Dilemma: Unintentional misogyny
I have a small dilemma. Okay it’s a large dilemma. Here’s the thing.
Some men (and women) I like. Some I love, are unintentionally misogynistic. I say unintentionally 90% because I think it’s true and 10% because I need to believe it. I’m not saying they hate women. They don’t, but they participate in talking about women in a way that shows they don’t think we’re equals. They hint that on some level, although we can be quite clever, like a particularly talented Golden Retriever, we’re mostly just cute and entertaining; a comforting pet.
I was at a conference today and amongst some great discussion about entrepreneurship were these flags.
“Who here’s been to Koko?” shouts the MC into the microphone, explaining it’s an expensive joint in the Casino. He knows the private chef. A woman in the front row raises her hand. It must have been on a date, the MC assumes. The woman replies, inaudible to most of the room. “It was with a friend,” the MC repeats her response, booming it into the room of over 200 attentive young entrepreneurs. “I hope it worked. It better have worked.”
I can’t explain to a man how it feels to be a woman. But I can tell you something like the above is like being kicked in the guts. Kicked in the guts by a performing clown who was ‘just having a good time’. So if you call them on it you’re a PC nancy and if you don’t it simmers inside until the next trigger. Which wasn’t far away as it turns out.
It’s after break time. Music booms through the venue, building anticipation and calling attention to sessions recommencing. A video is played, a young female entrepreneur tells the business story. It’s clearly an edited collection of answers to questions she’s been asked. The audience takes about fifty seconds to pay attention and the MC takes the floor afterwards. “She’s got a business partner, not that you’d know it from that video. Women like to do that,” he opines.
Another excellent speaker quips about making money, “you can buy more shoes,” is the punch line directed to get the women in the rooms’ attention. It’s harmless.
Except there’s no example for blokes. There’s no example of any of the above for blokes. Because we don’t say these kind of things, about blokes.
I don’t think these are bad guys. One of these guys is an outstanding guy. They’re just part of a society where (admittedly less obvious) versions of the above are entrenched in the way we speak about women; the subtle clues that remind us that whilst we might be almost there in equality, we’re not quite.
Once upon a time all kinds of things we now consider completely off-limits (and rightly so) were acceptable. Once upon a time a certain type of person might have pondered aloud that if you were of certain ethnic descent you’d have been at Koko to wash dishes. And they probably would have got punched in the face.
I don’t have a solution. Since I was in my late teens I’ve laughed off sexism. I’ve seen it. I’ve been angered by it, but the unspoken rule seems to be that if you call it you’re overacting, you can’t take a joke, or you’re just an angry feminist. I get angry about other types of discrimination. I’d always call that, but I felt that sticking up for women would have me kicked out of the boys club. And it probably will.
I’m 100% for just being an example of a woman who isn’t a Golden Retriever. But we’ve had great examples for many decades now, and it’s not cutting through. From now on, I think a quiet word might be appropriate too. What do you think? I’m genuinely keen for advice!