Two posts in one night?!
Unheard of in DGCW precedent, I know…but the last one was essentially a Tumblr/tweet and this one is all about a Conquering the World While Wearing Stilettos blog entry that sparked my thoughts. In particular, the focus of my thoughts (and of the WWS post) is this WaPo article on “Mean Girls at Work”— the women who play just as big a role as the hegemonic masculinity that seems to pervade organizations and the business world alike.
I won’t rant too much, because, as the article says, so many YP women have horror stories of unfavorable (and sometimes downright cruel) treatment in both social and work settings, but the concept of the article really touched a nerve for me and took me back to a horrible experience I had during the inaugural meeting of a planning committee I’d been asked to sit on by one of my mentors (side note: Thank a Mentor day is Thursday, so don’t forget to shout out to those who have guided you in your life journey!).
As the youngest woman (by at least 15 years) sitting around the table, I was already trying to be conscious about contributing in ways that expanded the conversation and brought a new perspective without weighing in on areas I was unable to speak to due to lack of experience. Most of the women around me were extremely encouraging, receptive, and willing to see me as an equal contributor to the process, but during a casual side discussion before the meeting one woman– a key player at a (progressive) higher ed institution– seemed to think it was acceptable to belittle my stance on women’s contribution to society and the prevalence of gender inequality in even the most liberal-seeming settings.
Again, I will spare you many of the details of and feelings from that experience, but let me just say that I held my ground while asking genuine and inquisitive questions that eventually revealed that her standards for education on gender equality are different (read: far less ambitious or advocacy-minded) than her standards are for other forms of social justice, and not because she is dedicating herself to other causes but because she SIMPLY DOESN’T SEE THE NEED FOR DIALOGUE SURROUNDING SEXISM TO EXIST. This experience scared me because this powerful, tenured & titled, fiercly educated, civically-engaged woman’s beliefs parallel the colorblind ideas of “post-racial” society– one of the most effective present-day ways to oppress a people while evading responsibility for said oppression.
International Women’s Day is March 8, and while it is one of my favorite holidays of the year, I do believe there is far too much work in the name of gender equality (and too many causes for celebration of women) to be recognized solely on one singular day per year. I hope my fellow women out there will join me in taking a scrutinizing look at ourselves and recognize ways we, too, are barriers to achieving a more just and equitable world for our daughters (and sons!) to experience.
– – – – –
Epilogue: the woman with whom I’d had the ‘pleasant,’ erm, debate with pre-meeting did not return to the committee meetings for the remainder of the year. I don’t celebrate my missing out on the opportunity to have more conversation or build mutual understanding with her, but I do remain grateful that I was willing to express myself maturely and intelligently enough to stand my ground during our interaction. I only hope that my attempted thoughtfulness in the situation caused her to think twice about the role model and activist she hopes to be for women around here and women who will come after her.