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Need your insight on... discourse techniques to keep inequality going

(42 Posts)
DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Fri 09-Sep-11 14:37:26

a bit of an odd one, but bear with me please... I wish I could make this punchy so people will post here, as working this out is really really important to me, both in terms of understanding the world more, but also in a very personal way.

I avidly read the feminist threads, and have been following the attempts to derail constructive debate here with a mounting sense of irritation/fury/depression, but also a sense of familiarity and personal relevance. Last night I realised why, and now i really need your help to work it out some more!

In a very large nutshell: i work in a very unpleasant company, which would be interesting enough for a post of its own - run by 2 women, but a product of a patriarchal society and women's individual ways to get ahead within that context (see second post for more about this if you want to read more! but you don't need to, more me ranting!)

I have become disabled, they are discriminating against me, i've just realised that they are using a lot of the techniques that people use against women/ feminists to deny them equality. Need to identity these techniques and work out how to deal with them, as without this i feel i'll fail to get through this.

I have become disabled partially because they have refused to listen to me and make adjustments, and now its crunch time, I need them to make adjustments, and quick. I have realised they are definitely discriminating against me because of my disability (consulted lawyers), but have had the insight that the way they interact and 'discuss' things with me echoes misogynist/ anti-feminist debate, even though they are women themselves.

The penny dropped after a really uncomfortable conversation with a director on Wednesday, which afterwards my friends nailed why i was upset in one... that she was belittling and minimising my disability/ health/ need for change. Minimising totally rang a bell... thats what people do to women to keep the status quo of inequality.

I now have a PLAN! late next week i have a formal meeting to discuss my disability and the changes they need to put in place. They will be trying every trick they know to not help me, break me down and make me go away...

I make them uncomfortable and they hate me and what i represent. I am ill having been perfectly well - reminder of lifes unfairness and their own mortality. They know that they have contributed to it, and guilt doesn;t make people act in a nice way... I am ugly now, fat and on crutches/ braces, limping/ dragging feet etc... ugliness is not tolerated, its disgusting and they don't want it in their company. I am a single mum coping with no family support and an abusive ex... they want to blame everything on 'child care issues'... and kick the weakling working mum who they despise for not being seamlessly in control...

I have prepared a really good business case, I know the law is on my side, I have the solution which is good for them and me... and I know they'd rather do anything than actually make it work. So, I need to prepare myself for all the underhand techniques they will use to discriminate and derail me.

My problem is i know they are doing something, but can't identify it til afterwards, when its too late to react appropriately...

This is where you brilliant people come in... please help me make a list of all the misogynist and discriminatory behaviours and discourse techniques, then I can learn to identify them and then handle them.

I tried to look it up on the internet last night and to my horror got a load of women hating sites explaining how feminists debate badly (spits and growls, ffs)... but again thats a whole other post...

so to follow are my thoughts on the list... can you add and debate and generally help me please?????

NB in case you are wondering, I need to stay working with them for another 6-12 mths, if i possibly can, but if they refuse to play ball, am going to have to take them to court, which i don't want to do if i can help it (yet anyway).

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Fri 09-Sep-11 14:37:40

Work description no need to read further to answer the core question! Cliquey, underhand, tough on women, over represented by men at board level, the women that are respected and well treated are the beautiful, thin, alpha females, who are forceful and bitchy and able to play and win those playground bullying games. Its a company culture based on being 'organic', with no line manager structure, all communications about personal social networks rather than formal channels of communication, and many many covert techniques to empower or disempower people without ever showing their hand. Women, especially the more emotionally attuned/ effected get sucked in to a never ending competition for a place on the implicit favourites list, and there are always a few people are are loathed and pushed out. Men, especially charming urbane ones tend to sail through untouched by this. Women have to work harder and are judged harder than men in the equivalent position. It tends to be the more beautiful women that get ahead, but only if they were the ones that would have been able to play the cliquey games at school type of people...

