Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Sisterhood

While scrolling down the timeline on FB, I ran across this little gem of an article.  In sum to save you the trouble, the author is tired of talking to men about feminism. She tires of men not immediately buying into the version of reality in her head. She fancies herself an activist, but is tired of having to convince. Um, okay. Here is what makes me want to talk about this: it seems she is arguing that all would be well if it weren't for those pesky men and their unreasonable questioning. Men are the sole source of the troubles. Patriarchy! I look around my office and laugh.

Of course, there are men who minimize and dismiss women simply because they are women. I have even experienced it. There was the time I took Recording class which was overwhelmingly male. The end of semester project was to record and produce a class CD.  The two women in the class were assigned the tasks of creating the cover art and the playlist. Do not mistake creating the playlist as meaning to choose what was to be recorded. No. Creating the playlist meant typing out the pieces on a pretty piece of paper that would fit in a CD case. This was not a semester aberration. The women in Recording always were assigned these tasks.  My student teaching adviser once told me I needed to do something different with my hair because I was too "sensual" to stand in front of a class. Gross! For the record my hair looks much the same now as it did then. Frizzy, perhaps. Sensual? Not really. I was not the only woman to receive this advice. So, you know, it happens.

But I look around my office and consider my career trajectory, I am stating the truth when I say the oppression I have experienced in the workplace has come at the hands of other women.

I was overdue for a promotion several years ago. My paperwork stalled up the required chain of command because upper management had been subjected to a pay freeze for the year and the person who had to approve my promotion was angry about it. In a snit she declared, "If I'm not getting a raise, nobody is." This declaration was made when I was eight months pregnant.

When I requested that I be allowed to work from home regularly in light of the horrendous construction traffic I had to endure daily, the complete compatibility of my job with remote log-in, and the precedent set by one of my coworkers (male) who worked from home everyday, I was told by my female supervisor it would not be "fair." "If you work from home, other people will want to work from home."

I learned that my job title was in line for a market raise that would adjust our salaries closer to the going market rate. This was going to be a ten thousand dollar raise. We were finally going to be able to stop scraping by and put money in the savings account. Weeks before the raise was set to take effect, my female supervisor told me she had reviewed everyone's job duties in light of our job descriptions and she decided my actual job duties were better described by a different job title. Good-bye raise. It was nice fantasizing about you. Somehow I had held this job for over six years without anyone noticing this "problem." I was the only person in my job group to have a title change. This change was implemented when I was seven months pregnant.

The primary sin of my career has been to gestate in public repeatedly. Every nasty or insensitive comment I have ever received at work about pregnancy or childbirth or motherhood has come from a woman. A man would never dare to say these things even if he thought it. Every career setback I have ever experienced, whether reasonable or unreasonable, has come from the decision a woman made.

Much ink is spilled over the problem of women in the workplace. Why does a pay gap exist? Why are more women not in upper management positions? These problems are almost always framed from the perspective of the striving woman and the oppressing man. How come nobody seems to notice the members of the sisterhood kicking the other women off the ladder?

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