We fought for freedom for hundreds of years. We stood up against oppression, we spoke with confidence and wisdom. We even burnt our bras (although I’m scunnered if I know what difference that actually made but the sentiment was there). Now we can work, study, vote and gain careers of high standing and responsibility.
So, why do I still get a man on the other end of the phone feeling the need to ask me three times if something is switched on?
And, even more shamefully, why did I find myself regressing to “the red light is on” in a desperate bid to make him realise that I did understand the concept?
On or off?
Much like an old work colleague of mine (who was slightly darker skinned than the rest of the caucasian society around us) who always responded to customers who spoke slowly and clearly to her, as if conversing with someone who hailed from another country with the broad, specialised (and clearly first) language of the local area; I feel there has been a communication break down.
We can teach, we can educate, we can even ignite certain intimate undergarments, but some things continue to be ingrained into society regardless.
“Is it switched on?”
“Is the power on?”
“Are you sure it’s on?”
“Well…the red light is on?”
Now, call me a feminist (it may surprise you to know that I have been accused of such things in the past), but I am doubtful that such a conversation would have happened should a man have been on my side of the line. Especially when the dialogue kicked off with;
“Oh, is that big man not there anymore?”
No. He is not. It is a woman. In charge. Deal with it.
Now I know that all men are not the same – I know some are nice and lovely and fully support women in whatever role. So you can send the high horse back to whatever peddlar forced it upon you.
Some males are highly supportive of women and respect us in great measure. I hold onto the hope that is it the few who let the side down.
That hope helps me to carry on.
I am a woman who has found herself in a position of leadership. A position I did not ask for in many ways but, nonetheless, a position I have been given.
Acceptance and respect are battles that I constantly fight.
I wish I was being a martyr. I even wish, for the first time ever, that I am being an unfair feminist; but I am not. And they are battles I know the male who held the same position did not have to fight.
It has occurred to me that it could be a simple, straight cut respect issue and nothing to do with gender. Yes, of course it could be, but that doesn’t really work in such instances of preference for me in general but dismissiveness when there comes more of a need to obey rather than a request.
It is really refreshing when a member of the team you manage states, in respect to gender roles, “Ah, it doesn’t matter to me who it is. I’ll just do what I am told.”
So why can one man say that and not another?
Is it a question of upbringing? Perhaps there has not been a particularly strong woman in the household, thus ensuring the sons are brought up with a very patriarchal mindset and the idea of a woman in leadership dumbfounds them to their core. I know that statement is incredibly simplistic on first glance but I do believe that there is an element of truth within. Children learn from their parents – surely a point difficult to argue? If son watches dad asserting his authority over the household (which, I want to argue, does not have to be in an aggressive manner) and mum submitting in every way to such rule, son will see this as the norm and will grow accustomed to such ways.
Now, don’t get me wrong, as much as we learn from our parents; there comes a time when we have to choose who we want to be. So those bred to live confused in the leadership of female eventually have to choose how they react in such a situation. So, believe me when I say, I am not excusing such behaviour.
Maybe women don’t do themselves any favours and germinate such behaviour through their own arrogance or geniune failings. Some women feel the need to assert their authority to such an extent that they lose the femininity and empathy that perhaps helped fashion them for the role in the first place. Please do not think I am saying women are always fully innocent. Of course we aren’t.
Perhaps if there is a larger hierarchy, those higher up the chain could be involved? I have known situations where women in leadership have been undermined by a male superior. Situations in which they have been given the appropriate level of responsibility and it has been snatched away. Or, in some cases, they have been built up to a position of leadership and subsequently blocked and in surmouting such a blockage they have been duly and methodically reduced to a state of infancy, crushed confidence and quiet submission.
Harsh, unjustified, never acceptable. But true.
For what reason? Jealously? Threat? Fear? Or, somehow, completely justified and acceptable in the eyes of the male?
I pray that you never come to a point in your life where you have to stand up to that tyrannical, dominant male (and I do not use those terms lightly) but you know that, although you have won, you will pay for it later.
And you do – as he sits before you and takes you to pieces. Brick by brick.
I pray that you never have to be in that place – and female bosses can be even more devious about it!- but if you do find yourself there; make sure that you win. Not in an underhand, shrewd way; but in a righteous, victorious and kind way.
Until then, there are the benefits of womanhood that can’t (and shouldn’t) be undermined; like chocolate, ice-cream, tea, girly nights, duvets and the Gruffalo.
Boys; you have to decide. More and more women are stepping up to the plate; with even more of us standing on the sidelines with the “coach” hat perched on our heads. What are you going to do? Will you stand alongside us, shouting for our corner? Or will you stand, gloved and ready, to pounce on any mistake and strike us out?
Sometimes, we will lose a few innings.
But, sometimes, we will knock it out of the park and bring the team home.
Where are you?
There is no “I” in team; but there is “women” and “men” in equal measure.