Sexism in our Everyday Professional Lives

One of the roles I think feminist blogs can play in our lives is what the “Women’s Libbers” liked to call “Consciousness Raising.” While the phrase evokes a coven of Farrah-Fawcett-haired women in an avocado and harvest-gold living room, I think the concept still has feminist legs. In short, we tell our stories about living while female in the world, and over time relate the individual stories to the systemic misogyny of our culture.

What I’d like to focus on today is stories of our professional lives. There are many people who think that while there still may be battles to be fought on the home front and within our individual relationships, the fight to win equality at work is mostly won. After all, nobody would dare to show sexism at work; it could get them fired!

In a comment to my introductory post, AJ writes:

I haven’t experienced too much as a female student in such a male dominated area, but every now and then I get somebody doubting my credibility because I was born with two x chromosomes.

This comment reflects my feelings as well. I have had some great mentors of both genders help lead me to where I am now. I don’t live in a chilly climate, I’m not being sexually harassed at work, and most people I interact with treat me and others appropriately. But the second half of AJ’s comment is telling: “I haven’t experienced much, but…” There’s always a but. And we tend to minimize the “buts,” the incidents that go against our belief that everything is perfectly fine in this beautiful post-feminist world.

Often it’s only in telling our stories that we see how egregious they really are. I was interviewed by a professor of women’s studies as part of a project she’s doing on gender relations in aerospace engineering. “Everything’s great!” I told her. “My gender hasn’t held me back at all. Although, the lab director gets a female junior faculty member to send his faxes when the secretary is out. And guess whose job it is to clean out the lab fridge…” Her eyebrows went up and she started scribbling. Everything is perfectly fine, except when it isn’t.

I have two stories of my own, and then one secondhand story, because it’s just that good.

Story 1:

This is way back in my undergraduate days, my first year of university in fact. My calculus professor was an older man, a metallurgical engineer. He liked to tell stories of the good old days when he was a student. Somehow these stories always got around to how there weren’t any women back then. Example: “I would like to encourage you to work together on your homework. Back when I was a student, all the guys…” (hesitates, looks around uncomfortably) “I mean, back then, they were all guys, see. Not that I have a problem with there being girls in engineering school! In fact, I think it’s great! It’s wonderful! Women bring so much to engineering, they’re so much more nurturing and caring. Engineering needs a softer touch!”

Story 2:

As a student, I was attending a dinner for a professional society in my field, at which one of my friends was going to receive an award. The keynote speaker was an engine designer, who had decades ago worked on a famous, historically important aircraft engine. (Yes, there is such a thing as a famous, historically important engine!) After he was introduced, the first thing he said was “I would like to apologize to the ladies in the room. I’m afraid my presentation has many formulae and graphs and other mathematical details.” And he didn’t stop there! Every time he came to a slide with charts or numbers, he apologized “to the ladies.”

Now, I actually understand where he was coming from. It was a dinner: there may have been non-technical spouses present, and they would have been understandably bored with numbers they were not trained to decipher. And in this older man’s life, the majority of technically-trained people were men. But he failed to notice that the woman who introduced him was… an aircraft engine designer! I was glad to see that she didn’t take this slight lying down. When thanking him afterwards, she made sure to mention that as an engine designer she was fascinated by the charts and numbers, and was glad to see he had included them.

Story 3:

This did not happen to me, but to a colleague. Mary (not her real name) is also an aerospace engineer, and she got her doctorate the same time I did. This may not be relevant, but unlike me, Mary is a “girly girl.” She performs femininity much more than I do, with her expensive haircuts, omnipresent makeup, and feminine mannerisms.

At a professional conference, she went out to dinner with a group. There was one senior professor, a few junior professors, and a few graduate students. She, a student, was the only woman. As is usually the case in this kind of group composition, the senior professor was “holding forth,” dominating the conversation while his academic juniors listened respectfully. The topic of conversation was his daughter’s roommate. Apparently this roommate was very attractive young woman, in this professor’s opinion. She was an aspiring model and actress. Unfortunately, she wasn’t particularly good at managing her finances. So the professor gave her money. “And just so you knowhow truly beautiful this young woman is, I gave her $2000. She was that beautiful. I mean, take Mary here. Mary is pretty. But she’s only worth, oh, about $100.”

I notice now that all three of these stories are about older, powerful men, mostly just bumbling in their attempts to relate to others. The standard response is a shrug. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. We’re just going to have to wait until these dinosaurs retire or die (mostly the latter, since academics tend to never retire) and then we can live in our beautiful post-feminist utopia. There’s some truth to this response. But it’s foolish to deny or minimize these incidents. It lets us think our work is done. It minimizes the magnitude of our accomplisments: not only do I have a PhD, I have one despite being repeatedly (if not constantly) told I don’t belong in this world. The stories are important, because while they seem like exceptions to us, taken together they have a systematic effect.

Your turn. Tell a story about sexism you’ve encountered in your own workplace.

Update, from SarahMC, a pretty shocking thread at Jezebel about workplace sexual harassment.

Similar Posts (automatically generated):

92 comments for “Sexism in our Everyday Professional Lives

  1. cherylp
    October 3, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    I have a goody. I am a health researcher, and while in my master’s program, I took a short course on how to make it in an academic career (a highly touted workshop recommended to me by several professors). It was sort of intended for people just finishing their PhD’s, but I thought it would give me some helpful pointers.

    Oh, did it ever.

    The lecturer was a young male prof from the chemistry department at my uni, and the audience of about 40 people was roughly a 50-50 gender split. Some of his stuff was good (i.e. what to expect on an interview for a professorship, etc.). His points on how to dress were fully directed at men (i.e. what kind of suit to wear and the like) so a woman in the audience asked him what he thought women should wear to the various stages of the interview process. He said “I don’t know. I’m not sure what the female equivalents are called. I’ve never been asked that question.” She said something like “Really?? But half of this room is female!”. He said “well I’ve only ever interviewed like 2 women for professorships.”

    His next bit was about how to get your spouse a secretarial job at the same department as you when you move. One (awesome) man shot his hand up and said “my wife is a researcher in the same field as me. How do you suggest I go about convincing her that she should take a secretarial job to advance MY career?” Laughter ensued…

  2. Bitter Scribe
    October 3, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    When thanking him afterwards, she made sure to mention that as an engine designer she was fascinated by the charts and numbers, and was glad to see he had included them.

    Hah. Perfect.

  3. human
    October 3, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    My first ever job… oh, god. Well this was during the IT boom when supposedly anyone who knew how to turn on a computer could get a techie job, and I was doing tech support for my whole half of the building – unofficially, of course; officially I was a “clerk” and my job was to copy and fax stuff.

    Well, one of our actual IT employees quit to start his own IT company. This is what we were told; I later found out he was actually fired – supposedly for stealing something? But I never heard what – and the bullshit at this job was so thick you could cut it with a knife, so who knows.

    But I didn’t know this at the time when I looked up his phone number and called him at home and asked – since he was supposedly starting up his own company – if he was looking for employees.

    “Oh, what sort of job are you looking for?” he asked immediately. “Something secretarial?”

    That job was just — okay, there were four sales staff, all men; and each of them had an assistant who stayed in the office while they travelled around. Guess who did all the actual work of making sure the quotes were prepared, babying the customers on the phone, etc.? Guess who got half-decent pay? Now, for a really good one: guess who got the really beautiful ergonomic chairs — the women who were in the office every day doing all the actual work, or the men who breezed in maybe once a week for a few hours? One of my coworkers — a woman — needed a new chair, as it happened, because she was having back problems. So, our boss went into the back room and came out with a broken chair and told her she could use that one instead if it worked better.

    This was the same boss who would not pay $1.50 for one of those letter opener style staple removers (even though I spent half my day removing staples and then restapling things) because “if we get you one, everyone will want one.”

    God, that guy was an asshole.

  4. RacyT
    October 3, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    This was not to do with colleagues, but rather customers. For many years, I worked part-time as a customer service person in a large computer store. We were one of the only stores in the city where you could buy Mac products (this was almost 10 years ago), but they were not as popular then, so most of our salespeople specialized in PCs. We had two Mac sales guys, but since I also worked at a newspaper and grew up with Mac, I had a good knowledge of them and could help people when the sales guys were not working.

    I think you know what I’m going to say next. Inevitably, a guy would come in looking for Mac advice and ask me where a specialist was. I would tell him that they were not working, but that I could help them. Almost every time, they would decline, and go off looking for a sales guy. Sometimes, they would even tell me that they wanted a man.

    I used to love it when they would approach the salespeople, who would then say that they didn’t really know anything about Macs, and direct them to the redhead up at Customer Service (me). They would look so defeated when they had to come and suck up to me… it was a bit of sport for my colleagues, too, who would occasionally send the guy back to me even if it was a simple question they could answer — just on principal.

  5. Entomologista
    October 3, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    At one point in the early 90s (long before my time) my professor suggested that the department could use more international and/or women students, since entomology has traditionally been a white boys club. There is a professor emeritus who still hangs around and his response was “Why do you want women? They just get married and have babies.”

  6. SarahMC
    October 3, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    I don’t have a story to share but I wanted to ask if you’ve read the thread on sexual harassment in the workplace over at Jezebel? That’s enough material for a lifetime.

  7. bonnie
    October 3, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    I work in the construction industry, where sexism runs rampant. Once, I was showing a man (he was a forklift salesman) around the show room. He stopped next to one of the granites and told me that this was a really beautiful one, in fact it was what he had installed in his “party-wing” (I kid you not) at home.
    He then proceded to tell me that he likes his granite like he likes his women, beautiful and silent.
    I was in absolute shock at his idiocy and gall to say such a thing; to a woman!

  8. October 3, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    One of my coworkers — a woman — needed a new chair, as it happened, because she was having back problems. So, our boss went into the back room and came out with a broken chair and told her she could use that one instead if it worked better.

    This was the same boss who would not pay $1.50 for one of those letter opener style staple removers (even though I spent half my day removing staples and then restapling things) because “if we get you one, everyone will want one.”

    To add insult to injury, try being disabled while female. I had a considerably less prestigious job (greeter at a restaurant) and I asked my boss if I could have a stool to sit on at the front podium, since being on my feet all day was so painful for me. (Yes, bad job for my condition, but it was the only one I could get with no experience. Gotta work your way up.) His response was, of course, “If we give you a stool, everyone will want to be able to sit down too.”

