Tuesday, February 26, 2013

RE: This, I can agree with.

I really like the idea of the article "A Titan’s How-To on Breaking the Glass Ceiling" (I posted a link this past Sunday). In short, the book being described suggests that there are certain societal and subconscious factors that attribute to the lower number of females in management positions and lower average pay. This isn't groundbreaking, although it obviously goes unrecognized since the majority of the population participate in this kind of behavior. The more innovative message of this book is that women can empower themselves to overcome these obstacles- and as a foundation for this, women can help other women by sharing ideas, experiences, and even lessons or skills at group meeting inspired by this book.

I think this is a very important message. It's validating and gives the message to women that they have the authority to take control and make things better. For example, some of the difference between men and women's salaries can be explained by the fact that women are less likely to negotiate. This is important for women to know- they're not just trapped by a meaningless statistic, but by a cultural phenomenon that they (we!) can help change by our own behavior.

I think that this might be something beneficial for our male colleagues to think about as well. For example males I've never heard a male here in the biology department say that men are better than women at anything specifically, but I have had a peer suggest that he accompany me to certain meetings so that I would be "taken more seriously." I've also had male superiors and colleagues interrupt or speak over me or other females, because they can talk more loudly. (Which, besides being unfair, is just plain rude.) And lastly, I have had a professor give a female student excessive leeway on an assignment which was late when the student was clearly lying (in multiple instances)-but the professor was afraid to fail a female student for fear of seeming sexist (there is more evidence for this conclusion which I will not include here).

All these are instances that would not be labeled as "sexist" in nature but do have a negative impact on women. Some of these situations could have been prevented by the women themselves, and some not. But I do think that if both women and men examine our own thinking and actions, we can recognize things that are the "status quo" in favor of men, and don't need to be that way. We don't need to necessarily point fingers (although sometimes I would like to) but just by consciously making small changes, we can move toward a less gendered culture.

I think this could benefit men as well. For example, I'll never forget when my dad once sadly pointed out that unlike the super-mom craze of the 90s, there's no such thing as a 'super dad'. In our media, and perhaps in real life, it's becoming more acceptable for men to share in more of the child-rearing. I think that's awesome, and I don't think that a lack of "maternal instinct" makes men poor parents; most men I know love to be silly and teach, which are two key components in working with children. Which brings me to another subject, namely the acceptance of men in traditionally female jobs, such as nurses, administrative assistants, and elementary school teachers. Just as a woman shouldn't be scoffed at for wanting to be an engineer, a man shouldn't be looked down upon for wanting to teach children. Why would he be? Oh, because that's a woman's job- and now we've come right back around to being sexist again.

I've talked about many professionally related issues, but habits begin at home. If I'm on a date, I might bring up doing simple chores in my apartment- and how much I hate them- to hear my date's response. If we both hate doing dishes, then why would I be expected to do them if (God forbid) we got married? A lack of skill is a pathetic excuse. If you can hold down a job then you can wash dishes. You just don't want to.

I don't hate to preach, but I do feel a little bad for this one. However, having lived on my own for so long, it seems downright offensive to me that a man would think that I shouldn't be treated as a partner and equal in skills. I can take out the garbage, I can check the oil in the car, I can grill and as I expect to retain these skills when I marry, it makes little sense that I would suddenly be stuffed into a more "female" role.

Edit: A perfect example of a way of thinking that modifies our culture to be more hinder some to female professionals: a Best and Worst of the Oscars, focused only on "beauty" (ie hair and makeup) and excludes men. First of all, let's not pretend that men aren't having their hair styled and makeup put on for this event (because they are, losers- ever see a guy on the red carpet with a zit? That's not a coincidence) but this is just cruelty towards the "worst" contestants. As some of those who entered comments on the article noted, nearly every single one of these women look gorgeous and probably spent intense time and energy on their appearance  There is no reason to judge and nitpick them, condensing their talents, efforts, and looks into a single sentence criticizing their choice of lip color. They are more than brainless mannequins, they are people.

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