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Subtle Sexism

August 15, 2008

I wouldn’t say my office has an environment that is hostile to women. I really wouldnt. Mostly.

We used to have a female CEO, and that was great. We have a female VP of HR and… well now that I think about it, only one lady manager. Most of the company is male, my whole department is, I think we have about 4 women in our 30 person IT department, and probably about 20-30 in the rest of the company. So it isn’t that equal of a population.

It’s not like anyone ever says “Hey chicks go do this stuff because you are chicks and we are men.” But here are a couple things that I’ve noticed that weird me out.

We have a group that plans and throws events for the company. I am a member, I just organized the company picnic a few weeks ago. We have in office events and after work events. We only recently got any male members of our group at all, so things might be changing soon. But whenever we do throw the events it is invariably women who set it up, and women who clean up after.

Two of the women who are super involved one is the Sales Assistant, and one is in Marketing. There could be some kind of argument that these events are part of their job. However, at no point in time are they part of my job, or anyone in accounting’s, or the order entry group’s. Us ladies are the ones who do most of the work. In fact, the only thing the people who help out really have in common most of the time is that we are women.

There was even an event last year where several guys sat around drinking beer in the conference room while we lugged leftovers, cleaned up decorations and picked up trash OFF THE TABLE THEY WERE SITTING AT.

I’ve also seen guys grab food off of our Sale’s Assistant’s trays as she carried them to the cafe. NO offer to help, just taking food off of the tray. WTF dudes? Can’t pitch in a little, but you can eat?

Do I think this makes these guys sexist? Not necessarily. But I definetly think it makes them spoiled fucking brats.

We also have a weird setup as regards filling in for the receptionist during her lunch. Before I get into this I should say that this bitch is really more on behalf of others. I don’t help with this, no one in my group does. Don’t ask me why.

The people who fill in are One Executive Assistant, One person from accounting, and Three women from our Order Entry group. None of these people are men, none of their jobs have ANYTHING to do with answering phones. In fact, they frequently have issues with doing their work around their scheduled time at the front desk as they can’t do work while they are up front, and they are all completely overloaded at their jobs.

Additionally, during the summer we had 2 interns handling the front desk, of the 10 interns we have here, the 2 interns working the desk, both female and blonde. Kindof Squicky, and today, they wanted to go out to lunch together, so who sat at the desk? Our female HR rep, none of the other 8 interns who just happend to be male. WTF people.

Since there is no really process that determines who fills in at the front desk, we can’t really say X and Y are sexist for always having chicks at the front desk. But it’s kindof odd, that with a weird grandfathered in, willing to help out type process we end up with 5 women, who all have totally non admin jobs who end up working the front desk during lunch.

There are more subtle things, like who cleans up in the kitchen, and who goes to lunch with who, who gets invited to the golf outing, but none of it is really damning. (I’m such a ho, a guy was going around soliciting for the golf outing and I got mad at him for not asking me. I made him ask me just so I could say no, I hate golf.)

Anyway, it’s subtle, it’s annoying and it is not my imagination. There may be other things that are worse. I am lucky in that I have a big shiney diploma that impresses people and makes them think I am smart and important for NO REASON AT ALL. So I think I actually avoid the worst of it, I am concerned that there are other women here being overlooked or dumped on for reasons other than their qualifications.

Unfortunately though in an environment where everyone is being dumped on it is impossible to prove that the women are being dumped on more.


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  1. Mish Mash permalink

    Appalling yet true. I would also like to add that certain team members have attempted to make the “powers that be” aware of such atrocities taking place, but to no avail. Evidently, the “powers that be” are pulling all sorts of wool over their eyes and refusing to acknowledge issues that effect their team. F*cking f*ckers.

  2. I would like to propose a rephrasing of the “powers that be” to the “douchebags that be.”

  3. Mish Mash permalink

    Agreed. I would also like to say SH*T and F*CK.

  4. That would make me so angry! I know it is trite, but if you start documenting this sort of thing, you might be able to come up with something and get some change made. Even if it’s just the ladies getting together, saying “We’re sick of this shit” and confronting the dudes about it – with or without the intervention or knowledge of the “douchebags-that-be” (admittedly, I know nothing about the policies at your workplace).

    I am grateful every day that I haven’t noticed this stuff (yet) in my classes. Sigh.

