I always write something on March 8, international women's day. Not because it's the only day that issues concerning women come to mind, but just because on this day there seems to be a bit more chance to come across a listening ear. This time, allow me to get personal and disclose something I never really articulated out loud. I consider myself a liberated independent woman, who has seized the reins on her life a long time ago. However, still, in too many occasions in my work and career did I have to resort to tricks and manipulation in order to get things moving in the direction that I wanted them to. I hate manipulation, but I had felt that I was left with no other choise, and all because of the simple fact that I was not being heard! Let me try and give an example: So, what I want to describe would happen in positions where I definitely have a place at the table, even a major one, however, when sharing my vision, my ideas would be casually dismissed. I say "casually" because it's never an aggressive or violent dismissal, and that's what makes this explanation complicated but so necessary. It's all in the nuances. Too many times I got shut down by men telling me that I'm not experienced enough in a certain field, or that I lack the knowledge about a particular subject, or with the good old patronising snort of amusement. In moments like these, my over active self awareness kicks in and insecurity takes over, and I would tell myself "Yeah, maybe I am inexperienced when it comes to this matter, or maybe I do lack the information to prove my point". But then, I go home with a heaviness in heart, and an unease in the pit of my stomache, and think: So what? I can always educate my self, and this project is exactly where I'm gaining the experience. Not to mention the fact that sometimes a person from the outside can bring a fresh outlook on things. Although my ideas might not be perfect, but I know they are valid! After all, this project involves me! How can my view on it be dismissed like that? And more importantly, why did I fall for it? So, I go back the next day, and I voice my concerns, wanting to straighten up the dynamic that made me doubt my own worth and skills. This time I am met with a passive aggressive response asking me not to "Turn this into a woman thing"! Too many times have I been advised not to self victimise myself! Now this hits a sensitive chord, because there is nothing I want less than present myself as a victim! But wait a minute, I'm not! I certainly do not feel like a victim! The fact that I'm voicing my feelings is the shere proof that I'm not. Hey, how did we end up in this catch 22? My concerns need to be heard! Especially when the concerns are about me not being heard in the first place! So now I'm supposed to prove that I am not engulfed in self pity? There is no way to really defend that, without sounding like a victim. So, I don't.
And what I do is resort to other "tricks"! One of my favourite tricks is when I get a male friend to pass my idea to the man in charge, as if it's his own. Guess what happens. Yes, miraculously, the same idea that was dismissed before, now gets accepted! With much appreciation! Me and my conspiring friend exchange looks and sigh. Or, my other trick is to get the man in charge think it's his own idea to begin with, "Remember when we first met, you told me this is how you think we should do it? I thought that was brilliant!"... Funny enough, although it never happened, the man in question DOES remember this fake memory I just planted in his brain, and guess what, he loves the idea! It's genius! Because it's his own.
Now, you can say to me: "Why don't you just retaliate? Fuck that gerk!". And I guess I would answer that it's not in my habbit to want to throw the baby along with the bathwater, and I always want to find a way to make progress. Maybe it's the "woman way" afterall. How many times have you, women reading this, given up credit for things, just in order to get stuff done? How many times did you have to resort to stupid tricks in order to get your idea implemented, because you just knew that it's a damn good one and the fools around are too stuck up their own asses to see it!? Recently, I find myself rebelling against this. Unfortunately, sometimes even throwing that baby. I do NOT want to need to play any games anymore. I want to be heard and regarded, just the same as anyone else. And I want my ideas to be discussed, and then dismissed only if they are found unsuitable. I can take NO for answer, but I will not take it without the proper consideration. Naturally, not all men are like this. I am married to someone who's not, and I work with many men who do not see me as inferior in any way. But still, if this is happening to me, then hell, I know it's hapenning for sure to less priviliged women around the world.
Male supremety does not only manifest itself with violence or harassement, it has so much nuance that it can go undetected even by women themselves, and can come across as gender differences we were taught to believe.
On women's day, I wish we all open our eyes and ears better to what is going on in our environments. Are people around us being heard and seen? Are we participating in some vicious cycle of inequality without even knowing? Since it's women's day, humor me and pay a special attention to girls and women.
With a fervent wish for peace, equality and solidarity,