Thursday, October 16, 2014

Apparently, I've moved to the 1950s

Is it misogynistic if a woman makes a degrading comment to another woman, or only if a man does it? Just curious. I got that yesterday, which those of you who are my Facebook friends saw. For those of you not on Facebook (hi, Margaret!), here's the scoop: I went to an event for school mothers on the campus where I work. While I enjoyed the lunch and the time spent with monks and the moms I have come to know pretty well, I also photographed the event, then edited the shots and posted them on the school's Flickr site with a brief description, then sent the HTML code to embed the gallery on the school's website to my marketing specialist. Just for shits, I'll let you know that this was a very small fraction of what I accomplished yesterday.

As I left the event, with the camera slung around my neck, I chatted with a couple of mothers I do not know. One of them asked if I took pictures of the boys, too. I explained that in my role as Director of Communications, photography - both informal and formal - does fall under my responsibilities. I went on to tell her about the other aspects of my position, including developing or overseeing all mass communication, our website and social media, and crisis communications. At the end of my 10-second spiel, she said - I shit you not - "Oh! You have a job job. How cute!"

Really? It's cute? Cute. Five fucking years of undergrad (1.5 of it in engineering school) resulting in a Bachelor of Journalism Magna Cum Laude, and two years of business study for an MBA, and what I do every day, for 40+ hours a week, is cute.

I wanted to punch her with the camera. Only it wouldn't have been fair to the camera. And I hadn't downloaded my images yet and didn't want to chance losing them.

After she made the comment, she turned to the other mother and nodded toward a nearby parking lot. "I'm over here. Where are you?" I turned and walked away across campus, and I'm positive my face was scrunched up in a "Did I just hear what I thought I heard back there? Really?" look.

Then, this afternoon, I received an email request from a male colleague that is essentially one millimeter away from, "Can you fetch me a cup of coffee? Thanks, doll." I nearly exploded in anger. I had to actually get up from my desk and walk away for a moment.

Then after I calmed down I came back and furiously typed composed a response:

1st response: You're fucking kidding me, right? (Deleted.)

2nd response: Very funny, ha ha. What asshole put you up to this? (Deleted.)

3rd response: Yes, I'll absolutely do that for you, because seven years of higher ed resulting in two degrees means that I'm crushingly over-qualified to do this and am therefore the perfect person to ask. (Deleted.)

4th response: I'm sorry I can't help you. Why don't you check with one of the other women in the facility. I'm sure one of them is just waiting to do shit work for you. (Deleted.)

5th response: (endless stream of curse words, some of which I made up) (Deleted.)

6th response: You know I rank about five levels above you, right? (Deleted.)

And then I realized that by being an absolute douchebag this guy essentially put me in a position where any way I respond I will sound like a snarky bitch. Which pissed me off even more. I closed the email window and left a message for the woman in charge of HR. When I talk to her tomorrow, I'll ask her how I should handle this.

I think one of the things that bothers me the most is that I know there is no way he'd send a request like this to a male colleague, even one that ranks below him, much less one that is so much higher in the office hierarchy. (Please know that I'm not that person who is all about title and status...I do grunt work just like I ask my employee to do, and sometimes I do it for him just to lighten his load when I can see he's starting to flounder under his work load. This isn't about that. It's about a man asking a woman to do something that doesn't even fall close to being in her job description, and that is something that I guess some people would say fall's under "a woman's duties." Whatever the fuck that means.)

I'm not afraid to stand up to men, and I'm not afraid to say no to men in the workplace. In this job alone, I've had to tell my boss that he was making a grave mistake (he admitted later that he did, and that he should have listened to me), a monk that his vocations ad sounded like a LGBT personal ad and he needed to change it, several powerful alumni that no, we will not be sharing people's personal emails with them to do with whatever they wish, etc. I say no a lot.

But in this instance, I'm having trouble figuring out how to say no without sounding like a bitch. And now I'm wondering why I'm worried about sounding like a bitch.

Maybe that's what is really bothering me.


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