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Monthly Archives: November 2010
It’s no surprise that tabloid newsrooms are extremely male-dominated sexist environments, but I think the bar is a lot lower than people realise. Many of the senior editors speak about women who appear in the publication like they are pieces of meat and this tends to spill over into how they treat their female co-workers.
One morning when I came into work, a senior staff member shouted across the newsroom in front of everyone: ‘Your skirt’s a little tight today, isn’t it?’ I just sat down in shock and embarrassment.
I wasn’t the only woman targeted — another girl was told to ‘Bend over’ in order to get her leaving present.
I was appalled at how my boss just allowed this type of behaviour to go on and encouraged us girls to laugh it off, I was a rookie reporter at the time and afraid of losing my job, but I would never tolerate being treated like this again.*
*taken from this article
I wasn’t a bit surprised by the PwC story. The guys in my workplace often play ‘Shag, Marry, Kill’ — where they pick out three women in the company and discuss which one they’d shag, which one they’d marry and which one they’d kill. I’m usually on the ‘Kill’ list — but hopefully that’s only because I’m a manager!
They also score female colleagues on their hotness and have a constantly changing shortlist — it’s pretty pathetic for guys in their twenties and thirties.*
*taken from this article.
Sexual harrassment has now become a unfortunate part of becoming a young female professional…its something i have unfortunately come to expect…i have done a number of internships and during a recent one in the United States my friend was sexually harrassed by our boss which made both her and me leave the position, he was subtle enough to me, just general uncomfortableness..creepiness and staring at my cleavage etc …but with her he crossed the line, bought her gifts and intentionally made himself available for meetings only “after hours” and would then ask her very inapproparite questions and talked about his own sex life …he was at least over 60….gross…he would definitely look down more on the female interns then the male interns and even asked me why i hadnt married my boyfirend at the time because we were living together!
That was the most obvious case recently but all my professional life I am used to being treated as less than because i am female,its mostly older men’s reactions to younger women,like we are there just there to help them or be eye candy…they are threatened by us …i even found an email once, when i was temping, complaining that i was back in the office stating ” why couldnt we have the hotter girl?” ugh!
Prior to my son’s birth I was a university researcher and lecturer, teaching on master’s degree courses in Education and with a wide range of teaching experience, including Special Education. My son is very severely autistic with severe/profound learning disability and a whole range of health problems, some potentially quite serious. I tried for three years to get him settled in an autistic class but he could not cope and went downhill very badly, both psychologically and physically. I gave up all hope of ever working again to teach him at home, which I did all day every day and still do. We were entitled to government funding to assist this but in the course of trying to obtain this I was regularly treated like dirt on the grounds that I was ‘just a mother’. I had a letter from his school to say he could not cope there and loads of assessments which all evidenced how well my son was doing at home but the pressure and harrassment I experienced to give up the battle for his funding was unreal. It is possible to be intimidated and harrassed even when your own home is your workplace. Despite all my qualifications ( or perhaps because of them ) I was constantly dismissed and denigrated solely on the grounds of being his mum, with all the stereotyping that went with it…that I was clingy, over-protective, too attached to my child etc…..
This came to a head one day when a male National Educational Psychological Service psychologist told me unpleasantly that my son should be returned to school because ‘It has to be better than being at home all day with Mammy.’ When I put in a formal complaint it was dismissed and so I placed a further complaint with the Secretary General’s office, to which I never received a reply. When I accessed my son’s files under the Freedom of Information Act I found all manner of derogatory comments had been made about me. My specialist research area was Gender so I can’t say I was surprised at this treatment……the denigration of mothers and mother-blaming is one of the cornerstones of a patriarchal social order.
There are plenty of stories I could recount to you about inappropriate language/behaviour in the workplace and by work mates, but I wont go on for long. I guess, the most recent is still playing over in my head and so that’s what Ill share…
A couple of Fridays ago, my colleagues and I went out for after-work drinks. It was myself, a female colleague and then 3 lads from the office. We were chatting away about all sorts of things when one of the men brought up a meeting we had had earlier in the week with a woman and a man from another company. One of the lads got a wry smile on his face and said something along the lines of, ‘did you see the looks on that one, she was unrapeable!’. This elicited laughter from both the men and the other woman in the group while I just stood there, perplexed as to when this kind of term had become humorous. Since when is rape a validation of a womans looks?!
