Happy Friday, Dear Readers!
The weekend is finally upon us. Whew!
As a woman, I’m highly sympathetic to tales of the glass ceiling and especially to what females are subjected to in other countries. But I’m wondering if we occasionally take the accusations of sexism too far in North American society.
Yes, there are still sexist pigs out there. But are we using that to defend our own shortcomings just a little too often? I’ll explain.
I was recently told that a man I know in a professional context “underestimates women.” I was really surprised, since that hadn’t been my experience at all. Once I heard the other side of the story, it was clear that the woman in question–while highly skilled–hadn’t been willing to do the work to reach the level she was demanding, and was offended at the very idea that she was required to do any additional work. In this case, writing the guy off as sexist was easier than admitting there would be a lot of effort involved to achieve the goals she wanted.
While I get along great with men for the most part, and wouldn’t trade my male friends for anything, I have probably been guilty of leaping to the “sexist!” excuse too fast as well. When I first began my career, journalism was very much an Old Boy’s Club. In many ways, it still is. I was a rookie reporter who thought she was doing everything right–during an internship at a tabloid, I made it very clear that I wanted to work for them full-time once I graduated. I spent hours on a creative resume and cover letter; I had an impressive portfolio, and I worked really hard during my three week internship. When I was passed over for my male classmate, who tossed a crumpled piece of paper with his number on the editor’s desk before leaving, I thought I was a victim of chauvinism. Look how hard I’d tried! Look how much I’d proven myself! Clearly, I had no hope of winning favour in a place where all the editors were men who talked about sports all day–conversations my classmate easily joined. Plus, it was said (among the female reporters) that the editor was sexist, and had a “thing” against the women who worked for him.
With the benefit of hindsight, I view this incident very differently. The paper prided itself on raw coverage of crime and anything scandalous. It didn’t shy away from being pushy and offensive. As a reporter, I had my strengths, but being pushy and offensive was not my style. If someone didn’t want to talk to me, I showed sensitivity and respect, and left them alone. Those attributes were not valued by the paper I wanted to work for. The cover letter I’d thought was so creative was a hokey gimmick. I was a kid, and that’s exactly what my “give me this job or I’ll just die! Or beg” pleas made me out to be.
However, my male counterpart (the guy who got the job I so desperately wanted) was much better suited for that environment. He’s a brilliant reporter, and he’s not afraid to stick his elbows out and get the story at any cost. He’s a nice guy, but he can leave nice at the door in order to do his job. He did extremely well for that paper, and they made a smart move in hiring him. His star has never stopped rising, and it’s well deserved. I don’t begrudge him any of his success.
As for the so-called chauvinistic editor, I’ll never know for sure whether he was or wasn’t, but I do know he hired the right person. Being a woman had nothing to do with why I wasn’t hired.
What do you think, Dear Readers? Are women too quick to assume men are sexist? Have you made this judgment yourself and been wrong, or know someone else who has? Or do you think women have every right to be defensive about this? Guys, I would love your opinion, too.