When I have a quick scroll through my Twitter feed, I’m happy to see most of my mutuals have similar ideas about equality to my own. Sometimes I forget that in my little bubble of feminism & liberal-thinking, where everyone is appalled at things like rape culture, the wage gap, half-arsed sentencing for sexual assaults and domestic violence…for some people this ISN’T the norm. I know, it sounds preposterous right? Of course there are people out there who disagree. They’re the ones we argue with on Twitter, the ones with the problematic memes on Facebook and the misogynistic comments on feminist blogs. In my wee bubble, it’s almost like they are just “the others’. Maybe I’m optimistic, but I’m honestly surprised when I run into one of these relics IRL.
I get taken seriously at my job because I’m good at it. I got taken seriously at my last job too, because I WAS GOOD AT IT. I work in a creative industry, and creatives don’t seem to give a shit whether my shoes are sparkly and pink, I’m covered in tattoos, and my hair is the colour of a mermaid’s tail. In fact many designers I’ve worked with are fairly non-conformist in their sartorial choices. No one at uni cared as long as I did well on my essays and reports, no one I deal with professionally even blinks an eye. So why is it that some random Average Joe who doesn’t work in my industry often feels free to comment on how I do my job because of the way I look?
I very rarely actually deal with the construction side of design, as I’m only in office a few times a year. The company I primarily work with for my personal projects is one I’ve used for years. I trust them. They’ve done a stellar job, and they’re also pretty well versed in what is and isn’t appropriate to say. To a woman, to a man…aw hell, even just OUT LOUD.
I used to quietly seethe when some guy decided to mansplain at me. Like everyone else, I like to be taken seriously, and because I am afforded that courtesy at work, I don’t really expect anything less from anyone else. This morning I had to deal with a person who because of my gender, thought I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about and wouldn’t bother giving me the information I needed for a project. His speech was peppered with “dears” and “sweethearts”, and it was about as condescending as a pat on the head. I was expected to ignore his microaggressions and excuse his behaviour because he was older than me, despite my qualifications and dare I say it, common sense.
Like anyone else, I just want to be taken seriously. When people of a certain generation talk down to me, either for being young(ish) or a woman, I’ll politely put them right. Don’t get me wrong, there are many who actually don’t realise they’re doing it and appreciate the correction; then again there are some who don’t take it well at all. The “darlings” and “loves” turn more forceful as if to punctuate the insult. It’s like talking to a brick wall sometimes, so why bother?
It’s so tiring sometimes, explaining to people who just don’t get it. We wonder why we even bother. It’s one thing to make my friends and my family see why it’s not ok to speak patronisingly to a person because of their gender, to make rape jokes, to cat-call, or to commit any number of microaggressions that belittle us. When it’s a stranger, someone who has no actual connection to us, it can feel like an uphill battle. Is it worth it?
Of course it fucking is.
I’m a great believer that for a person’s behaviour to change, they need to be aware of it. I could be the biggest raging douchebag on the planet but if I don’t realise, I might think I’m all sunshine and light. Yes, some of it is cognitive dissonance, but sometimes it is genuine, old fashioned ignorance. In this case, he lost a pretty big job for not just talking down to me, but also not following the protocol when presenting the information I needed to make a professional decision. Maybe he thought I wouldn’t even think about that sort of “complicated” technical jargon, or maybe he thought I didn’t know what I was talking about. Maybe he was just chancing his luck. Whatever his reasons for acting unprofessionally, it cost him a client.
Maybe he won’t take anything away from this other than muttering “what a bitch” under his breath out of earshot, but maybe, just maybe, he’ll think twice before doing that again. THAT is exactly the reason why we need to keep calling out problematic actions and inappropriate comments.
We need to continue to do it because otherwise, they will never learn.