    The day I quit that job was the day my asshole store manager (who was a patronizing sexist ass, although I can’t pull any stories on that topic off the top of my head) would not let me go home early for unrelenting pain, despite having someone ready and willing to take my place (and even arguing on my behalf!). When I found her in the back room arguing with him for me, I broke in and told him “You know what? I’m in a LOT of pain right now –”

    “Honey, I’m fifty years old and I hurt sometimes too, and I keep going –”

    … buh?!? SOMETIMES??? You “keep going”? What the FUCK do you think I do all day, every day?

    “Excuse me? I live with a pain processing disorder every day. It is NOT FAIR OF YOU to sit here and tell me –”

    “I’ve been running here all day –”

    “What do you think I’ve been doing?”

    “Well –”

    “Look, do I need to put in two week’s notice or can I just tell you I won’t be coming in tomorrow?”

    Stupid fuck.

    I take it back about not being able to recall any stories about him being a sexist condescending ass. My husband also worked at the same restaurant, and reported this manager being a fun, affable guy. To me he was never anything but rude, imposing, and paternalistic. Husband was surprised when I said I couldn’t stand him and before that had never heard of him being anything but friendly. Go figure.

  9. Caja
    October 3, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    A couple observations from a graduate architecture program:

    Most of my instructors are pretty good about -not- using “guys” to refer to an entire class of students, or generic group of people, and many of them will often use “he or she” phrasings. But this one older – and not the oldest of the faculty by a long shot – guy did use “guys” to refer to our class, and then had the nerve to say, “‘guys’ is a general term,” in that “I know the One True Way,” kind of fashion. He had similarly primitive ways of talking about ethnic and racial groups: “Native Americans are like that *vigorous nod*” Condescending self-righteous never-could-be-wrong razzafrazzin*grumble*

    But the most appalling story I have (so far) is thanks to – guess who? Yes, some of my female classmates. Most of the students here are in their 20s and 30s; I don’t know what the gender split is, but I think it’s close to 50:50.

    After one class, several of my classmates, all women, were talking about some sexist behavior from an instructor (not the same one I just griped about), and how they think we’re being to “design like men,” whatever the hell -that- means, and how very few women actually make it to “starchitect” level. Then one of them mentions Zaha Hadid, who is the first – and only – woman to have won the Pritzker Prize, the highest award for architecture (kind of like our Nobel). She’s up there with Rem Koolhaas and Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind. I don’t much care for her designs, but whatever.

    So, in this gripe session, being carried out by several young, pretty, white women, all of whom “perform femininity” in pretty standard ways, “What about Zaha Hadid?”

    “Zaha Hadid IS a man! She’s so UGLY! She looks like a man, and she talks like one . . ” and they went on in exactly this vein for several minutes.

    At some point I interjected, “Well, we have to act like men – be aggressive and so on – in order to succeed, but when WE do it, we get punished.” I was so pissed I wasn’t sure I could say anything intelligible.

    One of them (kind of) got it: “Yeah, like we’re totally trashing Zaha Hadid.”

    “But she’s UGLY!”

    It left me wondering what they think of their female classmates who -don’t- perform feminine drag, like me. I almost asked. I wish I had. If they ever get off on that tangent again, I will, because *rage*. They complain about sexist treatment, but they’re playing the same damn game.

    These – these are my -peers-. I am going to be working with people who think like this! *cries*

  10. October 3, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    I worked as an admin for a building inspection company and we had a lot of calls about the problems with synthetic stucco. So I learned all about stucco and synthetic stucco and how to test it and how to install it because I was answering questions about it all day long.

    Silly engineer – who you know-gets paid to do this for a living, uses a moisture meter that measures conductivity on a real stucco wall and is convinced that the building is full of water damage. Except that real stucco is put up over a metal mesh that throws the readings of the meter because metal is a good conductor.

    When the big boss found out about how wrong the results were and that the secretary had caught the problem- he threw a tantrum screaming about how a “$20,000 dollar a year secretary knows more than a $100,000 dollar a year inspector”.

    I should have gotten a raise at the very least. But no.

  11. Betsy
    October 3, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    Is this the thread you mean, SarahMC?

  12. October 3, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    My last boss before I shifted to mommyhood and work from home was an ass. He was an ass to everybody, but women came in for some especially patronizing treatment. I started by working there as a temp. receptionist, and part of my job was to find my permanent replacement. Out of a stack of 53 applicants, 52 female and 1 male, just guess who got hired. Boss man had tossed out several female applicants for being over-qualified (tight job market), and then hired the guy, who was a paralegal! I snickered so hard when he quit after a week because he had a better job offer.

    I hired on there permanently as a database manager. I showed up my first day – and discovered that my “desk” was the reception desk. I had no office, no desk, no computer! He didn’t want to waste a computer when I could “just use other people’s computers while they’re out of the office”. Then, three weeks later, when I still have no computer, and the database updating is going slowly, he started making snide comments about my female difficulties with computers. We went through four HR managers (all female) in the time I was there, because none of them could stand being treated like particularly stupid 12-year-olds for more than a few months.

  13. Psyche
    October 3, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    I’ve worked at two different small companies in the same industry. At both companies, the majority of employees were male (which is true across the whole industry).

    At Company A, management made it very clear that they thought their anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies were very important, that it was everyone’s responsibility to monitor their own behavior for anything that could make another employee feel uncomfortable or excluded, that subtle sexist behaviors were still sexist and still mattered, and that none of this should be seen as anything other than minimum standards of professional behavior. The result was that I almost never experienced any sort of sexist behavior in my time there, and in the only two (very minor) incidents that stick in my mind, either the person responsible or the person’s supervisor immediately apologized and assured me it wouldn’t happen again.

    By contrast, at Company B, the CEO routinely mocks the anti-harassment policy in our handbook, has said that certain jobs can’t be done by a woman, and generally has an attitude that “boys will be boys”. It’s not a terrible place to work, but people made comments about how I did well at one particular customer-facing assignment because of my looks, most of the company socializing takes place in environments where women generally feel less comfortable, and the men in the office make the sort of casually derogatory comments towards women that sexist men make.

    Management here claims that sort of behavior is inevitable, but what they really mean is that they don’t think it’s important enough to address.

  14. October 3, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    This didn’t happen to me, but still feels relevant to the conversation.

    The Theatre Department at my university underwent a change in Department heads while I was in graduate school. The Dean called the new Dept Head to ask her some questions about the transition. When she returned his call, his secretary wouldn’t put her through because the “Dean wants to talk to the new Dept. head, not his secretary.”

  15. Emily
    October 3, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    This is a professor story- I really enjoyed jazz band in high school, and I was reasonably good if I may say so myself, so when I got to college I tried out for the jazz program, and I was placed on the second alto part in the big band. There were only two girls, both freshmen, out of seventeen people, and our director was pretty much exactly a bumbling older man struggling to relate to others. He had no idea how to talk to us two girls- in fact, I don’t think he ever spoke to me at all except to tell me I looked nice (not in a creepy way though, just a being nice way) on concert days. For a while I was convinced that he didn’t know my name. Whenever he spoke to the group it was as if it was all guys. When we talked about what to wear to concerts he would say “Everyone wear dark suits,” and then everyone would start packing up their instruments as if that was the end of it. It didn’t help that the undergrad boys sitting on either side of me were huge jerks, constantly putting their arms around the back of my chair and that sort of thing. Anyway, the worst was when the first alto and I had to share a part, and the director said, “Now, you can just look at her part for this section,” and the first alto stared at my chest for a second and then responded, “Oh, sorry, you meant I should look at her PART.” I was in the front row, so I could feel everyone staring at me and I wanted to die. It was bad enough that I was being used as the butt of a nasty joke and no one was even acknowledging that I was there, but the worst was that the director just gave the first alto a mildly-disapproving-“boys will be boys” look (I’m sure you all know that look quite well) and didn’t even say anything. It was mortifying. Needless to say, during all of this my playing suffered horribly and I pretty much completely gave up sax after that year. I still hope to go back to it someday. That’s why in that Baumeister speech, his throwaway handwringing comment about ‘Oh, why can’t women improvise?’ was so infuriating. He has no idea. No. Fucking. Idea.

  16. October 3, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    When I was working at Quizno’s, a man came in and after he’d ordered, I told him that I’d take care of him at the register. He said, “Thanks, honey.” Wincing, but managing a pained smile, I grabbed as many raw, red onions as would fit in my hand and plopped them down on his 8″ pastrami on white. Passive aggressive, but satisfying.

    When I worked at IPNC in 2006, the men and women were separated and talked to separately about our duties. I still don’t know why, because to the best of my knowledge we didn’t hear anything different. I think the only thing I heard that my boyfriend didn’t was, “It’s going to be grueling, hard, physical work, but you HAVE to keep smiling, no matter how much it hurts.”

    Mostly, my experience has always been in the way I was treated. Customers always yelled at me at Quizno’s but never at my male co-workers (who were arguably more inept: I trained them, I would know). The reason that I no longer work in fast food is precisely that I can’t take direct insults or patronising treatment. I always scowled and snarked right back when I felt I was being unfairly treated. That’s how I got fired.

    To the best of my knowledge, the art world is a more hospitable environment to women, though I have no idea what it will be like when I apply to intern at a graphic design firm. The sexism that I encounter is embedded in my everyday experience; on the street, but especially online, where I tend to be more direct and confrontational about my ideas. There are fewer forums in everyday life that present the opportunity to meet these issues head on. Nothing I’ve experienced is any worse (and certainly not nearly as bad) as the kinds of things most women have to put up with.

  17. October 3, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    When my gf was working on her masters (on the way to a DVM), she took a course, required for all pre-vet students, that was exclusively taught by a particular professor.

    Female students in this course were required to meet with him during office hours for several “career counseling” sessions. During the first session, she started out being uncomfortable, and became more uncomfortable as he rose out of his seat, came around his desk, and sat on the edge of his desk quite close to her. As he reached out to touch her shoulder, she got up, moved away, and announced, “We’re done.”

    “But we have to schedule the next session.”

    “No. This is the last session. We’re done.”

