Letting it pass
When it comes to the female body, normal is diverse, valued, worthy.
So is just being female.
I’m quoting from the mission statement here.
I’ve been thinking about the first part ever since my friend asked me if I liked the way my vagina looked.
The second part is new for the project, and for me.
Being female is normal.
And then again, and again, and again, it isn’t.
The other day at lunch a co-worker told me that one of the contractors that I had found difficult to work with, found me more than difficult to work with —because I was female. Cultural differences. They just have a problem with it, he said.
Really? That is a problem. Women and girls are half the world, at least. Objecting to our presence, disdaining our professional positions because we’re female isn’t just a problem, it’s the source of many problems. To say it’s a matter of cultural differences and shrug is not acceptable to me. I shot back with some snotty putdown about the guy’s capacity to think, and since, we all had problems with the quality of his work, I got away with it. Conversation moved on.
What I should have done is gently call out my co-worker, who sheepishly told me about this, who clearly felt bad about it, but did not stand up against it.
I should have said is that disrespect and gender discrimination have no place on our team, and asked him about his letting it pass.
But, to be honest, and I didn’t know this until just now as I write this, I had let it pass too.
I figured early on that it was a matter of gender, or religion, that kept the conversation just this side of hostile all that time, but I averted my eyes. I’ve seen that expression of disdain before, and I just didn’t want to deal. I told myself it was temporary and not worth confronting.
I was wrong.
By not saying something any time it happens, I gave ground to the idea that being female is not normal. This is a problem of our culture, that it isn’t different enough.