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“workin’ on doing all the wrong things right”

November 1, 2007

The NY Times has another article on gender bias at work.  It’s nothing new, but it’s still something interesting – basically, as the article says, “Don’t get angry. But do take charge. Be nice. But not too nice. Speak up. But don’t seem like you talk too much. Never, ever dress sexy.”  And, of course, that’s all just for women.  Well, the never dress sexy thing might be applicable to men, but, as the article notes later on, it’s not the way that men dress that makes them sexy; “the attributes considered most sexy in men — power, status, salary — are in keeping with an executive image at work.”

The thing i wonder about is that it seems – although it doesn’t specify, so perhaps not – that this is all focused on “executive” level and very corporate jobs.  That is, they said dressing sexy didn’t change people’s view of a secretary, but did of an executive (for women).  And perhaps this is why i’ve never felt like this stuff applies to my life.  I am not ambitious.  I don’t want a lot of money or power or status.  I’m perfectly happy to play second fiddle, and i think i always will be.  And i have never had any trouble with being viewed as both competant and likeable (the things which seem to be contradictory in professional women).  So, what i’m curious about is whether that only happens because i am not in a position of power.  I’m inclined to say it is, but to be fair to my various supervisors i’ve never worked under anyone who wasn’t pretty damn cool, so perhaps i’ve just been lucky enough to deal with folks who really aren’t looking at gender.  The thing is that this stuff is so ingrained in our society that it seems unlikely.

But enough about me; what really makes this topic so interesting to me is not the part about me being a woman, but that i think i tend to view other women this way (the research says that’s pretty likely anyhow).  I’m not sure if that’s the case; i think the world of my (mostly female) coworkers, both as people and for the work they do.  Then again, i’m the new kid here, so it’s not a view of my peers, which might change things.  On the other hand, in college i tended to have a lot less respect for the other female students than male.  The people i worked closely with makes for a pretty small sample, so maybe it’s not representative, but i always felt like the girls were kind of unprofessional.  Being in science adds to this the “women in a very, very male field” aspect, which i thought was kind of abused by most of the girls – either as “poor us” or as “aren’t we just the shit for being able to hack it” or both.  As far as i’m concerned, both of those reactions just set women back in these fields.  If you want to pave the fucking way, then do a bang-up job, do your work (and then some, because, yes, you do have something to prove, and, no, it isn’t fair.  suck it up.), and fuckin’ impress people.

That’s my totally un-feminist view of it, and it stems from being completely rules-oriented (which is kind of un-feminist in itself).  Like i veiw girls as unprofessional, but professional standards are completely masculine.  And i beleive in following the rules, but the rules are kind of skewed, and following the rules is even more skewed – men are generally rewarded for bargaining, while women are often penalized.  I don’t quite know what to say about it, because i feel like i have always been successful in the “men’s world” by simply doing what i’m supposed to – or at least taking full responsibility when i don’t.  At the same time, i’m not a competitive person, and as i said before i’ve never set my sights that high.  So, while i am certainly not selling myself short, maybe it is unfair for me to judge the other women i know with the same standards i judge myself because we’ve got different destinations in mind?

Okay, and last but not least, where does butch fit here?  Clearly discrimination can be a problem for butch women, but if it isn’t i kind of think that they tend to fit into the corporate world better than other women.  When feminine women adopt “masculine” traits/demeanor at work they are viewed as bitches (or whatever, negatively).  But it seems to me that butch women are veiwed as just generally masculine, in which case (if that doesn’t just totally freak you out) the masculine traits that are viewed as important in business are viewed more like they are in men.  I’d love to see if there’s any research on that side of this issue, because that’s just kind of the impression i get from folks i know and my own experience.

Lady Brett
“Finally Friday” – George Jones

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2007 1:35 pm

    Where have you been my friend? ;(

  2. November 9, 2007 3:14 pm

    i’m still alive, i swear!
    just busy and out of town (and just moved). doing my 15 alloted computer minutes right now, but i’ll be back in town next week and hopefully catch up here =)

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