  18. K.T. Slager
    October 3, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    I feel so lucky that I work for a particular film production company’s president… actually, he is the president, vice president, director of photography… actually it’s just him, and me as his only assistant. He is the nicest guy in the world, extraordinarily fair, married with an adorable one-year-old son, and I couldn’t be happier in an entry-level job. He gives me tasks that I wouldn’t trust myself with, but he apparently thinks I’m good enough to handle them. And I suppose I am.

    That said…

    While I’ve never experienced workplace-related sexism (except one encounter with a drunk football fan, long story), I constantly hear these kinds of hings from older men, like my grandfather: “What? A woman is in a position of power such as the superintendent of a school district? Can she possibly handle it??” or as I heard on the bus the other day an older man LOUDLY declaring, “…a woman doctor! She’s pretty good for a woman doctor!” You could cut the tension like a hot knife through butter.

  19. Kat
    October 3, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    In 1992, when I first married, I realized that we needed to start working on saving a nest egg for retirement. I researched what financial investment company I thought might be best, what types of investments might be right for us, and talked my very-reluctant husband into coming to the appointment. Our financial advisor basically had me to thank for the commission he was sure to get from us over the years. We filled out gobs of paperwork and then set up payroll deductions from both our paychecks. When I got the first statement I was surprised to see that ALL the money was in my husbands name, despite the fact that we had filled everything out to be joint (and for those accounts that could not be joint, we set up two separate but equal accounts). I assumed it was some sort of mistake, so called the advisor. Who informed me, “Its okay, honey. As his wife, you’ll get all his money when he dies anyhow.” Yea… we switched advisors after that. Although my husband never quite understood why.

  20. October 3, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    You know what? I do actually have a story, it’s just not mine. I love my best friend. He’s the coolest guy in the world. He went to work at Wal-Mart in his year off from college (he’s going to school in Burbank, California, now) and ended up in the tech department, where people would always seek him out for advice on what to buy or how to use certain things. He was the only dude in the whole department and often the women he worked with knew more about stuff (like non-macintosh computers) than he did. Often, he’d tell them to speak to one of his co workers for this reason, and people would tell him that they’d rather talk to him.

    Instead of just indulging them, he’d just tell them outright that he couldn’t help them (even if he kind of could) and that if they really needed help, they’d talk to the person to whom he’d directed them.

  21. Joe
    October 3, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    So– Let me start by saying– I’m a guy.

    Now, let me continue to say that I certainly don’t attempt to be a sexist sonofabitch. But I’m big enough to admit that sometimes- I’m an asshole.

    That said- you folk look like a fairminded lot- here’s an interesting reversal of the sexism theme. Sexism in reverse.

    I’m a math major, my particular school has the unusual property of having a fairly large female mathematical contingent (I’d say 65-35, though it is a small department). Now, like I said, I try to treat people fairly, I was taught that I should judge people based on the content of there cranium, and not the shape of there genitals, color of there skin, etc. I expect– perhaps with too much optimism– the same from other people. In short my philosophy is: if you can hack the math, I don’t give a shit who you are. I was taking an abstract algebra course not but a year ago- with one of the female professors, the course required, as 50% of the final grade, a paper on an area from abstract algebra (group theory, ring theory, etc). I chose to write on games, namely different “solitaire” games on a chess board (N-queens problem, Knights tour, similar) from a group theoretic point of view. I wrote my paper, had my advisor read over it (she thought it was great), reworked and worked — I really wanted to get a good grade. Shortly after receiving my paper back, I noticed that I had not gotten the grade I had expected, lets just say, it was significantly lower than my original estimate. I wondered why- I assumed that I had made some egregious error to warrant this grade (_thats_ how low it was), But there were no comments, no corrections, nothing- I wondered why, why did I get such a low grade, when there was _no_ feedback. I asked the professor, she said, and I am quoting: “I didn’t like the topic.”

    Excuse me? I chose the topic from your list, it is a classic topic in group theory, and of amazing interest (at least to me). Why wasn’t she interested too? Maybe it was just old-hat for her, that must have been it. I replied, “I’m sorry- I thought it was pretty interesting- why didn’t you like it? Will I be able to make it up?”

    Her reply- take it with some salt- I’m trying to be objective, but it’s hard.

    “Answering your second question: No, Your first…

    Because we don’t need more of _your_ kind in math.”


    Ladies and Gentlemen (Though, I didn’t see any other male posters, I’ll leave it as a catchall), I’m sorry for your woes, I really am, if nothing else- I hope this story will help you all to know that not all of us guys are bad- and in fact, some of us deal with the same stupid shit you do.


  22. Marissa
    October 3, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    I used to work for a company where the boss was a real jerk. One day, the office was being filmed for a story about the company. My boss litterally removed me from the desk I was working at, to call in a more attractive coworker (who is an awesome person by the way) to litterally sit at my desk and pretend to do my job for the filming! She was on her lunch at the time and just as confused and insulted by this action as I was. Nice huh?

  23. Spotted and Herbacious Backson
    October 3, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    I’m in this factory, and one of the guys gets in a half-jokey trash-talking contest with another, and finally he calls the other man a woman and I ask him how he thought it would feel if someone used his gender as an insult, and he looked like he was just seeing something for the first time, and backed down real quick. I notice that he is no longer with us.
    Another time I was machining some plastic thing on a lathe and this guy asks “What’s that, a butt plug?” And I said “Bend over and find out!” And he was gone just like that! That wasn’t so sexist because he and others were like that to everyone regardless of gender.
    I would say that some of the worst treatment I have seen has come from other women. One kept me from moving up like I should, another backstabbed me to the temp agency that sent me, and a third just defied description. I think such women are so insecure they feel they have to keep other women down, and you can thank the patriarchy for that.

  24. Sara
    October 3, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    Working in a university library. Admin structure almost entirely women and/or gay men.

    They’re interviewing for a librarian. My supervisor (MLS librarian in charge of a branch) is on the committee. We have a tiny shared office, no privacy, so from her desk I hear things like:

    “Yeah, she’s great! But her husband is finishing his MD and you know she’ll be moving in a year when he graduates and gets a job.”

    That pretty much summed up the entire job search, and was not the only similar quote, just the only one I remember verbatim.

    No, wait, there’s one more I remember. It just wasn’t as relevant here:

    “Her references are glowing, but she said something about being Ba’hai and she’ll want all those wierd holidays off.”

  25. October 3, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    Joe, you’re trolling, right? What makes you think that one female professor making a vague comment about “your kind” is in any way “the same shit” as sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace?

  26. Kat
    October 3, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    When my new husband and I moved into our new house, I had to get things in order. First task–get the utilities hooked up. I called the various companies, and the general method was that either we pay a $100/per utility deposit or we get a letter from the old utility company attesting to our good credit. We had not lived together previously, but I had utilities in my name in my previous living situation (my husband did not–he had lived in the barracks and had established no credit in general–was a cash guy). I asked if letters attesting to my individual credit with the utility companies would suffice and was told it would. I requested the various letters from the old companies and sent them to the new companies. Every one of the bills (electric, gas, water, phone… ) arrived in HIS name alone. I thought this might be a mistake, and so made phone calls. Nope, I was told, “this is how it is done.” But… the credit history was “mine”, so wouldn’t it stand to reason that I would be the more trustworthy credit risk? I mean, that’s just good business, right? No one would budge. Of course, we made payments in full and on time, so within a year my husband’s credit was wonderful. Mine on the other hand had disappeared. At our next residence, he had to set up the utilities or we would have had to pay the deposits because mine was too far in the past to “count” anymore.

    One more…

    When pregnant with my son, I was taking a class in Organizational Management. As part of the class, students could arrange for field trips to their various work places to show how their organizations were run. Some of these visits were a little rough on me being 7-months pregnant and awkward. Once I had to climb into a small boat to tour a bridge construction project in Pearl Harbor, another time I had to climb into a Chinook helicopter. Very interesting stuff really, but it was hard on me physically. I was not the only one who was having difficulty with some of these trip–a couple men were older and not used to the exertion. But I was the only pregnant one. My classmates were all very good about it, gave me a hand here and there and made me feel comfortable. My professor, on the other hand, made a point of pulling me aside one day to tell me that if I wanted to drop the class, and I told him of course not. Then he got very mean and said if I couldn’t keep up he would have to deduct from my grade possibly even failing me (it was a required grade and I was 3 classes away from my bachelors and he knew it.) He said I shouldn’t be taking the class anyhow–what would I need with a degree with a baby on the way?

    I got a C in the class. I probably deserved a B. But my son’s birth distracted me from trying to pursue the issue and I got my degree and walked away from it all.

  27. October 3, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    A friend of mine in law school was interviewing with a firm well known for being an old boys network. During the interview, she asked them about a piece she’d read in local bar publication talking about their efforts to recruit women and said “Can you tell me a little about the experience of women at your firm once you’ve succeeded in recruiting.”

    “Oh yeah! All the women are on the mommy track, everyone else is on the partnership track.”

  28. October 3, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    I’ve had a lot of sexism stories, some good, some bad. But, the worst one was when I worked as a server in a busy restraunt. There was a customer that called me “honey” and “sweetie”, to which I politely asked him to stop. He then moved to “Sweet tits” and at that point I went to the boss, and ask for the customer to be removed, or for someone else to take him. The boss said I was “overreacting” and that it was too busy to rearrange things. I went to replace the cold coffee with new coffee, and had to walk by this guy’s table. When I walked by, he PINCHED MY ASS and told me that I needed to hurry up.

    Coffee went in lap.

    I lost job.

    I never cried a single tear over it.

  29. AJ
    October 3, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    I had a lab partner freshman year who wouldn’t let me hook up circuit components (I quickly changed groups and partnered with somebody who let me pull my own weight), but the worst I experienced was during my senior year in my design class. I was talking with my teammates about how frustrating Fourier Transforms were. To which one of them replied something along the lines of how women can’t do Fourier Transforms because, well, duh, we’re women. Fortunately, he dropped the class after that day and I ended up graduating cum laude so I’d like to think karma did it’s work.

    I’m sure there are other incidents, but none that rubbed me the wrong way as much as those.

    (And this isn’t even going into my brief foray into corporate America where I would frequently be one of the only women in a room full of men, and I’d always be thinking that I had to somehow prove myself.)

