A lot of people kind of laugh uncomfortably when a woman says that she is being discriminated against. We all like to think that we are beyond such things, and often times it is the person who is being victimized by discrimination that ends up being treated like the aggressor.
So, I thought I would give you a little inkling about some real-life sexism I’m experiencing in my life – not at the work place, but as part of my at-home life. I hope that this explains, in a perhaps humorous way, why some women still insist that the glass ceiling hasn’t shattered just yet.
It Started With A Swarm Of Bees
Once upon a time, I moved into an apartment complex. Everything was terrific for the first several months. No complaints, really, that added up to anything significant. I was quite content. Until my first Spring in the apartment. I had come down with my annual bout with the flu and had finally made it through a full day of work. I got home, thinking that I would crash on my bed and potentially not get up for 12 hours. Before lying down, I noticed a lot of bee silhouettes behind the blinds on my window. I also suddenly noticed a low buzzing sound. And then I realized that there was a swarm of bees on both of my windows. Inside my bedroom.
Have you ever had a “back out of the room slowly” kind of moment? This was mine.
I called the emergency maintenance number and explained the situation. “Yeah yeah yeah,” the fellow said. “I’ll be right over.”
I waited. And waited. I called again. This time he was pretty annoyed. But he came over. I pointed him in the direction of the room in question. He stepped in, said “Hoh SH**,” and slammed the door closed. I said, “Yeah…not just one bee, right?” I thought I had proven myself to be a pretty reliable resident who wouldn’t just call maintenance for fun.
Then The Mice Came
The bees were all killed and swept up, and I resumed my normal existence until the following Spring. I woke up one morning, and in the process of getting ready for work, I noticed that some of my Cadbury coated mini eggs (soo yummy) were on the floor, which was weird. I looked on my dining room table, and the bag had tiny, scissor-like marks all around it. There were a couple of other eggs strewn about as well.
Now, I’m not the brightest bulb there is in the mornings before I get my coffee, so I admit, my first thought was that a murderous villain had broken in, gnawed on my bag of chocolate, and then cruelly had thrown a bunch of the eggs around. Barring that, I realized it was probably a rodent problem. So I called the maintenance staff. They said there had never been a mouse problem. I convinced them to come. When I got home, there was a note on my door. “No mouse.”
Having been through the bee experience, I was a little dismayed that I was being accused of not knowing a rodent problem. But I kept my cool.
Then the clanging inside my pots and pans drawer started. The note on my door the next day said, “no mouse.” Finally, after about 2 more days, I got a note that said, “caught mouse.” It had been in a trap, and that is what I had heard clanging.
Surely, this had convinced these guys once and for all that I was not an idiot.
The Day The Ice Cream Died
After feeling like I had lived through the plagues of Exodus, things settled down pretty well. I ran into the maintenance guys here and there, no problem. They’re nice enough. Then, a few months ago, I noticed that my freezer didn’t seem to be particularly cold. My ice cream kept melting faster and faster. I called the guys in, they looked around, and they put a new fridge in. I went to the store and got some freezer type foods. As that night commenced, I was torn between the drama of my freezer and the drama of The Blind Side. I kept lifting up my ice cream to see how well the freezer was working – the ice cream was completely melted. I called the maintenance folks. “Oh, it takes about 12 hours for the freezer to get cold.” “Um, ok…” I said. They didn’t believe that the things I had purchased were now mush.
Finally, I got the fella to come back. I said, “I had to throw all of my frozen foods away. I went to throw away the ice cream and it spilled all over because it was melted.” Even this the man did not believe. He reached his hand into the freezer and said, “Humn. It’s not very cold in there.” Only then did he agree I had a problem.
The Moral of the Story
When you look at the world through eyes that discriminate, whether based on gender, religion, race, or choice of shampoo, you are stopping up your ears. And this can happen without people realizing it. Sometimes it will show up in work situations, where two people could say the exact same thing but only one of them is given credit for saying it. This can show up in who you decide to network with. This can show up in who you trust. It can color everything you do.
Sexism is not dead. Racism is not dead. We like to comfort ourselves with the idea that these problems are history, but they are with us still. Maybe just hiding a bit more. Maybe just kicked under the bed a bit further.
Do you find that you “skim listen” to certain people? If a man tells you how to sew, do you assume he doesn’t know what he’s talking about? If a woman tells you how to succeed in business, do you find yourself looking for a man that agrees? Always make sure your eyes and ears and hands and heart are open. You never know what you might be missing. You might be missing a true story about a swarm of bees inside a bedroom, or you might be missing a helpful hint that could change your life.
1st Image by sarah peller. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/sarahpelle
2nd Image by Pavel Klaus. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Pajcus