Sunday, January 13, 2008

sexism @ work

The quietly pacifist peaceful
always die
to make room for men
who shout.
- alice walker

I'm not exactly dying, but I am feeling the push to make room for a man who shouts at work. I think that I am drawn to female-led workplaces because I am very sensitive to the propensity for men, regardless of their political leanings, their race or their sexuality, to be fully, ragingly sexist in their dealings with women around them. As a teacher I feel that I worked more for my students than anyone else, and little (or big) boy- and girl-sexists didn't make me feel quite as defeated (being absolutely in charge over them helped too).
Now in the adult workplace, I am lucky to be surrounded, for the most part, by really chill guys who have their heads on straight. Respectful, thoughtful, open, and mentally present to the negative effects of white supremacy and patriarchy.
One man, though, is different. He is, somewhat unfortunately, African American and old enough to be my father, unfortunately because I think it is those aspects of his identity that cause our coworkers to expect the two of us to have an affinity. We get along as individuals, but within the workplace he has a sense of superiority and a desire to be in control that is frustrating. I, being the person who believes in bottom-up, collective decision-making and watching out for those below you as a way of watching out for yourself, find myself being trampled by his shouting. I don't know that the way he treats me is based in sexism exclusively-- he treats the men that are, in his mind, "below" him in the workplace in a very similar way. I, though, am not below him, and I do think there's something about my womanness that makes him feel that he can push me around in spite of our supposed equality.
Next stop on the self-development express: speaking up for myself horizontally, not just vertically. Not letting someone else make my job miserable or uncomfortable.

This mid-twenties thing really fucking sucks.

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