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When you know it is sexism / because you are a woman, but ...

(85 Posts)
YetAnotherSpartacus Tue 07-Feb-17 10:44:48

Not sure where I am going with this, but it has been sloshing around in my brain for a while now, so I thought I'd attempt a post.

Leaving aside those of us who have never experienced sexism or different / discriminatory / adverse / lesser (etc.) treatment because we are women, (in a desperate attempt to stop BTL comments), have women here experienced moments where 'something happens' and we know that it would have played out differently if we were men, but, it is hard to impossible to actually articulate how we are so sure of this, and to prove our case?

I seem to have encountered this rather a lot lately, and it is getting me down. Thing is, it's always events that feel sequential and connected to me, because they happen one after another and after my half century on this planet have all added up, but to others, they look like isolated events.

I've had conversations to that effect, which basically boil down to 'I have been treated badly because I am a woman' and the response has been 'it was just that one time', or 'just that one person and he's a knob', or 'you are over thinking it', or 'how do you know they would have treated you different if you were a man, or 'you always say that, it's because you are looking for sexism' or 'eyeroll'.

I could give examples, but I thought I'd see if there was any resonance first.

I think what I am ultimately aiming at is how do we articulate the patterned nature of these experiences and the cumulative effects they have on women, and how do we make people stop and think about this?

Batteriesallgone Tue 07-Feb-17 10:49:14

I know what you mean.

I can't help with articulating it. I feel this quite strongly with maternity services tbh (pregnant again and it's playing on my mind). I feel like if it wasn't solely women as patients the tone wouldn't be half so patronising. But try and tell people that and you get 'oh but they have to pitch it at the lower end of education, anyone can get pregnant...' etc. But anyone can need any other kind of medical care too, and I'm usually treated like a capable adult in those scenarios.

Interested to see what others have to say.

Mehfruittea Tue 07-Feb-17 10:51:28

I am disabled and this definitely resonates with me and discrimination over my disability. I've been pushed out of 3 jobs after varying degrees of bullying. I've signed confidentiality agreements and taken settlements rather than go to tribunal, yet I'm sat at home now, unemployed, and trying to rebuild my confidence and self worth. I can't help feeling that all this must be my fault somehow.

YetAnotherSpartacus Tue 07-Feb-17 10:52:34

Batteries - thank you! You've added another domension already. I've been focussing on individual experiences that have me gritting my teeth, but of course women face exactly the same as a 'class' (or demographic). I hadn't put two-and-two together on that one (stupidly) until your post!

YetAnotherSpartacus Tue 07-Feb-17 10:55:55

I am disabled and this definitely resonates with me and discrimination over my disability .. yes I can see that happening. I'm sorry to hear your story. You've also added another dimension for me too. I tend to think in broad political terms and rarely internalise experiences, but of course others will think 'if it isn't because I am a woman (or disabled / black / working class, etc.) then it must be my fault. And our responsibilising society encourages that. It's all yoooooo not society!

Batteriesallgone Tue 07-Feb-17 10:57:57

Another example which is more along the individual experiences line is when I worked (now a SAHM) and the drinks trolley would come into a meeting. The most junior member of staff would do drinks.

If male, they would ask what people wanted across the table, general chit chat until served then meeting started.

If female, the meeting would start. You would need to hover around discretely asking what drink people wanted and most of the time trying to guess. You would be expected to 'fade' in a way a man wouldn't. Not to mention the notes you would miss out on while sorting drinks because the meeting had started.

I noticed it after being there a few years and alternating being the most junior person - starter after me was male, and also after a while I was invited 'out' to meetings where others were the hosts so I saw it with their staff too.

It could have just been personality. But I don't think it was. Try and convince someone of that though and you're on a hiding to nothing.

YetAnotherSpartacus Tue 07-Feb-17 11:00:53

Batteries - excellent example! That's exactly what I was thinking of. I am so glad it isn't just me.

venusinscorpio Tue 07-Feb-17 11:08:54

That's a really good point, I know exactly what you mean. Have never thought about it in that way before but have been that woman lots of times in the past and I hate it.

UnexplainedOnHerCollar Tue 07-Feb-17 11:22:56

I've felt like this about men who come round to to jobs in the house - not all of them by any means. Some are lovely, respectful and talk to me like an adult with a brain. And then there are those who have that patronising, sneery or kind of crappy childish attitude, where they try to pull a fast one and I have to insist on what I want and then it becomes like a nagging mum/child dynamic, I hate it. Even if it's not overt, you know when it's happening yet it would be so hard to pin it down and prove it.

One time I had a bloke building a shed, he quoted me for the full job including a concrete base. It all went straightforwardly, then he tried to increase the price and add on the cost of the base separately. I wasn't having it and I said no, you quoted XYZ, now you're trying to confuse me, but I'm not stupid and I will pay what we agreed. (Yes I know I should have got it in writing, was ages ago, you live and learn.)