I've always been the 'taken for granted she'll sacrifice everything for work' person, and kept in the good books by doing just that for years. However got increasingly unable to over the last 3 yrs and after a hideous pregnancy and 'recovery' have been diagnosed with a genetic syndrome which probably in retrospect killed by sister. I am now disabled and very ill and need work to make reasonable adjustments under the disabled laws in order not to end up in a wheelchair or worse. Work have been bloody awful about the whole thing, and have victimised me, ostracised me and made my life a misery. for example, forcing me to go abroad on a broken bone and ripped ligaments, refusing time off, allowing juniors to be bullying and unpleasant when on my projects, refusing to make any adjustments cos i am ill, telling me i am bad at my job (far from it!), making me cancel hospital appointments etc

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Fri 09-Sep-11 14:51:59


1. minimisation of issue (its not important, it shouldn't be a deal deal, don't exaggerate, using 'little language'... a bit poorly vs disabled)

2. fake symmetry... what about the establishment (menz)? fake equality within the conversation... the establishment must have as much air time as me - unfair as establishment has the airtime all the rest of the time too

3. hobson's choices ... presenting things as choices, when they are not (choice to work part time, choice to be ill or not etc)

4. Shifting onus / responsibility (its up to you to find a solution/ stop being a victim/ get empowered/ we dont mind what you do as long as you make us money etc)

5. Blaming (its your fault we act like this because... you are xxx)

6. Diverting topics, so that you end up discussing/ arguing over something that isn't the core issue

7. Misunderstanding facts, topics etc, forcing the person to have to keep going over the same thing... having to constantly justify/ remind/ rather than just win one battle

8. bureaucracy / delaying moving things so slowly that you give up, or cant wait any longer

9. victim imagery / shaming, using negative victim associations to get person to not want to be the victim, or the wrongly one, therefore meaning there is no problem to solve (people want to be dynamic, positive, problem solving, not seen as a problem, whiner etc)

10. unfair fairness, judging like with unlike (instead of like with like)... so, it wouldn;t be fair if we gave you that, cos other people would want it too (other, well, non discriminated against people who already have a natural advantage!)

11. rewriting past, so refusing to acknowledge whats happened that has led to this current situation, keeps people arguing about 'establishing facts' rather than moving forwards

UsingMainlySpoons Fri 09-Sep-11 15:06:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

UsingMainlySpoons Fri 09-Sep-11 15:11:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

KRICRI Fri 09-Sep-11 15:27:43

This sounds like a ghastly situation! It does sound though like you've got quite a handle on what they are doing and why. The first thing that sprung to mind about them using tactics similar to those used in abuse of women was this -the Power and Control Wheel.

You've already picked up on alot of these tactics with your list and in the narrative of your post. You may be right that part of their action comes resenting you for reminding them of what they could become/will become (in the same way that nurses often say they don't like looking after elderly women or sick nurses - reminders that the "carer" can easily become the one who "needs care." But, and it's a bit but, although trying to understand why they might be behaving like shits may help you in some way, it actually doesn't matter with respect to how they are treating you. It's wrong and it's most probably illegal, regardless of what kind of headfux are going on for the directors!

So, it would be worth seeking advice from a disability rights organisation. They tend to be pretty hot on this sort of thing. You don't say why you need to stay in the job another 6 months, but it sounds like that could be dangerous to your health, so please think of that first and foremost.

Anyhow, best of luck.

HeifferunderConstruction Fri 09-Sep-11 15:47:38

I was just wondering how have the contributed to your disabilty? did someone physically injure you?/ If so god thats awful

What industry do you work in out of interest??

dittany Fri 09-Sep-11 15:58:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

KRICRI Fri 09-Sep-11 17:00:23

Oh, just a quick thought - it would be good to be careful just how much you give away here on what is an open forum. It's not unheard of for employers to look out for evidence from social networking sites that could be used to make things harder for you, or even amass evidence for disciplinary action. Just be careful.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Fri 09-Sep-11 19:08:46

all good advice thanks so much.

I will look at the links later as am going to lie down now.

I am definitely doing the right thing by wanting to stay for at least 6 months, financially as well as for health reasons (not up to getting another job at the moment).

This meeting is my last attempt to get them to behave humanely and legally towards me by being nice and polite and trying to do the right thing for everyone. If they don't make appropriate adjustments, then i will have to start being a bit more legal with them i.e. starting to make more of a noise around my rights etc... if all that fails i will have to think about legal action, but don;t want to, as wouldn't be good for me either.

So this is why i need a bit of help thinking about how to identify and respond to discriminatry ways of debating, as its a critical moment.

Yes, you right shall be careful about what i say just in case of legal ramifications, so won;t tell you what I do, or even the industry just in case, thanks for the advice. I will however keep posting about dialogue thoughts, and further thoughts on why a female run company would be furthering a patriarchal cultural bias... tis intriguing in an academic sense no? would love to hear peoples thoughts on both of these...

dittany Fri 09-Sep-11 19:25:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Fri 09-Sep-11 23:14:36

Don't worry have all that under control, the only thing I don't have under control is, the Thursday meeting arrrgh!

Any practical suggestions on how to handle the various discriminations?
Like, minimising etc?

