Monday, November 17, 2014
I've considered myself a feminist for some years now, and have found many a time to be angry at the patriarchy. But rarely have I felt cause to feel directly, personally furious at how I am specifically treated as a woman. Today is a clear exception.
My job, as I've mentioned previously, is a little beneath me. But I still take it seriously. I am officially educated in the field in which I work, and as such am one of the more knowledgeable members of my branch. More importantly, I take the time and effort to understand the policies and procedures relevant to our work and ensure that I understand them. At present I am acting in a customer-service role, and am particularly diligent in getting the correct information to our clients.
My colleague in the same role has not the same level of commitment. It is well acknowledged that he is a fun guy, but a know-it-all who espouses far greater knowledge than he possesses and is almost impossible to teach anything to. He is also ludicrously unprofessional in multiple ways, and yet persists in holding down his job.
Today he gave a client incorrect information. He shared the situation with me, hoping for a laugh. Instead he got a polite response that in fact the client had been correct in their 'ridiculous' assumptions, and his jovial response that they could ignore the directive they were following was inaccurate. He didn't argue, but didn't really believe me. Not an unexpected response from this character.
However, minutes later he brought up the same issue with a male colleague. This man told him exactly the same information that I did, but this time our protagonist listened. In fact as a result he re-contacted the client with the correct information.
The other man in question is higher level than myself (although he does not hold any qualifications in the field as I do). He gave the information in a jovial, sharing manner, not the matter-of-fact, no doubt goody-two-shoes manner that I did. But the real difference that swayed the uptake of the information was simply that I don't have a penis. Even if I'd acted like 'one of the boys' - even if I'd told said know-it-all that I totally agreed that the facts are ludicrous, that obeying the law (this is technically a legal matter) is utterly unfeasible but sorry, we just have to toe-the-line and say the right thing - I would not have made the same impact. Even if I was also higher-level it would not have mattered- I've seen the lack of regard he holds for his female boss. You can act like 'one of the boys' all you like: if you aren't one, you're not in the club - and you don't get heard.
Perhaps we girls just missed the memo that professionalism is against the rules. Or perhaps it was deliberately never addressed to us, because in the end someone has to do the work - preferably someone who doesn't matter too much: a slave, a worker, a black person, a woman.