He basically gave me this sheepish, "fair cop" type look that I swear was exactly like a little boy who's been caught by his mum with his hand in the biscuit tin. It was that blatant, like "well I thought I'd give it a go eh". I KNOW he would not have tried on that with exP but I can't prove it.

Twice I've had women to do that type of job, it was bliss both times. I'm not saying women can't be chancers, but it was just so relaxed and calm, it felt like we could just let each other get on and respect each other.

And yes loads of other situations too. My tactic is generally to come over blunt, direct and knowledgable (even if I'm not especially, I will have a quick google and chuck in the odd relevant technical term) and look them in the eye. It's hard, and has taken me years to perfect as I prefer to avoid confrontation, but it works. I have seen men change in front of my eyes, especially in situations relating to my own profession (where I really do know what I'm talking about), from a basically disrespectful, superior attitude to having a look of "oh right, she's not a pushover."

It sucks though.

UnexplainedOnHerCollar Tue 07-Feb-17 11:25:01

I've felt like this about men who come round to to jobs in the house - not all of them by any means. Some are lovely, respectful and talk to me like an adult with a brain. And then there are those who have that patronising, sneery or kind of crappy childish attitude, where they try to pull a fast one and I have to insist on what I want and then it becomes like a nagging mum/child dynamic, I hate it. Even if it's not overt, you know when it's happening yet it would be so hard to pin it down and prove it.

One time I had a bloke building a shed, he quoted me for the full job including a concrete base. It all went straightforwardly, then he tried to increase the price and add on the cost of the base separately. I wasn't having it and I said no, you quoted XYZ, now you're trying to confuse me, but I'm not stupid and I will pay what we agreed. (Yes I know I should have got it in writing, was ages ago, you live and learn.)

He basically gave me this sheepish, "fair cop" type look that I swear was exactly like a little boy who's been caught by his mum with his hand in the biscuit tin. It was that blatant, like "well I thought I'd give it a go eh". I KNOW he would not have tried on that with exP but I can't prove it.

Twice I've had women to do that type of job, it was bliss both times. I'm not saying women can't be chancers, but it was just so relaxed and calm, it felt like we could just let each other get on and respect each other.

And yes loads of other situations too. My tactic is generally to come over blunt, direct and knowledgable (even if I'm not especially, I will have a quick google and chuck in the odd relevant technical term) and look them in the eye. It's hard, and has taken me years to perfect as I prefer to avoid confrontation, but it works. I have seen men change in front of my eyes, especially in situations relating to my own profession (where I really do know what I'm talking about), from a basically disrespectful, superior attitude to having a look of "oh right, she's not a pushover."

It sucks though.

UnexplainedOnHerCollar Tue 07-Feb-17 11:35:32

oops

YetAnotherSpartacus Tue 07-Feb-17 11:48:22

Unexplained ... the board was behaving oddly a while back there - don't worry about it!

You actually articulated a similar example to one I was thinking off - tradespeople! I'm so tired of men turning up and patronising me.

It does not help that I rent.

Last year, I had a couple come round to prune a tree that I could not reach easily. One of them cleared up a pile of soft material that I was going to use as compost. I stopped him and he glared at me and said 'I'm only trying to help'. I was supposed to fall to my knees and thank him, but what I wanted to say was 'why didn't you ask me what helping means?'. I know he'd have asked my OH, or any other man, and the dynamic would have been simply different - but I could not prove it.

NotCitrus Tue 07-Feb-17 12:13:00

I had a colleague once who was a nightmare (sexist, racist, disablist, homophobic, who couldn't cope with anyone brighter than him - and between me and our three staff, we covered each of those categories at least twice over).

Our manager had vanished so eventually I persuaded big boss to take our team problems seriously and other team leaders tried to mediate.

Apparently the key problem was I expected to be treated like a man. All I could say was "well duh!" - I'd had many complaints to him about things like him sending emails mentioning Bob, Tim, Andrew and Miss Citrus, where I wanted my name used like everyone else thank you (and btw that's Dr Citrus to you...)
It was quite disturbing how many managers who got involved thought that he should be able to treat men and women differently in the office - though eventually my union lawyers were fab and eventually he was fired.

"Why didn't you ask what helping means?" is a really good phrase. I know people who use the word 'helpy' to mean people who think they are being helpful but really aren't, just making themselves feel good. A blind friend who found himself dragged across roads he didn't want to cross at least once a week had a good rant on this.
Not checking what would be helpful goes with thinking you know better than a mere woman or poor ickle disabled person. Not consciously, but it's there.