  30. Christine
    October 3, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    I have so many……. but will be share the two worst:
    When I was 17, at my first gynecology exam, and very uncomfortable with the whole situation, the Dr. asked me “what’s the problem? Is my finger bigger than your boyfriends penis? (My reaction: Stunned silence)

    At my first job after graduating from college the credit manager of the company punched me in the chest “accidentally” while putting his jacket on. (My reaction: Stunned silence)

  31. NancyP
    October 3, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    One of the more amusing episodes was early in my career. One of my jobs is making diagnoses on tissues removed during surgery. Researchers often like to get pieces of human tissue for testing, and we don’t need the entire organ to make the proper diagnoses, so we choose some non-essential portion of the sample and give it to the researcher in question. Some male Ph.D. bozo decided he didn’t like going through the formalities of having the M.D. (me) actually select tissue for use in research. I got pissed after seeing a patient specimen temporarily lost because this Ph.D. hadn’t left it where it was supposed to be , so I laid in wait for the Ph.D. to come to surgery to kidnap and sample the next suitable organ. I accosted him, tissue in his hand, and ordered him to desist and give me the tissue, and I would get him an appropriate portion of it. He refused, and said, no nurse was going to talk to him like that (I was dressed in scrubs – it’s an operating room suite), we argued loudly bringing the attention of various and sundry, and this large Ph.D. guy walked off with the tissue – I wasn’t going to tackle this guy weighing a good 80 pounds more than me. However, he would have been better off listening to my threats. I had suspected the Ph.D. hadn’t gone through the Human Research Subjects committee (Institutional Review Board) first ( a formality for using anonymized tissue that would otherwise be discarded) – a little inquiry found that he was not in compliance, and he got sat on hard by the university.

  32. ataralas
    October 3, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    Current favorite: reg day for fall semester, and the grad students are hanging out in the grad lounge. Very Pregnant Grad Student is sitting in a chair talking with some friends, then gets up to go. President of the Physics Grad Council is in her way, but backs up very quickly, saying, “I’m so sorry, pregnant women make me so nervous! It’s just weird

  33. BeaTricks
    October 3, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    I work in a technical profession that is roughly 50% female but with a disproportionate amount of men having Ph.Ds compared to women. Being both a woman and a holder of only a bachelor’s degree, I’ve been the target of several comments pertaining to my intelligence and gender. One Ph.D. guy I had the misfortune of working with would frequently make catty (yes, they were catty) comments about how much women suck. He’d say things such as: “women only choose things based on colors” and other idiotic nonsense. He’d constantly nit-pick everything that I did and made nasty remarks about my level of competence. He’d approach me when I was using an analytical instrument he needed and say: “I don’t know why you use that all the time — it’s not like you get a lot of work done”. The worst was when he would recruit and encourage the other women to make derogatory comments towards me while they flirted and fawned over him. Whenever I would defend myself, he would label me as “having issues” and say that I was “being too emotional”.

    I’d complain to management, but nothing was ever done about it. Most people told me that I shouldn’t take it seriously and I was being “too sensitive”. I gave up trying to get respect from him. Instead, I completely ignored him and would only speak to him about work-related issues. He eventually left me alone.

    He got his comeuppance when our entire department was laid off. Shame, since it was a tight job market for Ph.Ds. I, however, got multiple job offers and ended up at a large and respected firm with a higher salary. He, on the other hand, has had some difficulty masking his atrocious personality during the few interviews that he had and is still unemployed as a result. I’d actually feel bad for the guy if he weren’t such an asshole. Schadenfreude is a nice feeling sometimes.

  34. Reba
    October 4, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Antigone-I have used the ‘accidental spills’ tactic quite successfully in the past. It’s great cause no one can actually accuse me of being anything but clumsy.

    Anyway, my story. I am a service and maintenance tech. I am one of 2 women in the job, out of an estimated 400 techs in the USA and Canada. I am a specialist at repairs, and probably in the top 5 in the world on one specific type of equipment, very difficult to repair. The group of men I work with in the office are great, but some of the outlying techs give me the look, the one that says, ‘you’re a woman, you can’t possibly know what to do’. They usually do a complete turn around when I can help without referencing a single manual.

    Customers are the say way. I was in the field last week filling in, and one of the numbnuts I was working for actually said to me, “You’re just being difficult. The last MAN who was here got it to work.” One of my fellow techs said to him, “The last MAN who was here was doing it wrong. If she can’t get it to work, no one can. She’s the best in the company.” As much as I hated having someone defend me, the praise from this tech felt great.

    Short story about the other woman. She was hired about 6 years ago. The service manager at the time said to the guy who hired her, “You can’t hire a woman for this job. She’s just going to get pregnant, use up the health insurance, and quit when it gets to be too much.” She’s had 2 kids since she started, and she’s still with us.

  35. Hector B.
    October 4, 2007 at 1:02 am

    hey, you guys: like what am I supposed to call you? I’ve been going like, ‘you guys’, for decades now. Gals sounds too antique, Women is not comparably informal, forget Girls, forget Ladies, too.

    Another time I was machining some plastic thing on a lathe and this guy asks “What’s that, a butt plug?” And I said “Bend over and find out!” And he was gone just like that! That wasn’t so sexist because he and others were like that to everyone regardless of gender.

    I had wondered about what people’s experience was with workplaces where coarseness is the standard; the guys were not trying to gross out the women. For example, I worked in a warehouse one summer during college. Although all the races and all the ages were represented, the group was all male. The factory (but not the warehouse) shut down for two weeks, with almost all the supervisors taking off. The guys had always been pretty crude, but they got even cruder without supervision. We all chipped in for vodka and orange juice for lunch — a gallon of each. I think the highlight (lowlight) was when one of the guys pulled down the pants of another guy and pretended to sodomize him.

    Much later, another place I worked had a middle-aged female supervisor. Hanging over her desk was a calendar featuring young men in speedos. Management came by and complained, so she used post-its to cover them from their waist to their knees.

  36. October 4, 2007 at 1:26 am

    This one is indirect.

    A few jobs ago (software customer tech support) part of the interview process was an informal off-site lunch with people who would be your coworkers and job mentors, primarily for them to gauge if they could work with you.

    One of them, a woman who was currently supporting the software product I would be responsible for (she was transitioning to a different product) asked if thought I would have any problems being supervised by and taking direction from someone who was younger than I was and female.

    My answer was that I wouldn’t have an issue, and that I had been supervised by younger people and by women and by women who were younger than I was.

    It wasn’t until later that I wondered just what had happened in the past that she thought that the question had to be asked.

    Yeah, I am aware that my delay in wondering why was probably due to long term experience of having the advantage of ingrained male privledge.

  37. Pizzadiavola
    October 4, 2007 at 1:33 am

    Hector: y’all, you all, you, folks, guys and gals, everybody, people.

    As for coarseness in an all-male being standard rather than sexist, what does coarseness consist of? Often, in my experience, it consists of derogatory comments about women; insulting males by calling them feminine, girls, ladies; talking about women (female acquaintances, significant others, classmates, professors, passerby, actresses, TV characters) being bitches and pussies; making dismissive comments about the capabilities, intellect, competence, sexual behavior, and attractiveness of women; talking about women as sex objects to bang, screw, and take. I don’t see how that’s not inherently sexist.

  38. willa
    October 4, 2007 at 1:50 am

    I actually like “guys” as a gender-neutral term. Probably because for the longest time, I thought it WAS gender neutral: I thought “guys” did not at all mean “men” but “people,” and was annoyed to find out what it really meant. However, its use seems to be very general these days. I routinely call an all-female group of people “guys.” Hmmmm.

    As to workplace stories, the one for me that most stands out is when I worked at (oh God) McDonald’s in college. I was working the drive-thru when a car full of male teens pulled up to the window. As I started to hand them their bags of food, I cheerfully asked them if they wanted any ketchup or sauce.

    “Can I get a blowjob?” one of the boys asked. The boy driving the car said “SHIT!” and promptly drove away before I could leap through the drive-thru window and kick that kid’s ass. Not that I would have. The driver parked the car and walked back to the window, where I unsmilingly gave him his food and he left, after apologizing, I think.

    It’s really not that bad of a story. At least one of the kids apologized. I’m thinking this is more of an “Oh God customers are scum” story than a “Sexism in the workplace” story.

    I now suddenly really want a cheeseburger. Mmmm…

  39. truffula
    October 4, 2007 at 2:19 am

    I am a tenured professor in the sciences at a public university. I’ve endured a variety of sexist behaviors and comments from colleagues and some outright harassment over the years. This is the same for every female colleague with whom I’ve ever discussed the subject. Something that has not been brought up in the story telling but that I think deserves attention is how these experiences condition us to perceive the actions of others. It can be difficult to not interpret dubious behavior as gender-based when gender-based treatment defines a significant part of your professional experience. Maybe the male who scooped an idea I presented to him as a subject for collaboration (and published with a male scientist who assumed the role I would have had in the project) was just an ass and not a sexist ass but it’s hard to see that through the lens of my personal experience.

    OK, well in keeping with the thread, another story. A few years ago, when I was pregnant, a colleague asked if Dr. F, another person in our field, was really the father of my children, instead of my partner. I was stunned, very uncomfortable, and unlike my usual self at a loss for words. I later clarified that this was very innapropriate and that if he had a problem with my being pregnant he should just say so, so that I would be able to form a more useful opinion of him than the one I’d had up to that point. He appologized and we get on fine now but I imagine that this incident has faded into the mists of time for him while it remains a very real part of my professional experience.

  40. Yvette
    October 4, 2007 at 7:16 am

    This is really a pre-profession story. I studied law at a university here in Western Australia, and attended a “Preparing for Job Interviews” seminar run by the law students’ society. I nearly fell off my chair when the head of the society (a woman) said that women must wear skirts and high-heels to job interviews if they had any hope of getting a job. This is about three years ago. I wore flat shoes and pants to every interview I went to, and got an offer at every place! (Which isn’t to say those employers are any better, but that’s a litany for another day.)

  41. Jan
    October 4, 2007 at 7:30 am

    Where to start?
    I was asked my bra size in a job interview at age 16.

    Military-I was followed into the women’s locker room on my AF base at age 18, and was lucky that someone overheard the ruckus and intervened. The Sgt wasn’t charged, because “why would I want to ruin this man’s career, when I wouldn’t be staying in?’ Later at the same base, I was approached by a TSgt who asked ‘since I was now divorced, how much was I going to charge for a date?’