Would be very very useful...

GothAnneGeddes Fri 09-Sep-11 23:48:51

Derailing for dummies is a very good website listing the arguments people use to excuse prejudice and oppression.

Can't link as I'm on my phone, but it's worthwhile read.

2nd Dittany's advice re union. IMO, union membership needs to be greatly increased, but that's another topic.

Catitainahatita Sat 10-Sep-11 18:48:03

Hiya: First of all, my utter sympathy for your situation. And a big congralutation on how well you are looking at it.
To answer your specific question you need to go over how these conversations had gone in the past and how you have reacted etc. This will give you insight on what not to say/do. I don't say this for you to fall into recriminating yourself or depressing you. That is not the point: you aren't in the wrong here, but you need to be clear about how the tactics you describe tend to affect you; this will allow you to be ready for the tactic and not rise to the bait as it were.

Second, I think you need to try and adopt the calm, polite but firm discourse style. Have a list of stocks answers eg. "Yes, thank you for imput. But that doesn't address the issue we are discussing. I am requesting xyz". The aim is to try as hard as you can not to enter into a derailing discussion and redirect the conversation back on route. This is frustrating and annoying, but can be effective in the sense that it makes the meeting shorter; you might not get what you want out of it, but you might come out less annoyed and/or flustered (that's what happens to me anyway, the more derailment, the more frustrated, the less coherent and assertive I become.)

This is my own personal tactic; sometimes I manage it sometimes I don't. I manage it much more often the times I have gone in mentalised for a situation like this. I tend to fluster etc when caught by surprise (this is why I aplaud your foresight and planning, it is definitely the way to go in mho).

garlicnutter Sat 10-Sep-11 19:17:54

Good advice here, and good resources. I'm really sorry this is happening to you. It did to me, too, and I didn't have such a good handle on it as you. The bullyonline site was a source of moral courage for me; the union was utterly toothless but at least they gave me someone to moan to!

Take great care not to be derailed or blamed. Have YOUR case bulleted in front of you; keep bringing conversation back to YOUR point, no matter how irritated they get. The best piece of advice I got was that I don't have to answer straight away. When I felt very discombobulated during my (endless) hearings, I would say I need five minutes to collect myself, and leave the room.

What happened in my story: I had sufficient evidence that their bullying had caused or worsened my condition. They knew this, but also knew I hadn't the money or the strength to pursue my case through the court. It's a big company with a very big legal budget. They kept telling me I wasn't up to the pressures of the job, I reminded them of my sucessful history and superb results before the bullying got really bad. I ended up taking about 50% of the next two years off sick; my pay was reduced after the first 6 months, but still far better than SSP. They made me redundant first chance they got ... and my boss was fired.

Do follow all the advice here, read the resources, make clear notes and remember you have rights. Don't be railroaded and don't try to be reasonable! That was my mistake: in the end, you're on your way out of this job so your main objective is to make them accommodate you as tolerably as possible for as long as you need.

They will hate you. But, if they're scared enough of being shown up, they'll have to behave politely. Good luck, and have a hand-squeeze from me smile

startAfire Sun 11-Sep-11 10:15:43

Message withdrawn

garlicnutter Sun 11-Sep-11 14:46:41

Very good point about the scary keywords, SAF. I didn't start seeing improvements (like the time off) until I started saying "disability" and "reasonable adjustments". Double, you have to start thinking of them as your enemy. It's an analogue of the abusive relationship, where reluctance to make this mental shift keeps the target in the home.

It's better to fight to the end, if you can. Not only for your long-term mental health, but also for the benefit of all who come after you. Bully bosses make it a fight to the death - sometimes literally - in the knowledge that targets are less able to stand the strain than they are. So put your own well-being first at all times. Have a clear set of minimum requirements for your sake and higher demands , with which to start negotiating. Don't bother seeing their point of view, they'll do that.

Again, good luck. x

startAfire Mon 12-Sep-11 08:51:49

Message withdrawn

Catitainahatita Mon 12-Sep-11 21:12:10

Checking in here too. Keep us posted!

startAfire Mon 12-Sep-11 21:15:44

Message withdrawn

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Mon 12-Sep-11 21:18:16

Such good advice & support thank you. Been reading all comments on my phone but dufficult to post from it...

Meeting on thurs, sent off a compilation of documents today, with a draft agenda as noone has committed to what's going to be discussed. I also pointed out that my health is suffering even though working less hrs as nothing else has been adjusted (physical environment, duties, travel, etc), & wm keen to get some decisions on thursday due to the pain am in.

