrimination and stereotypes is a long, arduous, and urgently necessary process that starts in our own minds: unraveling the beliefs with which we grew up and looking at how detrimental they are to human growth and self-expression. Women ought to be able to be who they really are without hindrance. It is far past time for societal change.
    Great post! If you’re celebrating, have a wonderful holiday!

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  11. We have two daughters and two grand daughters. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. No man or woman should stand over another and think I am in power and they are under me. Eventually it is turned around.
    The world of reality is filled with Karma.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Upon all the feminist writers we got all over the world,such is still happening……. Do you think such situation can be totally eradicated?, don’t you think it can only be reduced but will still be happening in our society of today?…

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  13. So true. I don’t even blame the woman of the first story, she’s the daughter of a society that tells women they are “not enough”. As women and victims of sexism, we easily fall into the trap of becoming the perpetrators too. We need to keep fighting this patriarchal society, empower women and educate everybody to create a more equal society. Thanks for telling these stories!

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  14. Misogyny is engrained in the history of most societies. The idea that it is in fact wrong is a new concept on the timeline of things. Let’s hope our modern, tolerant attitudes speed up the rate at which misogyny becomes unheard of.

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  15. It’s constant work-the deck is stacked and the pressures of society will wash away every little victory is we don’t keep pushing. Definitely a long slog, but the alternative doesn’t do anyone any favors at the end of the day. Thank you for sharing these stories. It’s always important to have reminders to keep pushing.

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  16. From the first story I thought the older woman was expecting your classic techie wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt (awful stereotype in itself)…but the booth babe comment turned that right on it’s head. It’s bad that people assume companies have people working for them just to be eye candy with no skills.

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  17. Truly infuriating stories. My daughter will hopefully grow up in a better world. It’s important that women too walk away from ingrained sexism (as in your first story) and gender mistrust. Crucial in moving away from this status quo is to place trust in those (esp young) men who truly and honestly strive for equality.

    I have been in the uncomfortable position of suggesting a woman colleague (one I had always had a good and friendly relationship with) to go out for a drink after work, only to find mistrust (at first, we later enjoyed several beers together). I am equally used to suggesting afterwork drinks to men. But while the men take it for what it is, buddies relaxing with a chat, women too often assume bad intentions.

    I can’t blame it, given the status quo!
    But striving for change also entails allowing that change to happen. I make no distinction between women and men in friendship as on the workplace. If we keep on applying different standards to men-men and men-women relationships, not allowing for the same friendship across as within genders, can we ever speak of true equality? Removing the symptom (abuse, harassment) by stifling it (prohibiting the behaviour), does not eliminate the disease (gender inequality).

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  18. We are definitely not there yet, and sadly, sometimes it works both ways. I work in a female dominant environment, and things are more balanced. Most of my colleagues are women, and the men who I do work with are lovely, sensitive guys ON THE SAME pay scale as me and we’re doing the same roles, and it’s the same further up the ladder in my profession. However, every so often, the men I work with are subject to a certain degree of sexism. For example, they may be expected to do the heavier work, which is unfair, we are all there to do the same job. And they have to be careful, because they are at risk of being accused of sexual harrassment purely because of the nature of our work, and because they are men. There are men outside our profession who belittle my male colleagues, because they see our profession as womens work. I’m really proud of my male colleagues for breaking the barriers and joining us, I also feel very lucky to be working with such kind and emotionally intelligent men. I can’t imagine what it must be like for women to try to break through that glass ceiling, but as a woman it makes me very angry

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Perspectives are fun to see from all the lenses. As already noticed, the ” booth babe ” comment can be accepted in many ways. The true thought like that one coming from a female is a very interesting point.
    Equality matters, I don’t believe that means the same roles, skills, or privileges for all. I believe that humanity as a whole is abundantly blessed.
    Even blessed to the degree of experiencing change and levels. Thank you for this read. I am now inspired to research the evidence that ” white ” anysex is currently the minority.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Being the first and only daughter, i also went through many such situations but yes! As my parents did, they stood by my side, and motivated me everysingle day . It’s better to do something rather than doing nothing, so sharing these stories will not fully remove this but yes! It will make people aware of what actually is happening.
    A great applause to all who are reading this .
    A great post

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  21. A much needed perspective on gender discrimination. Making assumptions based on looks and sex is appalling. There are so many layers to sexism in our society.

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  22. Thank you. I am 66 and I managed to live through a bad part of this history; however, the reason that I told you my age is that I once again feel the sting of all this. Not only am I still a woman, I am an old woman. Damn it. This time round, I won’t be so quiet about it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I’m very happy that the time has come for women to have a platform to be heard. I am not referring to blogging but bringing to light an issue that for many decades females had to be silent about. While I say this, the conversation is only happening in the west and unfortunately the Middle East is very much far and out of reach. This brings to mind the times were managers and top executives sexually harass females in the work place while HR covers it up. I truly wish that soon this becomes a global movement rather than a local one. There’s so many barriers making you wonder where to even begin. In regards to passive sexism, all you really need to do is have a look at any boardroom of global companies and how many females have a seat of power to the ratio of men. Then guess how many females would agree they’ve been interrupted numerous of times during meetings by their fellow male colleagues.

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  24. I think the fact that you helped the woman at the booth move through her embarrassment says a lot. No doubt she walked away with a wider understanding of the world because you took the time to help her not only with her problem, but with opening up her experience and pointing out (kindly) her bias. We can’t change the world if we don’t take the time.

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  25. I love how blunt you are with confronting the sexism issue. It is true that our society needs a lot more flourishing to achieve the ideal male female equilibrium. I’m merely an undergrad but I feel so blessed to see advocates like you who voice out with such bravery and poise. You inspire me with your stories, and I’m a fan❤️.

    Like

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