    Construction job-I was shown around the shop and asked specifics about each piece of powered equipment. I hadn’t used one or two of them, but had experience using similar equipment, and said so. I was told that since I was untrained I would be hired at entry level instead of the position I had put in for. Talking to the rest of the crew (60 guys) I found I was the only one who had been questioned about equipment, and the only one who hadn’t been hired at the level they applied for. One humorous note though. I knew that there would be at least one smart ass in the bunch, and none of them knew I was prior military, or that I’d been a flight line tech. The joker of the pack waited until I was on a ladder hanging light fixtures, and made a suggestion relative to to my position on the ladder and the height of his face. I replied it was a heck of an idea and I’d love to take him up on it, but his head just wasn’t flat enough to set a beer on. End of that problem at least.

    Big Defense Contractor-I was asked to leave an all-hands (30 people) meeting by the Regional Manager. I looked around for any support at all, but everyone was just looking at me, waiting for me to leave. I was shaking as I left the room, and stood out in the hall, mortified. I didn’t know what to do. When I was called back in, the meeting was ending, and I approached the manager and asked why I had had to leave. He said that there had been a complaint from another department about the guys swearing, and he didn’t think it was appropriate to have a female in the room ‘because he might have to use some of the words in illustration’.
    That’s just the first 20 years, and leaves out a few gropes, a flasher, and other such fun.
    Where it ends? Well, 40-odd years down the road and I’m now a field engineer with no paper behind it, just an engineer by experience. Everyone walks softly around the grumpy old techs, and finally now I are one. Give me sh*t now, and I’ll hand you your head. God, it feels good.
    I just wish I could hand some of that confidence back in time to the girl 40 years ago.

  42. Linaerys
    October 4, 2007 at 8:21 am

    I almost always just lurk here, but I have to put in my $0.02.

    I studied Materials Science and Engineering at Cornell University. My freshman year, remember going to my advisor to try to rearrange some of my classes, because I had a Tuesday with class straight through from 9am to 4pm, and I wanted time for lunch. The advisor, and older male professor said, “You should be glad not to have a lunch break. Aren’t you girls always dieting?” I was 5′ 11″ and 140lbs (skinny) and even if I weren’t, it was an incredibly rude and sexist thing to say.

    My actual major was almost 1/3 women, high for engineering, but still, there were two professors who wouldn’t call on women in class, wouldn’t acknowlege women if they came in for office hours, basically refused to believe that women existed in Engineering school. These professors were never punished for this no matter how many times students complained.

    My early years out of school I worked at Accenture. I remember during my interview, one of the partners said, “This company is great. I travel all week and only have to see my wife and kids on the weekend.”

    The company was set up that we traveled all the time, and even stuff we were supposed to get done for work, like delivering things to a home office that we were never near, was expected to be done by some at-home support, like a wife. The partners all had stay-at-home spouses who got their clothes cleaned during the weeks they were gone, and those who didn’t had to take precious vacation time to get basic things done.

    I work in advertising now, and regardless of the content of ads we produce, it is a lot less sexist. Still, the head boss only gives me the time of day if I’ve really dressed, up, put on plenty of make-up, etc. If I dress nicely, he ignores me, even when I say ‘hi’ in the halls.

  43. Nicki
    October 4, 2007 at 8:45 am

    I’m a fourth-year business management student majoring in HR, and in my classes we often have to do a lot of group case studies. A recent one involved choosing the best candidates for a job out of a selection of six – five men, one woman. The woman was easily the most qualified for the job. My group’s reaction? “Well, I know this is illegal to consider, but she’s young and the case says she wants a family, if we pick her she’ll probably want to have a baby in a couple years and leave the company anyway”. The part that I found even more appalling was that my group is comprised of four women and one man.

    Another example happened during a discussion night at the Pride Center in my university. The topic of male vs. female doctors and which we would prefer came up. One guy said, “I’d rather a man…not because I’m gay, but because I have the impression that a male doctor would be more competant than a female doctor”. The entire group looked at him like he was crazy. Granted, he was generally an ignorant asshole for most of the evening, and the other times that I’ve seen him too, so maybe this behaviour is normal for him.

  44. Margaret
    October 4, 2007 at 9:00 am

    From the brutal proving ground of the legal field:

    — There was the time my boss reluctantly accepted my offer to work on a big, career-enhancing project over the weekend. He expressed concern about who was going to take care of my husband and whether my husband would mind.

    — During a meeting with another boss and my client, my boss admonishes my client not to cuss because “there is a lady present” (thus wrecking my credibility with my tough-guy client).

    — A male colleague invited a male newbie to a court hearing, even though the male newbie had nothing to do with the case. The female newbie who had been working on the case for months complained about not being invited to the hearing. My male colleague confided in me since the matter was so adversarial, he thought it might not be “safe” for her to attend. I set him straight, I hope.

    — When my husband’s boss (also a lawyer, now a judge) told my husband when we got married that my husband had better work hard because it wouldn’t be long before I would have a baby and drop out of the profession.

  45. Lucy Gillam
    October 4, 2007 at 9:24 am

    When I started my Ph.D. program, I was in a TA class of twenty-five, twenty women, five men. One of the women had brought a spouse to the area with her. Four of the men had. I cannot tell you how many women with Ph.Ds I saw taking adjunct positions because they had to stay in the area where their husbands’ had jobs. I’m one of the few academic women I know whose husband moved for her job.

  46. SarahMC
    October 4, 2007 at 9:29 am

    Yes, that’s the one I’m talking about, Betsy. Reading through that gave me chills.

    Joe – there is no such thing as “reverse sexism.” The opposite of sexism would be the absence of sexism. Sexism is sexism, and does not imply “…against women.”

  47. TinaH
    October 4, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Christine – don’t feel bad, stunned silence is often the wittiest come-back I can come up with. For some reason, I just keep not expecting it and it surprises me every time.

  48. Erin
    October 4, 2007 at 9:55 am

    I worked in the corporate offices of a large regional retailer. I had a boss who thought it was hilarious to send stuff like this to the women in our department during performance evaluation week. When I quit and had my exit interview, I told the HR guy doing the interview that I didn’t think Company X was a good place for smart, ambitious young women to work, and that, in fact, I could name at least half a dozen women who had quit in the past couple of months, because of the way they were treated, or because they’d been passed over for promotions for less-qualified men. HR dude then proceeded to tell me about how much time and energy HR put into all of its diversity programs. I lost it. I said to him, “This is retail. With cashiers, clerks, and the huge number of administrative assistants in corporate, even though “professional” women may be underrepresented, this place has to be well over 50% women. That’s not a diversity issue. That’s a misuse of power issue. WRITE IT DOWN.” Several times during the interview, I had to tell him to write down what I was saying. My friends who had left the company also said they had to insist that their comments be recorded.

    There are times when I regret not going to the mattresses with a sexual harassment claim against that boss. But he’d been there for 36 years, and I’d been there for 3, and he was right in line with the culture of the company, so I just split and high-tailed it back to academia. Still, it makes me think how much higher the incidence of sexual harassment must be than the statistics that get reported, because I’m 100% sure that I’m the rule and not the exception when it comes to deciding that it’s Just Not Worth It.

  49. SarahMC
    October 4, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Erin, you have got to read the thread on Jezebel (Betsy linked to it). Anyone who thinks sexual harassment in the workplace (and elsewhere) isn’t still alive and well needs a heavy dose of “Consciousness Raising.”

  50. SarahMC
    October 4, 2007 at 10:08 am

    It’s easy to be comforted by the fact that many of the worst sexual harassers and sexists are old men who’ll be dead soon anyway, but the problem is that the young men are witnessing the sexism and harassment, learning that it’s considered acceptable, and will feel free to perpetuate it because there are no repurcussions.

  51. Rebecca
    October 4, 2007 at 10:09 am


    The situation you described must have been very difficult for you. It sounds like the professor treated you unfairly if she had already approved the paper topic. However, I don’t see what you consider sexism in the incident. My reaction (as a math Ph.D) is that the conflict is one between Abstract Algebra and Combinatorics. (Hence “your kind” is referring to combinatorics, not “male” math.) Honestly I was surprised to see your topic, as chess board problems are typically classified as combinatorics even when group theory is applied to them.

    Both men and women can be bad teachers. Just because the gender of the teacher and student is different doesn’t mean sexism is involved.

  52. Hector B.
    October 4, 2007 at 11:24 am

    Pizzadiavola, I take your point. But guys were coarse without referring to women at all: deciding if some human irritant was an asshole, a dick, or merely a little prick. Or describing some ineffective man as a jagoff. And in one of the washroom stalls, a talented artist had drawn a long-gone boss as a shirt and trouser-clad man with a penis head, emphasizing his dickheadedness.

  53. Torri
    October 4, 2007 at 11:24 am

    My stories ain’t so bad but here they are
    I worked at a call center, ringing places to try and get them to do interviews (yeah I didn’t stay there long). Whenever I talked to someone over the phone I was almost always referred to as ‘dear’, ‘sweetie’ or ‘darling’. One call that sticks with me was an annoyed man who commented that since I was a girl he wasn’t going to be vulgar about telling me he didn’t want to do an interview

  54. Mary
    October 4, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Wow, reading through these, part of me wants to cry, and part of me wants to laugh at some of the hilarious replies and revenge! Of all the places I’ve worked professionally, it seems that the more liberal-minded environments were also the most sexist. I’m working at a very republican institution right now, and have not had one incident in my 2 years. Anecdotal, but interesting. Maybe they’re just more quiet about it.

    Not work related, but still mind boggling: A couple of years ago I had to move to a new town for a new job (the job I currently have). I had my father ride up with me because I’d just had major surgery a couple of weeks before and couldn’t do any lifting or driving. When I moved into my apartment, my landlord met me to give me my keys and answer questions. Every time I asked a question, he would answer to my father! Finally, my father, being the “state the obvious” sort, said, “I don’t know why you’re telling me all this, I don’t care. She’s the one who asked the question, and she’s the one whose name is on the rent check!” He still never looked me in the eye or answered me directly. Weird.

  55. Mary
    October 4, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Also, Joe, I’m sorry for what you had to experience, but that one incident, which probably did not make you feel powerless or unsafe in any way, simply does not compare with the endless bullshit women face every day in the workplace. Sorry, but no.