I know people here complain about Everyday Feminism, but as a means to collate enough anecdotes that you get useful data, it's a good tool.

Datun Tue 07-Feb-17 12:15:10

I have been having a lot of building work done lately, with numerous men doing different sorts of jobs.

They constantly ask me what my DH thinks about this that or the other. I alternate between saying he agrees with me, which he does obviously, but wanting to say who fucking cares?

I am very friendly, polite and appreciative when the work goes well. And I am appropriately assertive when it doesn't. I don't rant, rave, swear or even frown. I just say that's not quite right, how about doing it like this?

Nonetheless, I have gained a reputation back at the office as a complete ball breaker. Three men have shown up now on separate occasions and when I have offered them coffee look surprised and one of them let slip 'well I think you're really nice'. (which led to me laughing, asking what he meant, and the whole thing came out).

Also, this whole tea and coffee business. I honestly don't mind supplying workmen with drinks etc. But every hour or so I get a tap on the door saying 'it's thirsty work here', holding out a tray of empty cups.

When DH had the day here alone with them they didn't once ask for tea or coffee. (He was preoccupied working on his laptop, so didn't offer.)

Tea making is definitely women's work.

Batteriesallgone Tue 07-Feb-17 12:35:03

Have to say I've never noticed it with tradesmen. They've always treated me and DH as equal - although maybe more of them talk to me once they clock DH as someone who talks more than he listens wink

I had a mini breakdown (which I'm not proud of) when pregnant and being asked about skirting boards and said I don't know just ask my husband I can't deal with this. They were most taken aback that as the one in the house (I'd started mat leave) I didn't want to take advantage of that to get my own way, or maybe it was easier for them to get instant decisions. The site foreman even checked with me the next day did I really not want a say in future decisions.

I must have been lucky with the tradesmen we've employed.

AssassinatedBeauty Tue 07-Feb-17 12:40:35

NotCitrus do you mean Everyday Feminism or did you mean Everyday Sexism? Everyday Sexism is a useful site, Everyday Feminism not so much!

OneFlewOverTheDodosNest Tue 07-Feb-17 12:44:05

It's really frustrating isn't it OP? Our work is pretty evenly split between technical "coding" work and customer focused work. When I joined a couple of years ago, the head of coding was a woman and my direct line manager was too and there wasn't really a men's or women's job.

Last year our head of coding and my line manager left and both got replaced by men and the dynamic has entirely changed for the worse.

I'm now consistently asked to focus on customer work despite having a technical background and I've noticed that almost all the coding roles have been given to men, with us women basically given the nice friendly (boring) customer work. Of course, we still get asked to fix the mistakes that get made when male junior team members mess up our old work.

Guess which type is the most prestigious, the most visible and gets the most budget allocated to it?

venusinscorpio Tue 07-Feb-17 13:01:07

NotCitrus, Everyday Feminism is reliably awful and stupid. I'm wondering if you perhaps mean Laura Bates and Everyday Sexism? Just the thing you said about collecting lots of anecdotes.

YetAnotherSpartacus Tue 07-Feb-17 13:36:09

OneFlew - yes it happens frequently at work. Recently, we were asked to outline the things we had done for our immediate team. A male began. He outlined all his personal achievements. I was next. I asked for clarification - was this about personal achievements or things we had done for the greater team good. The male manager said 'whatever you have done'. Thus, I thought if I outline what I've done for the team it will be minimised and seen as not significant, but if I outline my personal achievements it will be seen as boasting. I chose the latter and the intake of breath from other team members was obvious. But no one noticed when my male colleague did exactly the same!

NotCitrus Tue 07-Feb-17 13:52:59

(googles EF. Seems to be aimed at American teenagers.) Ah, that makes sense! Yes, ES. Though I've heard criticism of ES too, not sure why.

One where I first thought it was just me, until it clearly wasn't, was my Cambridge college had a reception for alumni in the House of Lords. Canapes, drinks, speech, guided tours, attempts to get money out of us. I took MrNC and we figured there would be some interesting people. Most of the guests were older (40-50, I was about 30), but I like talking to random so started speaking to people whose badges said they were the one who was at the college. As it went mixed in the 70s, the majority were male. And almost all of them looked at me, blinked, asked what my 'husband' did and if he'd been to Cambridge (yes) and then actually blocked me out, standing in front of me, to speak to him. Only thing they'd say was, invariably, "Oh, they let women in now do they? Hur hur hur!" Some of the wives looked very embarrassed - they all seemed lovely. After the third time I replied "Yes, they've admitted women since 1972 - so are you actually over 60 or did the women undergrads just avoid you?" Well, I wasn't going to see them again.

