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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.

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  1. Ankush Samant

    Most of the women wear the lens that shows them a world full of male chauvinists. The lens may be showing the true face of a man or the false face; the truth is pretty elusive, and the lens is cleaned over the life time, to show the elusive truth more clearly. But alas, the irony is evident to us, and the age old saying “prevention is better than cure” comes to our rescue.

    So, although most of the women think like that, I believe it is better to be safe from the many faces of a man than to bear the brunt by falling for a baby faced evil.

    Nice one….And please keep going..

    Also do tell me what sort of novels are you working on an other details? Would love to know 🙂

  2. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comment, Ankush. I’m so happy to have the male point of view on this one. I agree that, in a lot of cases, it is not bad for women to be cautious–as long as they are not playing the sexist card to excuse their own shortcomings. I wish I’d realized when I was that rookie reporter that the paper in question was not the right place for me. It would have been so much easier on me if I’d accepted that years ago.

    I have written three psychological suspense novels. I did have a NY agent, but I had to let her go. The current plan is to rewrite my most recent novel and then submit to publishers and agents. I’m also planning to release Lost, the novel that got me the agent, as an E-book. How about you?

  3. Lisa

    I’ve worked in male-dominated fields for the majority of my career(s). I worked some jobs in the forestry industry where I was the ONLY woman hired and I was always treated as an equal. I can’t recall any particular time when I was passed over for a man, just because he was ‘male’. Even now I search the annals of my memory and can’t even come up with an example of sexism that I’ve witnessed. Perhaps I am one of the fortunate few. But I can tell you that had I been discarded for one of my male counterparts, knowing that I could (and did) perform the same job to required standards then I would have been extremely upset and disappointed.

    **(as for Fun Fridays…I look forward to them and am disappointed when time constraints prevent me from responding, and would miss them ;()

  4. Story Teller

    Thanks, Lisa. It’s great to hear that you’ve been accepted as an equal throughout your career–that’s awesome!

    I can’t say I’ve experienced “real” sexism much, either…I’ve had to prove myself to male fighters pretty frequently at certain kickboxing clubs, and that got tiring. And I hate it when guys assume they’re stronger/better/faster than all women just because they’re guys. I usually take that as a challenge. 🙂

    It’s good to hear from someone who will miss the Fun Fridays, but they’re kind of like Jets games–if no one shows up, what’s the point of keeping them? 😉

  5. Elspeth Cross

    I can’t say I’ve suffered from sexism in the workplace. Which may cause some alarmists to say that I’ve been conditioned not to see it. Which offends me because that is the same as saying I’m too stupid to know when someone is treating me badly.

    I think within our generation, it’s a lot less than it used to be, although I’m sure it hasn’t disappeared. But “our guys” grew up with the same lectures we did. And our kids will grow up with an even better view of equality, if we do it right.

    I think a lot of “-ism” complaints are the result of lack of personal responsibility. There are a lot of entitlement issues out there. Some people seem to have forgotten that you are rewarded after you put out the effort, not the other way around.

  6. Ev Bishop

    Great post, Holli. I agree that it can be easy for people to call “ISM!” (sexism, rascism, ageism, etc) when they don’t get something they want when it really is just that they honestly weren’t the best person for the job.

    I also relate to Elspeth’s irritation: “some alarmists to say that I’ve been conditioned not to see it. Which offends me because that is the same as saying I’m too stupid to know when someone is treating me badly.”

    The thing that bothers me the most, however, about people complaining about discrimination where none exists is that it muddies the waters and makes others jaded/sceptical over any similar complaint, possibly allowing actual bias to to thrive . . .

  7. ceebee

    It’s great to hear that the sexism situation in some male-dominated fields has changed, but sexism (not to mention racism) is alive and well in the construction industry. It is glaringly obvious to me, since I changed from a female-dominated and very politically-correct workplace (social work). The blatant type is one thing, but the subversive “old boys club” that prevents certain people from getting jobs or pushing people out of jobs, especially in supervisory roles, is much more damaging. Look at who’s out there in the industry and it will be a sea of white men’s faces that is not representative of the population.

    Through my school program and work I have also seen a surprising and disturbing trend in the sexist attitudes and beliefs of younger men who are just coming into the workforce. I am curious where this comes from, because I would’ve thought that the younger population would be more “enlightened”. This has become a hot topic among the few women in my workplace and we are wondering where this new wave of sexism and disrespect is coming from. Any thoughts?

  8. Story Teller

    Hi everyone! Thanks for your comments. You may just have given the “Fun Fridays” one more week to live.

    @ Ev and Elspeth–I’ve certainly seen people call “sexism!” when none exists, which is definitely damaging. Then again, I was just told by my coach that no woman could hurt one of our male fighters, which is ridiculous. I definitely wish the stereotype of women as the weaker sex would die out, already.

    @ CeeBee–this is really upsetting–the thought that the younger generations are even worse when it comes to treating women as lesser beings. I wonder if the media is partly to blame, and by this I mean our entertainment industries, where women are frequently referred to as sluts, bitches, and whores, and where many of our female stars are lauded for showing too much skin and not enough brains?


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