  56. Hector B.
    October 4, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Reading the Jezebel thread reminded me: My late sister once worked in the accounting department of a big hotel in Key West. She was the only woman and the only straight in the department. She told me that every Monday, her colleagues would come in and post-mortem their weekend’s sexcapades. She said she didn’t really want to hear about fisting, etc. Their supervisor would tell the guys to tone it down but they would backslide.

  57. alsojill
    October 4, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    One thing I’ve noticed is that most of the harassment detailed here and on Jezebel has been from a male superior.

    My experiences have been different. I’ve been harassed a few times over the years–since childhood–and every time it’s been a peer or, in the most recent, notable, and frightening instance, from a male student of mine. Earlier this summer, I received an “anonymous” e-mail from a former student that went on in great detail about the number of ways (and the number of positions) in which he wanted to have sex with me. I suspect, from his perspective, this was somehow “romantic.” To me, it was frightening, not least b/c there was a level at which he implied that I had *asked* for this sort of treatment. It was also extremely degrading, and the in two classes I’ve taught since receiving the e-mail, I’ve struggled with moments of feeling vulnerable and exposed, wondering which student was going to try something like this next.

    Sexual harassment is usually construed as a power play, and I don’t dispute that. But because of that, the university is not necessarily set up to handle student harassment of a teacher, largely b/c the teachers supposedly have the power. However, as a small woman, I am always aware that there is one level where my male students always have more power than me–they’re flat-out bigger than I am.

    I was lucky. The department took complaint very seriously, as did the university itself. But it remains something that bothers me and leaves me feeling sick at times…and I think it’s a level of harassment that people *don’t* expect. I think it also goes to SarahMC’s comment about young men–they’re being trained to think harassment is okay. The old guys might be more egregious (like the professor who told my friend, who was leaving academe, that if she wanted to come back, she needed to make sure not to “hang any albatrosses around her neck,” by which he meant having children), and they get away with it b/c “it’s just the way they were raised,” but the young ones get away with it, too.

  58. pizzadiavola
    October 4, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Hector B., thanks for clarifying, and point taken.

  59. Dr. Confused
    October 4, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    alsojill, your story reminded me of one from my advisor.

    In some classes, we hand out 3×5 cards to the students so that they can ask questions anonymously. (It’s actually a pretty good system to help the shyer students). My advisor received a card with the question: “are you wearing a thong today?”

  60. roses
    October 4, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    I’ve actually been pretty lucky. I have friends who have experienced some really bad examples of sexism at work, but I’ve only had small things. Even when I went to work at a construction camp, I was surprised at how respectfully my male co-workers treated me (I’d heard lots of horrors stories). I do have a few stories though:

    – When I was in university, I got several times: “Oh, that professor just favours you because you’re a girl”. Umm, no, he treats me with respect because (unlike you) I treat him with respect by actually showing up to class, paying attention, completing my assignments, and turning them in on time. Try it sometime.

    – I had a co-worker who always called me “sweetie” or “dear”. In every other way, he was very respectful of me and my work. But I bristled every time he used those terms. (Never did get up the guts to say: “That’s not appropriate”. *sighs*)

    – In a like manner, I have a co-worker who always touches me on the shoulder, back, etc. Not in a sexual way, but he doesn’t touch male co-workers. It’s as if because I’m female, I’m not entitled to personal space.

  61. Beth
    October 4, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Wow, I have so many….

    When I sold motorcycle parts (the only female), and customers often flat-out asked “is there a guy I can talk to?” The shop had something of a turnover problem, so before long I was the most seasoned employee there, and my boss was great — I was the only employee he felt was competent enough to be left alone to handle the counter, if he had to go to the bank or just wanted to hole up in his office to do paperwork. So, many times, no there was not a “guy to talk to.” And quite often even when there was another counter person (male) he was a real newbie, so the customer who just obviously passed me up in favor of him had to watch the male newbie ask me how to find/do something.

    And I cannot even count the number of times I’ve been told throughout my academic career that I should hide my intelligence, be more moderate in expressing my opinions, etc. because “you know, some men are threatened by women who are smarter and more outspoken than they are” — the man telling me this never admits he feels that way, it’s always just “friendly advice” on how to deal with those “other” guys.

    Then there are the (always male) students who call me “Mrs. —” I respond with a moment of stunned silence, followed by (in a bright tone of voice, as if I’m just amused:) “wow, you’re just wrong on all counts, incorrectly assuming marital status and sexual orientation, and totally ignoring that Ph.D. I spent six years earning! You may call me DR. —-. Now, what was your question?” (pleasant smile)

    If students tell me they’re not sure who has a doctorate and who doesn’t, I suggest “Professor —” is a good safety-compromise, and even in the “real-world” marital status is irrelevant to business and women should be addressed as Ms. — (unless of course you know for a fact someone prefers another form of address). But I noticed that male colleagues get the opposite assumption, of higher level, as often male graduate students teaching get called “Dr.”

    Oh hell, I could just go on and on with examples. And that’s why Joe’s example isn’t parallel even if it was sexist (and it did suck, and I’m sure he did feel powerless at that moment, because he was indeed the powerless one in that scenario). But he just had ONE experience; it wasn’t a constant systematic thing that made him despair of EVER being taken seriously, being judged on the basis of his abilities, being hired for the jobs for which he’s qualified, or being paid a fair salary for the work. He cannot possibly imagine how frustrating that is, especially when you KNOW you are actually smarter than the assholes staring at your cleavage rather than looking at your publication record or listening to what you actually have to say.

  62. October 4, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    a long while ago my husband and I worked at the same IT company, he had been hired first, and I about 6 months later. I was put on a kind of touchy contract and really worked hard making everything work for our team. After about 3 months I got a fantastic raise to acknowledge the work I had been doing.

    When my husband went in for his yearly review, the boss apologized to him for giving me a raise that had me earning more money than him. And promptly gave him a raise to a little over what I was making.

  63. Beth
    October 4, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Roses, don’t dismiss your experiences, those “small things” add up, like steadily dripping water will eventually eat a hole through the biggest boulder.

    (and the touching thing — to me that’s not small! ick, get your hands off me!!!!)

  64. roses
    October 4, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    and the touching thing — to me that’s not small! ick, get your hands off me

    Well, he’s not like carassing or stroking me. That would be ick! It’s just like a friendly pat on the back or arm thing. It just gets to me because he doesn’t do the same with men, which makes me think he respects their personal space more than mine.

  65. AnnaB
    October 4, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    I was an administrative assistant to a veterinarian who owned a bunch of vet clinics. Like many professions, veterinarians are increasingly likely to be female , so my boss ended up hiring several new young female vets to fill some vacancies.

    However, he became personally hurt every time one of these vets did something to screw up his bottom line – particularly taking maternity leave or adjusting her schedule in any way because of a child. He’d even be pretty open to the other staff about how unhappy he was to see another pregnant vet. My favorite crack was when he asked one of the more senior male vets about when his colleague was set to “whelp” (the term for an animal giving birth).

    (Needless to say, he had a wife to handle the “whelping” while he built his career.)

    He finally teamed up with his accountant to write an article in a national vet journal about vet graduates who don’t work “full time” (basically 50+ hours per week) as vets during the first 10 years after they graduate. His thesis was that they should pay back the state for their education, since they weren’t using it to benefit society.

    I kept a copy of that article long after I started law school – spurred on by my desire to eliminate sexism in the workplace.

    After I left, his business fell apart when he started sleeping with one of the female practice managers. His support system (wife and kids) left him high and dry to run the business himself.

  66. houseofmayhem
    October 4, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    I don’t have a boss story, just customer stories:

    I work for a call center that serves the largest satellite tv service in the country.

    I’ve gotten calls to order pay-per-view adult programming where the male caller seems to be getting off on asking me to describe the content of the adult programming. In one instance, I was asked, (insert TN accent here)

    “Weelll, do they have shows with orgies? Chicks doin’ it with animals?”

    “Sir, let me transfer you to a specialist who can answer your questions more fully…”

    I sent him to the Phillipines. :)

    I’m a tech support agent, so I also get calls where men ask to be transferred to a male TS, because “Chicks don’t know sh*t.”

    I have a 97% success rate in resolving tech issues, btw.

    Piss me off, and you’ll end up in The Phillipines. >: [

  67. Thomas, TSID
    October 4, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    I’m depressed but not surprised to read these stories. The thing that sits most heavily with me, though, is the conditioning aspect, which I think is a big part of where the stunned silence comes from. If we were in a society that didn’t really accept sexist behavior, women wouldn’t be at a loss for how to respond; I think it reflects a (sadly correct) assessment that there’s more to lose by speaking out against the wrong. And when men remain silent in the face of sexist comments by other men, we allow the assholes to model their conduct for the next generation.

    As an aside, I don’t find it particularly hard to be gender-neutral in dealing with professional groups. “Folks” is both inclusive and not hopelessly informal; and dealing with lawyers, if I need to be really formal, I can always say, “counselors.”

    Finally, about the story about a court appearance not being “safe” … WTF? How many civil litigators are ever in a situation in court that isn’t safe? I’ve been in some nickel-and-dime courthouses on personal and contentious matters, and in many years of practice I’ve seen exactly one eyeball-to-eyeball argument in a courthouse. Further, the only place where the courthouse is chock full of people with a track record of sudden violence is in criminal court, and where I live the public defenders are probably majority female. So that’s a complete bullshit excuse.

  68. Mary
    October 4, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Ugh! Beth! I HATE being called “Mrs.” and it is always male students. I don’t have a PhD yet, so I can’t insist on Dr, so I tell them that it’s polite to use the status neutral Ms instead. I usually get an eye roll or a wev. Since they only know being called “Mr” from the time they are born, they have no idea how it feels for someone to mistake you for married when you aren’t or having your identity changed based on whether you’re wearing a wedding ring or not.

    For the record, I didn’t change my name when I married, and still went by “Ms” in class. My grandparents-in-law would send me letters addressed to “Mrs Husband’s Name” which bugged the crap out of me. I always sent them back and said that nobody lived there by that name.

    (Don’t even get me started on being called a “divorced woman” all the freaking time, but you never hear about all those “divorced men” because they’re just men.)

  69. October 4, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Mary, the Mrs. Husband’s Name thing bugs the crap out of me too. My mother does it now with everything she sends me. With her, too, it’s a special little jab at me. She’s never really allowed me any identity — I am an object to her, really, just a nebulous concept of “daughter” — and once I began my relationship with my now-husband, she pretty much stopped acknowledging anything resembling agency of mine and attributed everything to him. Constantly asking me when he was bringing me back there, instead of me moving out there to be with him, etc. Augh.