MrNC has the tact of a brick and had no name badge, so eventually started saying "Actually NotC is the one who went to your college", "Why are you ignoring my partner?" "Why are you forcing NotC out of this conversation?" and finally after about the 20th one, "Are you accidentally being really rude to my partner or are you just a complete twat?" Wife of the last one was hugely apologetic and I had to ask her if he treated her any better. She looked thoughtful.

The Lord hosting the event, and his mates roped in to do the unofficial tours, were all delightful.

Actually most recently, my boss (female) and I were chatting in a meeting with a male contractor, and mentioned being warned not to sit next to (ex head of a large industry body), and discussed how at least groping or under-table fondling had just about died out at work. The man was horrified, not that there'd been the odd incident, but that we assured him that every woman we worked with would have similar tales to tell.

Patronising women really seems to be an insecurity thing. Whenever I've been to builders' merchants, which is a lot, I often get queried whether I know what I'm doing, usually politely if clumsily, and all the experienced staff will then treat me with appropriate respect. Any bloke who tries to show off about his knowledge being greater than mine will invariably know less than me and be youngish.

redexpat Tue 07-Feb-17 13:55:23

I find it often gets put down to one incident. But a series of such incidents makes a pattern. Or in the case of Lemony Snicket a great novel. If only this too was fiction.

Somerville Tue 07-Feb-17 14:14:12

MrNC has the tact of a brick and had no name badge, so eventually started saying "Actually NotC is the one who went to your college", "Why are you ignoring my partner?" "Why are you forcing NotC out of this conversation?"

On that, don't you find it interesting that men are even allowed to challenge sexist behaviour towards a woman that they're witnessing, and it still remain just about social acceptable? Yet we're not really allowed to ourselves? (Not saying it's not good when a man does challenge it, because I think it is.)

I met my new DH through work and it's been fascinating and infuriating in equal measure seeing the ways in which we're treated differently by various companies (we both freelance). So many of the examples would be impossible to challenge - and if we do I fear it will be dismissed as 'different working styles' or something.

If anyone has an idea about how to challenge our biggest bugbear then I'm all ears:
So there's one, small but very successful company that we both have previously done successful projects for. When they have work that they think I'm interested in, I get an email from the guy in charge, laying out the project and asking if I want to pitch for it. If I do then I'm expected to do a fair bit of work (that I don't get paid for unless I actually get the project), then send it through to him. He then decides whether or not to award me the work (I've got 3 out of the 4 I've pitched for.)
Can anyone guess how the same dude goes about offering DH work?
He invites him out for lunch. At his cool club. Over lunch he tells him about the project and DH decides if he'd want it, then tells him his ideas for it, and the guy makes notes of what DH says, and gives him the job.

DH wants to challenge him on it the next time he's invited out for lunch. But that risks losing us income at a time when work is thinner on the ground (Brexit). Also I don't really want him fighting my battles for me - though I appreciate that he's appalled by it.

TheSparrowhawk Tue 07-Feb-17 14:28:52

I've worked with a couple of men whose modus operandi is to come up with 'fantastic' ideas, talk at length to everybody about how this change is the best thing since orgasms and how everyone must now change to this new thing - no consultation with anyone, no clear instruction on how the change might happen. They just expect everyone else (usually women) to make this bonkers nonsense happen.

On a couple of occasions I've very politely asked for details. Jesus Christ the reaction. It's like I've pulled down their pants and waved a sharp scissors around. There is an actual fear reaction, it is truly bizarre. I've had men avoid me in the most obvious way. Thing is with these fuckers is that they might respond to my challenge quite calmly in a meeting but they invariably work behind the scenes to make sure they don't have to work with me again. What's basically happening is that they are the quintessential Mediocre White Men (MWM) who got where they are on zero talent and even less common sense by virtue of their Giant Scrotums. If someone asks them to think for a minute and come up with something that actually works they are immediately defensive - they are terrified of being shown up for the frauds that they are. Meanwhile the actually talented people (mostly women) are running around trying desperately to implement their utterly stupid 'ideas' and end up being the ones blamed when the 'ideas' inevitably don't work.

TheSparrowhawk Tue 07-Feb-17 14:35:35

What I've also found is that there's usually a group of MWMs nodding while Alpha MWM spunks out his ideas while the women sit there using all their energy not to visibly roll their eyes.

ShotsFired Tue 07-Feb-17 14:37:00

I once had a sales rep come into our (open plan) office. He started talking down to my receptionist which immediately got my hackles up - he wasn't openly rude, just treating her like a little lady who couldn't possibly understand xyz.

I then [deliberately] wandered over and started talking about the topic. He clearly thought I was another LL and tried it with me. Big mistake. Huge.

It got to the point where I stopped him mid-flow, looked him dead in the eye and very firmly said "please strop treating me like a complete idiot". His entire manner changed after that and he couldn't stop gushing over anything I said.

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