I excused myself from the conversation and left in a hazy blur of disgust and disappointment that I was working with a group of people who would find that kind of statement amusing! I mean, sure women’s looks are discussed by the lads often, but to turn sexual assault into a compliment was beyond the pale.
The course I did at college was predominantly male and so the environment was often very macho in the classes and after, with boys making all kinds of remarks about girls at college and on the course. I didn’t really mind as Ive always been comfortable with male company (I have 4 brothers) so most of the laddish behaviour kind of rolled off my back. The thing I had most issue with was the rating system that was instituted for all the girls on my course. 1 being disgusting, 10 being ultra hot. My friend Mike told me the rating criteria most importantly focused on looks but did counter in personality. He told me this was why I received 2 points higher than my best friend, who he said the other lads thought was hot but totally ‘stuck up’. I started becoming much more conscious of what I wore to college after I found out about this system, paranoid that my rating might slip. You start playing into the game that they play and feel that you have to live up to certain standards to stay popular in the group.
Needless to say I eventually did slip down the rating scale after I confronted one guy about how he had treated my friend at a party. I told him he was a sexist pig and as soon as this reached the others, my rating was shot. As soon as a woman raised her voice pr confronted anyone about anything, she was called a ‘bitch’, she had no sense of humour and couldnt take a joke. There’s only so many sexist jokes a girl can take!!
Of course, I like to think Im more prepared for it now in the real world but these kinds of games still come up in the workplace. I haven’t had it in my job but I do hear my friends talk about the lads in their office and things that go round. Weird how some people never grow out of this kind of stuff…
One word: nicknames.
The lads in our office have nicknames for each one of us women. We all know they exist, we all know they speak in codes about us over pints, over emails, over lunch. None of us know which nickname we are, though if we cared enough we’d try and guess. Such delightful terms for women that have been overheard or read include ‘flatrack’, ‘easyaccess’ and ‘it’ amongst others (many of which Im sure we havent heard).
I guess we’re all just used to it now. We laugh along with the lads cause it doesn’t bare thinking about how we’d look if we didn’t.
I wouldn’t be privvy to a lot of what goes on in the office with regard to sexual objectification of women, mainly because I voiced my opinions early on about how uncomfortable I feel about it. In doing this, though, I have made myself incredibly unpopular with my work colleagues. They snigger when I walk in the room, whispering jokes to each other when Im around instead of shouting them across the room and roll their eyes every time I talk at a meeting about women’s issues or equality in the workplace. Ive managed to secure myself the role of ‘token feminist’ in the office so that whenever people make some offensive joke they look over at me and fake an apology.
My only friend in the office, who happens to be male, tells me about the emails that he gets in his inbox from other men in the office about various sexual exploits they’ve taken part in on weekends. All kinds of derogatory things about women are said both by men and, unfortunately, women in the office, both during and outside office hours.
I guess this is just a bit of a rant but I just wanted to note how difficult it is to maintain a feminist stance with regard to objectification, discrimination and harassment in workplaces like mine. If you voice any kind of dissent, you make yourself very unpopular and it gets tiresome constantly trying to defend the desire to work instead of gossip.
Where do I start even trying to write a coherent story on the sexism I’ve encountered…. Working in student politics over the past couple of years has provided me with a catalogue of examples, such as ‘wear a tight top, you might get a few extra votes’; being a twenty something year old who regularly goes out to pubs and clubs would write itself into another catalogue and then there was everything that happened before I realised I was a feminist or that what I was experiencing had a name. I think one of the latter is the story I will share because it is very difficult to react and cope with a situation when you can’t name the abuse or the discrimination you’re experiencing.
During college, I was working in a bar in Cork City. Overall, it was a really great place to work – despite the sexism that was rife in the place. One Sunday, my manager was doing the work roster (divvying out the duties for the day) and asked if a male colleague of mine would be able to take on my usual duties as I was off to do something else. I said he would, not a bother as he was a fully capable young fella but the manager (a man) insisted that another girl do half of the workload because the guy wouldn’t be able to do it all. Yet I was expected to do it all, every other day. I was so infuriated I just walked away. I was consumed with anger but had no words to actually raise the issue in a productive manner. I felt completely useless and I didn’t do anything about it.