  70. JPlum
    October 4, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    I’ve been called on being too direct in meetings, especially when I first started and was young, female, and new to the profession. I tended to be the only person at my level that spoke up in meetings, but I always had good ideas, and saw no reason to pretend otherwise. My manager generally approved of my ideas, but not the presentation. I would make statements, rather than do the ‘typical’ (though I had no idea at the time) ‘feminine’ trick of phrasing everything as a question. Thanks to my mom, I don’t do that self-conscious raising of the voice at the end of a statement, to turn it into a question (she HATED that).

    I was so pleased with myself when I realized that if I phrased everything as a question, people didn’t get their backs up over it. I could say what I wanted, and no one minded me expressing myself! Then I found out that I had fallen into this ‘female’ trap of unassertiveness, feigned or otherwise. And despite this, I still have a reputation as being mouthy, and probably a bit bitchy. Guess I just wasn’t demure enough!

    It used the irk the heck out of me when I would have a form to take home to my parents at the start of the high school year, that would be filled out with contact information etc., and there was a place to tick a box for the correct forms of address for the parents:

    Mr. and Mrs.
    Dr. and Mrs.

    There was no Dr. and Dr. (which is what I needed), or a Mr. and Dr. Each year I would ostentatiously mark up the form with the appropriate form of address.

  71. October 4, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    I noticed that many of the comments above have to do with sexism in a law-related workplace (by which I include the recruitment and articling process).

    So here is my contribution to this part of the thread:

    1. Two friends of mine (a man and a woman) who both work at the same large firm were discussing their relations with their colleagues. Male Friend told me that Female Friend talks back to senior partners and is not even afraid to tell them to fuck off, to which Female Friend replied: “That’s just because they keep making sexual advances.”

    2. A friend of a friend was asked during recruitment whether she used birth control…

    3. I was summering at this firm, and I went to lunch with a couple of partners and junior associates, half of whom were women. A partner was talking about a professional liability case he was dealing with at the time, where a woman was suing her psychologist for sexually assaulting her. The partner, who had by that time already examined the plaintiff on discovery, mentioned that, given her looks, his – well, “our” – client had “done her a favour”. I did not say anything, because the situation was intimidating, but I was relieved when I saw that most of the people around our table were staring at this partner with looks of utter disgust.

    4. A partner at a Big Firm up here, who also happens to be a reknown litigator, told his Bar civil procedure class that the problem with the female articling students at his firm is that they’re only hired because of their looks – and that’s a problem because there are not enough male articling students – read: competent – to do the job when you really need to get something done. I thought this was really insulting for all their female employees. I know a few women who work there, and they’re all very professional, hardworking and competent.

    5. This anecdote also happened in Bar school, during a discussion on whether, in a criminal trial for aggravated assault, the fact that the accused’s ex-wife was granted divorce on grounds of physical violence towards her was relevant. The Bar’s official answer – which was backed with our Evidence instructor (a legal aid lawyer) – is that it was not relevant. By which they meant, not relevant at all.

    Instructor: You know, there might have been circumstances in the marriage that *justified* it.

    Me: I beg your pardon?

    Instructor: (Pretended not to hear me – I was sitting in the front row, right in his face.)

    Male student behind me (jokingly): It would have been relevant though if the ex-wife had become tetraplegic as a result.

    Me (turning to him): Did you just make a joke about domestic violence? This is not funny. You don’t, never ever, under no circumstance, make jokes about this.

    The guy didn’t say anything, and the rest of the class, I am sad to say, looked at me as if I was a freak.

    6. Bar School (aka the root of the problem). Let’s face it: law is still an old boys’ club. At the moment, in my jurisdiction, the three quarters of law students are women, while approximately only 40% of lawyers with 10 years’ experience are female. Bar school itself is a sexist beacon. This situation is so blatant, it’s *almost* funny. For instance, in fact patterns, the lawyer characters are males 90% of the time. Strangely, there only seem to be female lawyers in family law problems. Those fact patterns and problems also feature female clients as confused, naïve and troubled people, who often need a husband, father or in-law to accompany them to their lawyer to ask for help.

    Oh, and I’m not even going to mention that odious fact pattern about a man who sues a woman who complained that he had sexually assaulted her – we eventually find out that she had “conspired” with another women to set him up… *sigh* And the list goes on and on… (And for those who care, or who would simply love to have yet another reason to dislike the Bar, we also get our fair share of homophobic and blatantly racist problems.)

    My point is that this type of subtle yet omnipresent sexism is thought to (relatively) young and impressionable people who will eventually be part and compose our legal system. Sexist models and legal reasoning will continue to pervade our legal system, at a time when it still needs to be more egalitarian and sensitive to the female experience of the legal and judicial system.

  72. Filth
    October 4, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    I’ve seen more than a few comments in this thread about bosses who were down on female employees because they’re “just going to get pregnant” at some point. I had a female boss (Director of IT in a hospital) that told me the same thing on multiple occasions, and how that was disloyal to the company! I mean, wtf? Like someone taking time off to, you know, PERPETUATE THE SPECIES is going to make the hospital burn down. But in some peoples minds, you can either be a woman or a worker, but not both. And even if you try to be a worker, you might go woman crazy and start having babies.

  73. October 4, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Ladies and Gentlemen (Though, I didn’t see any other male posters, I’ll leave it as a catchall), I’m sorry for your woes, I really am, if nothing else- I hope this story will help you all to know that not all of us guys are bad- and in fact, some of us deal with the same stupid shit you do.

    um, joe? did you notice the part where you just assumed all feminists hate men? because you did. and pls get yourself over to the feminism 101 blog because i don’t have time or energy to go through that one for you but i’m sure they have it written up by now.

  74. Emily Jane
    October 4, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Oh, yes, here’s the story:

    When I applied to graduate schools, I had similar grades, similar interests, and similar coursework to a male student. When I got rejected from 5 schools he was accepted to, one of my letter writers said this:

    “I like you alot, as a person, I’d take you over Mike any day. But you see, Mike is naturally brilliant, and you just work really hard.”

  75. Emily Jane
    October 4, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Oh, and I also had a job interview last week for a computer hardware gig, and when they called me to let me know I wasn’t ‘experienced’ enough, they said

    “But we liked you! We think you would be really great working here on the phone!”

    Another one of those experiences that just leaves you wondering if ‘experience’ just means ‘penis’, I guess.

  76. alsojill
    October 4, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Finally, about the story about a court appearance not being “safe” … WTF?

    Gee, thanks for that enlightened opinion.

    You’re right. In the courtroom, those of us who decide to pursue sexual harassment cases are safe from attack.

    But what happens *afterward*? What happens if we lose the case (all too easy) or even if we win? What happens when the person decides we just want his attention or that we’re just greedy bitches who deserve to be taught a “lesson”? Don’t say “just get a restraining order”–we all know how well those things work.

    Take my own example here. I was unable to discover who sent me the disturbing and harassing e-mail, b/c it would have required a court order. I have no problem with that (yay privacy!). But in order to get the court order, I would have had to press charges, and even though I worried that my former student would take my non-response as an invitation to harass other women, or would never realize that it’s NOT appropriate, I opted to let it all go. Why? First, b/c I didn’t want to put myself through the stress of a hearing, and second, b/c some part of me was afraid that he would see it as an invitation to further harassment.

  77. RKMK
    October 4, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    Gee, thanks for that enlightened opinion.

    You’re right. In the courtroom, those of us who decide to pursue sexual harassment cases are safe from attack.

    But what happens *afterward*? What happens if we lose the case (all too easy) or even if we win? What happens when the person decides we just want his attention or that we’re just greedy bitches who deserve to be taught a “lesson”? Don’t say “just get a restraining order”–we all know how well those things work.

    I’m pretty sure that comment was in response to this:

    – A male colleague invited a male newbie to a court hearing, even though the male newbie had nothing to do with the case. The female newbie who had been working on the case for months complained about not being invited to the hearing. My male colleague confided in me since the matter was so adversarial, he thought it might not be “safe” for her to attend. I set him straight, I hope.

  78. tessa
    October 4, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    This just happened to me the other day.

    I am a young (almost brand new) high school teacher. I treat my male colleagues with respect, and they in turn have always treated me respectfully. A few of them would even consider themselves as open-minded, non-judgemental, equitable and fair men. (I’m not sure how many of them would actually call themselves “feminists”, but that is a whole other issue.)

    One of these aforementioned male teachers runs a weekly football pool to raise money for a program that sends highschool students to Jamaica over the March break to volunteer at certain orphanages and hospitals. You pay two dollars and you pick your winning football teams for the week. As a tie breaker you must guess what the combined total of points for a certain game of the week will be. Last week, I picked the number 69.

    I’m not sure what i was thinking. Obviously I wasn’t, I suppose. The next day, by second period, every male teacher who participated in this pool knew of my pick, and thought it was HILARIOUS. They made inappropriate comments to me for the rest of the day. About how young women these days…

    I was shocked. I had no idea they would ever act this unprofessionally towards me.

    Suffice to say, I am out of the football pool for a while.

  79. Niki
    October 4, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I worked as a temp in an old boys style office that made neon chemicals (thankfully a short stint) and they had a particularly odious asswipe that thought it funny to address women as ‘babe’, try to touch them and constantly make sexist and disgusting quips. I approached my supervisor (and the temp agency) about him, and they both dismissed my claim, as I was a lowly temp and this man had been on the job for x amount of years. However, my supervisor gave me permission to retaliate in whatever manner I saw fit (save blowing him away with a shotgun) and I spent the rest of my time there slapping this guy, throwing things at him (including chairs), kicking him whenever he walked by and calling him out in front of his friends daily. It was admittedly quite therapeutic.

  80. Katie
    October 4, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Not in the workplace, being that I’m a college student; this happened in my Chem Principles I lab (which, by the way, is entirely review for me; everything we’ve done, I did in high school). We had a substitute TA this week, because our usual TA was sick. The first thing he did? Was apologise that our TA was sick, but told us to not be too angry with her because most girls tend to be “too delicate” to handle the workload here at my school. Granted, the male-to-female ratio is something like six or seven to one,and most of them are liberal arts students, but I can’t help wondering how much of that is because of attitudes that we’re “too delicate” for STEM fields.

