Yes, there IS sexism where you work. You are just blind to it.
Several years ago I had lunch with a long time friend, who happens to be a male. We’ve known each other for decades, and he’s someone I respect not only as a good person and friend, but as a professional in the shared overall industry and area we work in.
The lunch was to ask his advice, yet again, on suggestions for navigating the networking and career opportunities around, as I’d found myself working in a situation that just didn’t sit right. He saw how deflated I was, and was genuinely concerned. As we spoke I admitted I didn’t know if it was the region, or just my finally giving up and stopping the rationalization, but the institutionalized misogyny was just getting too grating to dismiss and pretend wasn’t there.
He was surprised. We’d both grown up in the same area of NJ years ago, moved to this area at different times. I said I didn’t know if our home region was any different, but at this point in my life I’m just so fed up with the unrelenting digs that happen nearly every moment of every day that it’s exhausting. I don’t know that I’d ever been this straightforward with him, or with others, about my frustrations. I even surprised myself, for once breaking the cycle of self-blame and doubt to clearly lift my head up and see what was happening.
His response shattered me.
He said it must be where I am, because he doesn’t see that at all where he is.
No. I bet he didn’t.
This discussion took place before the 2016 Presidential campaign began.
I think back to that lunch, and his response was as honest as it gets. I don’t begrudge him that, and I know his response was in no way personal, despite being intensely personal in suggesting it’s somehow just me. Just as women have been taught to unknowingly compartmentalize, so have men. I honestly believe he doesn’t see the harassment and mistreatment, and doesn’t see the privilege that he benefits from. That in no way is meant to suggest that he does not deserve the success he’s had, he absolutely does. He is one of the smartest, hardest working, kindest, dedicated people I know.
But I am one of those people, too.
And I’m tired of the lesser folks always “winning”.