Being the victim of sexism is horrible every time it happens. Even now that I can name it, it may make it easier to stand up to, but it doesn’t make it a nicer experience. Sometimes I’m left feeling exhausted that I have to fight some big battle for women all on my own, which is why a blog like this is really important. I know I’m not alone, in this story and as the saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’
From the time of the birth of my first child I required union support to get my maternity leave.
I had to travel to Dublin to get maternity leave rights and put them in place before informing
the boss. (I worked on a building site)
I was told to drop my work and pick up a broom when the boss got the call from the Dublin
office about the impending birth of my son. My work plan (which I had set up) involved the
same duties but they had to be adapted : this meant I could not use vibrating equipment,
angle-grinders, water-saws etcetera.
Whilst Pregnant I cut and dressed a huge stone six-panelled window by hand,using
techniques that my helper taught me, which were basically medieval and I never had
so much fun.
My workshop was adapted at very low cost to ensure I did not go out in the rain, and basically
despite an undercurrent of aggression from the management everything proceeded fine, the
Dublin-end of the were brilliant and supportive, at this time.
I took a month early maternity leave and returned to work a week early, as I had a fulltime nanny
installed and was bored at home.
This meant I worked until my seventh month and did not have much sick-time (morning sickness being
over mostly cos I got up at 6am and did not suffer during the day). Bad storms meant that I required a
jeep to use the loo frequently, we worked on a castle-site and the lakes filled up and drowned the road,
so the usual on-site toilets were mostly inaccessible, apart from chuckling about the ‘toilet-express’ and
such things the guys were cool, except one who kept asking if I was going to ‘have a boy or a child’ (???)
On return to work , everyone was great, I returned to almost normal duties , though I was still lactating.
Then two things happened, a guy I had trained up, who’d been brought into to assist me was given
my duties. And I was shoved against a wall and molested. I made a complaint and got fired
(two weeks notice). Getting a solictior was unusual to say the least, but I eventually did and
the physical harassment ended up in the Labour court where I was vindicated and offered a deal.
The Labour Court looked at my difficulties acessing maternity leave, my replacement by a junior
and unqualifed person post-leave etcetera.
The LC deal was basically that I would get back my entitlements, which included my papers
(apprenticeship), my wage (I was time-serving, so the wage was graded on my abilites).
My firing coincided with my qualification to a higher rate, so essentially the unqualified
trainee was offered my job , although I had trained him . I got back my entitlement as
a trained craftsperson (Grade 1) and the aid that any craftsperson required (General
Operatives and labourers).
I took the deal and started a new job , nearer to home and began my work. As it happened,
I did not have my allotted help and was left alone in a bloody windy Cathedral workshop set-up,
miles from the HQ, the G.O (General operative) and the guy I worked with (who was the one who
wanted to know about the ‘boy or child’ ) !!!! Mostly we ignored each other and the labourer
resented my presence. Huge stones were brought in on trucks every week and I cut them,
I could not move them without the crane and I had a serious accident, which resulted in
the loss of the use of my right-arm. I went through months of physio, steroidal treatments,
X-rays, debilitation and pain, I also displaced three vertebrae. I could not look after my son,
though my friends were incredibly good and minded him in the local creche from 10-6 everyday,
whilst I rested or went to physio/ hospital/GP. I was on disability for a long period. To be absolutely
clear about his, I could not hold my baby, push his pram, or stop him if he had night-terrors
etcetera. I had to move home to Dublin and start over from scratch.
It took eight years to get into court, through that my union and my legal team stood by me and
charged nothing . It ended up with me on the stand for what felt like *forever* but maybe took an
hour and a settlement out of court. I am mostly ok now , but would say to employers :
its not funny to be brutalised, its not funny to replace someone who had rights and entitlements
and its not funny to put someone into a situation of danger because you cannot handle women
in non-traditional industries!
The experience ruined my health and it has taken years to recover , I still have awful problems
trying to explain what happened at interviews , and I reckon that the CV gap looks awful too.
Simple remedies such as adhering to the law, turning up for settlement meetings and accepting
the work history and bona fides of your employee aid problematic situations for everyone. Also
meeting someone who has been assaulted with their P45 is a total no-no.