    So after that, he’s walking around the lab making sure all the students are dressed properly. There’s three guys in sandals, two in shorts. Five total that are dressed inappropriately, and we were playing with irritating chemicals and fire that day. He told me to tie back my (short) hair and said my sneakers were inappropriate lab shoes because what if we were playing with acid, it would eat through the soles really fast! He told my lab partner to wear a tighter shirt next time because her school shirt fit like, well, like a crew t-shirt fits someone with breasts. The other two girls, one had her short hair under a cap and was dressed androgynously, probably looked like a guy. Her partner was told to leave the lab because her shoes were “inappropriate” when she was wearing normal, full-coverage flats, comfortable for standing in lab for four hours.

    My lab partner and I were working directly across from a guy in shorts and his lab partner. One of them asked what an Erlenmeyer flask was, the other didn’t know how to light the Bunsen burner. I told them which flask to use, helped them clean their crucibles, and showed them how to light their Bunsen burner without burning themselves. Then the TA came over, and set up the ringstand, ring, crucible triangle, and crucible for my partner and me, and lit our Bunsen burner for us. He told me, “Be careful, or you might burn your pretty hair.”

    So yeah. Fuckin’ irritating, since I did the lab in high school and told the guys he ignored how to do it. And I know it’ll get worse as I attend this school, because, unfortunately, I’m moderately attractive and a bit femmy, so naturally, I’m taking the science classes because my liberal arts major requires it and I can’t handle the OMG HARD chemistry.

  81. October 4, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    I have had a lot of jobs, so I’ve also had a lot of work experiences of sexism. Here are a few examples:

    At Borders Books they didn’t bother to teach new female employees how to giftwrap because they assumed women knew how to wrap presents already. I don’t think that was intentionally systematic, but it was certainly true for the store I worked in. The women were also more likely sent to work in the cafe (kitchen) or the children’s books section instead of the rest of the books or music section. Men dominated the music and magazines sections.

    At a post graduate dental school, all the offices with doors went to male employees regardless of job title, job duties, or pay. Every single female employee had a cubicle instead of an office.

    We were also expected to – get this – tend bar. The male employees in sales or programs never had to tend bar, but the females did. And of course, this was all without a license to serve alcohol and without food server certificates (necessary in Nevada to wait tables or tend bar – it’s for health and safety reasons as well as so that Big Brother can keep an eye on you.)

    At a computer networking company I was the only female employee. When I removed the porn in the server room I was reprimanded. And I was also expected to make coffee every morning. To be fair, my role was more administrative than IT, but c’mon, porn!?

    Many times being female has worked out in my favor, albeit, in a backhanded insult kind of way:

    At the dental school, we compared hiring stories and realized that usually the qualified candidate who asked for the least amount of money was the one who got the job. And well, that’s usually a woman.

    In a special conservation crew I was chosen to “balance” out the crew. They hired equal numbers of men and women for the crew even though the applicants were mostly male.

  82. alsojill
    October 4, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    To RKMK–oops. Thanks for pointing out my error.

    To Thomas TSID: I misread your comment, and I apologize for my overly angry response.

    However, I suppose the rest of my comment (aside from that nasty bit) still stands–fear of prosecuting sexual harassment (not to mention the difficulty of going through with prosecution) allows people who do this kind of shit to get away with it.

  83. RKMK
    October 4, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    alsojill – no worries, we all make mistakes like that – not everyone apologizes for it. :)

    Katie – report the fucker. Report the fucker to your regular TA, to the professor of the class, to the Dean of the Department, and if you have a women’s issues department at your university, a dean of some sort, report the fucker there.

  84. Laurie
    October 4, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Ditto what RKMK said — immediately!! What you told us, with all of the details about what that ass did to everyone. TAs are also students, and may actually get reprimanded for being sexist assholes.

    One can hope, anyway.

  85. RKMK
    October 4, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    And every little act helps.

  86. October 5, 2007 at 8:06 am

    I wrote a while back about my difficulties achieving something that should have been very simple – getting workplace protective gear that fit me. I was working on an Ob/Gyn unit at the time. “Blood on her shoes”.

    “Could I have some gumboots in my size, please? A five.”

    There came silence. “I don’t think they make them in that size. Nobody ever asked for them before.”

  87. Rhus
    October 5, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Rose at #64:

    Well, he’s not like carassing or stroking me. That would be ick! It’s just like a friendly pat on the back or arm thing. It just gets to me because he doesn’t do the same with men, which makes me think he respects their personal space more than mine.

    And you’re right, of course. All your stories are notable, but this one has remained in my mind as an example of why it is so difficult sometimes to get our point across.

    If the touch is really light and not provocative (I’m not saying not sexual), then when you simply tell your coworker that he shouldn’t touch you he’ll probably be hurt and feel misunderstood. I’d say let him, but a) sometimes we don’t want to cause hostile feelings in such an environment and b) some of us are not only conditioned to be kind, but are actually kind.

    If you care to elaborate and explain that the coworker doesn’t touch men in the same way, you’ll probably find muddled incomprehension.

    — What? I don’t touch the other coworkers? Do I treat you differently?
    — Yes, you do. Observe it for a while.
    — You want me to calculate how frequently I touch guys? Let me tell you, none of them has complained.
    — Yes, because you actually don’t touch them.
    — Of course I don’t touch them! Do you think I’m gay or something!
    — … [Damn, another can of worms here.] You see? You are saying that the touch has to do with the sex of the person touched.
    — No! No sex here! I just patted your elbow! It was not meant as an advance!
    — But you have just said that if you touched a man, it could be understood as gay.
    — That’s why I don’t touch them! I’m not gay!
    — But you touched me, right?
    — Are you accusing me of sexually harassing you?
    — …

    And on and on and on.

    (By the way, although I strictly respect personal boundaries, I love touching people and being touched.)
    (I also realize that I’m translating from my own language, where we wouldn’t use the word _gender_ in this context.)

  88. Margaret
    October 5, 2007 at 10:52 am

    “A male colleague invited a male newbie to a court hearing, even though the male newbie had nothing to do with the case. The female newbie who had been working on the case for months complained about not being invited to the hearing. My male colleague confided in me since the matter was so adversarial, he thought it might not be “safe” for her to attend. I set him straight, I hope.”

    This was my example, and since a couple of people commented on it, I will provide a little more context. The matter in question was, as my male colleague characterized it, a “high end” collection case. My male colleague represented a bank that was trying to collect money owed to it under a contract from the Defendant. In doing so, my male colleague had gotten attachments on a substantial percentage of Defendant’s business and personal assets (i.e. court orders prohibiting Defendant from selling or transferring these assets). During a recent deposition, the Defendant had blown up at my male colleague and called him an “Asshole.” These were the facts my male colleague used to justify his decision to invite a new male lawyer to the hearing rather than the new female lawyer who had actually been doing all the research and writing on the case.

    Of course, Male Colleague never even mentioned any of this until after the hearing. When New Female Lawyer found out that a guy who hadn’t even been on the case was invited to attend, she threw a fit (which I thought was a pretty gutsy for a 25 year old newly minted lawyer). Male Colleague came to my office to lick his wounds, whining that he didn’t think the hearing would be “safe” for a female lawyer. When I told him that wasn’t his decision to make, he adjusted his story. He then argued that he was afraid the Defendant might go after him and he thought the new male lawyer might be able to step in and help if things got violent. (New Male Lawyer isn’t especially imposing, nor is he trained in boxing or any martial arts, but whatever.)

    Male Colleague’s after-the-fact efforts to justify his actions didn’t make any sense (and also added insult to injury by implying that his sexism was justified). First, while violence against lawyers by disgruntled litigants does occur, it is a statistical anomaly. Second, there is plenty of courthouse security. Third, if you have reason to believe a disgruntled litigant will come after you, you can always ask an armed bailiff to escort you to your car. (This is actually the bailiff’s job as opposed to the junior associate’s job.)

  89. micheyd
    October 5, 2007 at 11:19 am

    I was harassed by two guys I worked with at a supermarket as a teenager. It was a constant stream of sexualized remarks, often made in front of groups of others (which was the worst part about it). Luckily my budding feminist self took it upon myself to finally complain to my manager, and the guys were told to never speak to me again or they’d be fired. Sweet, sweet justice.

    And not work-related, but a funny story: I was out to dinner with my family, and we had ordered two red wines for the table. The sommelier decided to crack a joke about making sure which one was which because “the ladies can’t tell the difference”!! Umm, yeah, I’ve been drinking wine for 10 years, but I don’t know shit because I’m a woman. Yawn.

  90. Interrobang
    October 7, 2007 at 5:15 am

    I work in IT; I’m a technical writer and software tester, although I also do things like data architecture and systems/business analysis too. I know a staggering amount about software in general, because I’ve spent the last several years doing what technical writers do — learning in detail how to use one piece of software after another and writing down, step by step, how to do each task in the application.

    I’m getting really sick of male technicians at IT firms asking me if I “need help installing” my software (*rolls eyes* InstallShield Wizard?!) or doing things like dropping a CD on my desk and saying, “I’ll come back in ten minutes to install that for you,” and then looking stunned when I’ve already got the application up and running.

    I work at a nearly all-male company (the only other woman is the office administrator) that provides software and services to a heavily male-dominated industry, so it could be the worst of both worlds, but it actually isn’t. Aside from the tech asking me if I needed help with the software when I first started, that’s been about the extent of it.

    I’m now the head software tester at the company.

    The worst story I have was when I was in grad school at the University of Waterloo, which is basically Canada’s equivalent of MIT (or some similarly computer/math/engineering-heavy top-tier US school), and called a custom computer place to ask them about getting a computer built to my specifications. The guy on the other end of the phone quote-unquote listened to about the first ten seconds of what I’d been trying to say, then cut me off, saying, “We’re a firm that makes high-end custom computer systems. Really, I think you’d be better off going to Staples or Business Depot and getting one of their premade systems…” When you’re hearing that in your head, be sure to amp up the patronising sneer for full effect.

    I said, “Those prefab systems are junk. I’m a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, and I am, in fact, looking for a high-end custom system, and I have about $2500 to spend…I won’t be spending it at your company.”

    I could hear the silent “Oh, shit…” on the other end… >: )

Comments are closed.