Friday, October 28, 2016

warrior, pt. 2.

A couple of months ago, I was introduced to someone by a friend who felt our work was aligned and that we'd make a good connection. This isn't uncommon in my job, people connect me to other people from time to time, and I do my best to accommodate (though I encourage anyone who wants to do this in the future to ask first before looping me into emails).

Anyways, so I invite this person for coffee and we do the usual small talk about work and job duties and visions. As I'm asking him about what he does, he answers in short sentences and turns the questions back to me. He says he's curious about what I do because he didn't know anything about how this side of the industry works. As I'm answering, he interjects with more questions, so I keep talking. (Also, it's hard to sum up "what I do" in one sentence.)

After we parted ways, a couple hours later, I got a message from him following up on something we discussed. I responded, thanked him for stopping by, and said I hoped he wasn't bored listening to me talk about my job.

He responded that it was fine, but then offered up some unsolicited advice about me as a "young person" (mind you, we're about the same age) and how my need to talk too much to overcompensate for my youth can be seen as a negative when pitching myself.

And some other stuff, but that immediately jumped out to me. I wasn't aware I was being evaluated, nor was I aware that this was a "pitch" meeting. Was I supposed to impress him?

Maybe he didn't mean it to come off so condescending. But something about that remark struck me the wrong way. Had I not been talking to answer the question-after-question that came from him? Had I not asked questions and tried to engage in a discussion? (In following messages, there was a man-splantation of a popular event that I told him I already knew about, but it didn't stop him from telling me again.)

I wondered if I was overreacting and shared the interaction and message with a male friend who has never been shy to call me on my bullshit. He confirmed I wasn't crazy.

Someone recently asked me if I as a young woman of color ever felt like I had to run twice as fast to keep up with my colleagues and peers. I truthfully try not to think about it a lot because otherwise i get angry thinking about all the times it's been abundantly clear I'm lacking something... The time I was asked to get coffee for the room for a meeting that I was a participant in, to then be told by the ma leading the meeting, "Oh! I thought you were so-and-so's assistant." The time a male ex-colleague on a work trip kept asking me "what my type was" because being married would make me happier. The time, in a room full of leaders, I was repeatedly referred to as a "novice reporter" despite my bio and credentials clearly stating my own leadership role. The time I raised my hand in a meeting to give input on an issue I spent years reporting on closely, only to have the story handed to someone new. The next time I raised my hand in a meeting. Then, the time again after that. Different stories, same results.

I used to dress in Calvin Klein and shiny pumps to make myself seem older, more authoritative. It didn't stop any of the above from happening. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just a shitty journalist and leader with an inability to speak in public coherently. Something tells me, though, that that isn't entirely it, because when I share these experiences and thoughts with female friends and colleagues, they respond with their own stories too – many of the similar, many of them worst.

A year ago, I put out a general ask on Facebook to my friends to see if any of them felt they had been treated differently at work because of gender. The responses, as I read them today, still shock me, but don't surprise me. A male friend once asked why women don't speak up every time they encounter moments like this. I think it's fair to say many women don't speak up because they don't want to be viewed as "too emotional" or "irrational" (which was also one of the responses I received last year on my Facebook thread), or – honestly – they're too busy getting shit done.

Anyways. I don't have any grand conclusions or sweeping declarations from this. I'm not even going back through this and editing it. Hell, I may even delete this post in a day. I just wanted to say it.

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