  5. mari permalink has an article about Madonna that is hilarious! It’s hilarious because it’s about her turning 50 and every other paragraph is either about how she looks and how she exercises.

    they praise her for having plastic surgery (guess they don’t watch those discovery channel specials on the horrors of going under the knife) to maintain her “youthful” look. Women that are fat and/or black at that age usually don’t have to work done because of their natural beauty.

    madonna could easily have gotten scar tissue or something else go wrong. Calling Kanye West’s deceased mom? when madonna was looking tired, no one told her, ‘hey, madge. go eat a sandwich and gain twenty pounds and save your money.’ it’s all about making money and targeting women’s insecurities.

    i mean, nothing wrong with exercise or even getting work done if you HAVE to have it but being celebrated for buying beautiful? I wish I could think of a 50-ish actress who looks great and hasn’t had work done but then again, I can’t. Can anyone?

  6. O.C. permalink

    Your examples really aren’t subtle at all, especially taken all together.

    One thought I had is that before the next work party talk to the other women who tend to do the cleaning. Agree that after the party you will just sit tight and not start to clean. See what happens. Because these guys aren’t going to change as long as there’s no reason for them to — everything’s getting cleaned up! Everything is fine!

    Or make up a rotating schedule. January party cleanup crew: Mary, Jack, Dave. February: Shinobi, Bob, Steve…

    Same deal with most of these issues. A rotating schedule that pulls everyone in.

    Still, it sucks.

  7. “Do I think this makes these guys sexist? Not necessarily. But I definetly think it makes them spoiled fucking brats.”

    I think if we wanted to put that more delicately, we’d call it “male privilege.” But, I think I like “spoiled fucking brats” better. 🙂

    It’s the same way with the kitchen on my dorm floor last year (girls on one side, guys on the other). We all shared the kitchen, so we all had a responsibilty for cleaning it up. Yet, it was the guys who left their ramen noodle crap everywhere, and it was the girls who’d wipe it off the sink. I don’t think it’s subtle so much as people refuse to see it.

    Also this? “I’m such a ho, a guy was going around soliciting for the golf outing and I got mad at him for not asking me. I made him ask me just so I could say no, I hate golf.” I’ve done that before, lmao.

  8. Most men are accustomed to the fact that work around social activities just magically gets done. Most Women are socialised to ask whether help is needed (man does that annoy me after dinners or parties). After the next party, just announce that since one group of people organised it, it is only fair that other people will be taking over the clean-up. Or well, I think someone suggested that all the women should just stop doing cleanups etc.

    I had a friend/acquaintance, who was very tardy and very unrealiable (he happend to be a bloke though that is not the point of the anecdote). Yet he insisted on doing a lot of minor work for our choir. He didn’t get half of his jobs done, and most of the time, other members would have a Plan B for when he would screw up. This was all nice and well, but well … since we always had a backup plan, he was never held responsible for screwing up in the first place. We enabled him in his unrealiability, so to speak, we treated him like a child. And I bet to this day he never learned better, because there where never any consequences, there was always a backup.

    As long as there are always women cleaning up, organising stuff *without* being asked, there will always be others (in this case men) who don’t even notice that that works gets done, who never have to take responsibility for their share of the work.

  9. Oh Lordy, Shinobi, this rings a lot of bells!

    I really, really *hate* the way that women are deemed responsible for organising and clearing up. I’ve tried gritting my teeth and not helping, but I know that if I am sitting at a table with some guys while other women are clearing up around me, my behaviour will be noticed, whereas theirs won’t be.

    Also, the guilt of watching other women clear up while I do nothing nearly kills me. And the worry that people are judging me as a selfish! slattern!.

    I work in a place that’s 90% female, so it’s not so obvious at work, but it definitely is obvious in my personal life.

    My boyfriend and I threw a housewarming party recently. It was summer (supposedly – we’ve had really duff weather in the UK this year), so we had a barbecue. I went to the supermarket the day before and bought all the things we’d need, then spent the afternoon making salads and other side dishes, sorting out glasses and cutlery and generally prepping the place for our party. When the guests arrived, he did most of the cooking. After they’d gone, I and another woman (the wife of a friend of his – they were staying with us) ended up clearing everything up, loading the dishwasher and putting everything away before we all went to bed, while he and his friend played a computer game.

    Writing this out, I’ve realised it makes my boyfriend sound like a real jerk. The thing is, he really isn’t. He just (thanks to male privilege/male spoiled brat-ness) is able to tune out this stuff completely – thanks to women like me running around cleaning up after men like him, most men don’t ever have to *think* about this kind of stuff. Not to mention the fact that if our house is a tip, people will judge *me* for it, while indulgently chuckling at the fact that he’s unable to pick up his socks. *sigh*

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