I and also queried that they've only made the meeting an hr, after saying they've been too busy to meet for a number of weeks, I worry an hr isn't enough & decisions will be put off until another meeting, & who knows when that will be.

Btw I didn't write it in the way am telling you, was very nice & friendly.

I attached medical letters, a document from me explaining what this means in terms of everyday limitations & abilities, how this impacts on my job then suggested a variety of reasonable adjustments they could trial.

I also wrote a draft work plan, & explained how it could work for them & me, and also explain why a role change that's being recruited for currently would be good for me (they not keen as they don't understand my disability nor the role).

I was comprehensive but structured as they won't do anything they don't have to, & they keep saying they don't know how o help/ didn't know it meant xxx etc. For the last 9 mths I've been waiting for them to do what the law states, & they've not done anything, so have basically laid it all out for them so if they want to, it's easy for them to help me.

Wise to be vague here but wanted to check whether am being over sensitive...

Got email reply straight away saying 1 hr will be enough, no comment on the agenda. Then another mail a while after saying that in future I should give them a summary document as this much documentation is going to take a lot of time for them to go through. 

It's so hard not to feel squished... Like I am not worth any effort & am being too demanding... theyve been perfectly polite about everything, but leave me feeling worthless

garlicbutty Mon 12-Sep-11 21:36:52

Huh, so they reckon an hour is enough because they don't think there's much to discuss ... and can't be arsed to attend to your very diligent work? No wonder you felt squished.

What you've done sounds amazing!

Can you request a pre-meeting meeting, for the purpose of guiding them through your submission? It does look like the right time to start worrying them a bit more - use plenty of buzzwords to suggest they may be in trouble if they don't look after you, so how handy that you've provided them with an ideal solution.

edd1337 Mon 12-Sep-11 21:39:31

If all else fails, call the Daily Mail and sell your story. They'd jump over a thing like this

Thistledew Mon 12-Sep-11 21:56:48

You sound like you have prepared well, but I agree that you should prepare a summary document. Not because they need saving from having to read and consider the issues fully, but because it will help you to keep the meeting on track. I would suggest that you prepare something much long the lines of the following and send it to the relevant people before the meeting, on Wednesday afternoon if at all possible.

1. Summary of the facts and chronology. Keep to the facts as you see them and avoid matters of opinion, or things that are open to interpretation/disagreement.

2. Your aims of the meeting. What you say is important to achieve, and what they may also consider important.

3. Why it is important that they make the changes you are suggesting. What is the importance to the business, what is the importance to you.

4. What are the steps that need to be taken to achieve the outcomes you need.

Attach to the summary a copy of the work plan you have already drafted, but be prepared to work through it an amend it during the meeting if necessary.

Take notes as you go through the meeting, and don't be afraid to ask people to pause to allow you time to write if necessary.

Try to take control of the meeting from the outset. Start off by saying "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. You will have the summary document I have prepared, which I have prepared so that we can focus on the most important issues that we have to discuss in the next hour".

In terms of how to deal with the derailing tactics they may use, you can use your presentation of the summary and the one hour time limit you have been given to your advantage. If they try to derail, say "I note what you are saying, but it is taking us away from the key issues. I will take a note to address it and put my thoughts in writing after this meeting". If they insist in discussing irrelevant matters, challenge them on it. Say "I cannot see how this relates to the matters we need to discuss. Please can you explain". Make them justify going off track, rather than you justifying keeping them on it. If discussions are going around in circles, remind them of the limit of time and move on to the next point you need to discuss.

I'm not sure if this is a feminist analysis of discourse, or even a particularly feminist way of doing things (if such a thing exists), but hopefully it will help you to play them at their own game and retain the power balance in your favour.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your meeting.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Mon 12-Sep-11 21:58:46

Thanks for the speedy reply, reassuring you think it wasn't that good either. Start to lose faith in the way I am feeling as their way of being never cracks, never doubts their rightness... Starts me doubting everything. That's why am dreading this meeting!

Don't feel up to trying to get a premeeting, sensible though it sounds, am in too much pain & need the next few days to psych self up... Confession, am scared of them, I want to run away & I have to engage them instead & act like I don't see how much they despise me.

Right, being a wuss now, will be better tomorrow again. Key words in documents. Trying to write back in a way that corrects their idea that im not doing things right, but still sounding friendly.

Want to keep trying the civilised way until I have no other option, & hope they make it possible to do my job & support me & my baby for a bit longer.

I don't get why people would be so dismissive of another humans most basic needs... Esp women to other women, don't need men to keep up the inequality sad

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