Uhhh, Sooo ... Gender Equality, Right?
by Marilyn Wolbert | published Sep. 2nd, 2019
Two days into my first internship, regret slowly inched its way into the back of my mind. It was as if none of the employees in my place of work had ever seen a woman with an education before. After constantly being talked over, ignored, catcalled (yes, catcalled in the workplace) and harassed, I muddled through eight months of pure patriarchal horror. The worst part? I had no help. Human resources was basically only payroll, RIT could only do so much from so far away, the other engineers and supervisors were all male and nobody seemed to care.
"There is nothing more that a woman likes to hear than how pretty she is.”
If I could take the number of times I was spoken down to like a child, add that to the number of times I was called condescending pet names, add this once again to the amount of people on the floor telling me that this was ‘not a job for a woman’ — you would have a number very similar to the amount of signatures on any one of the polar vortex PawPrints petitions.
Mansplain, enough of a problem that it was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in March 2018, is defined as "to explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic."
In the essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” author Rebecca Solnit explains that mansplaining isn’t just annoying, but perpetuates the idea that women are inferior.
“It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; it crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world," Solnit writes. "It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”
Solnit goes on to give the example of an instance where a man had taken over a conversation to wrongly explain a book, which he had never read, to Solnit and her friend. Solnit was the author of this book.
Another famous example is from a 2014 CNN clip where actor and author Steve Santagati explains catcalling to two women on air. What he says not only undermines the intelligence of women, but puts out the idea that harassment is welcomed and, in some cases, enjoyed.
“I'm more of an expert than you, and I'll tell you why. I'm a guy, and I know how we think! More than you guys will ever know. ... The bottom line is this, ladies: You would not care if all these guys were hot. They would be bolstering your self-esteem, bolstering your ego. There is nothing more that a woman likes to hear than how pretty she is,” Santagati explained.
Catcalling, a form of harassment, is something that almost all women must face as a possibility every time they leave their homes.
Last year, I couldn’t walk through my own place of employment without someone making a comment about my body or what they would do to it. This is terrifying for any woman, especially in a male-dominated environment. According to NPR, over 81 percent of women experience some form of sexual harassment at some point in their lives, The effects can be everlasting — changing the way one may move through their life, causing fear, aggravation and embarrassment — so much so that there are multiple articles listing precautions you should take if you find yourself in one of these situations.
Joyce Shaffer, a former sales representative for multiple consulting firms, detailed an example of sexual harassment in the workplace which she endured years ago. She stated that she had worked on a project with a man who was very hostile and made continuous sexual comments to her all day long, every day.
“All women are whores and you’re the biggest one of all,” she quotes the aggressor as saying. “How about you give me some of that? Once the loaf is cut, what’s one more slice?”
This lasted for over three months, despite Shaffer's multiple fruitless attempts to receive assistance from higher-ups, until the project was completed and they both went their separate ways.
A good friend of mine recently had the brakes fixed on her car. Immediately after picking up said car, her brakes gave out in the middle of traffic, leaving her in a dangerous situation. After multiple calls to the mechanic, being told they had nothing to do with the malfunction, but would gladly fix them for an elevated fee, she had her father call them. Without hesitation, the mechanic told him to bring the car in and they would fix it for free.
Small town examples aside, how about the wage gap? As illustrated by Business Insider, a common point of tension between people is the argument on whether or not the gap persists. Unfortunately, the gender wage gap continues to be an issue that is influenced by other factors as well such as race and location. White women make an average of 79 percent of the earnings a white man would make, whereas black and Hispanic women make 67 percent and 58 percent, respectively.
What is the reasoning behind this? Many men attribute it to ‘women’s choice,’ working fewer hours or picking a lower-paying major. This doesn’t take into account the women who hold the same education and title as their male counterparts, yet bring home a smaller paycheck. According to Business Insider, after years of inequality, the wage gap has only decreased by about half a penny a year since the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
"It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”
But Let's Be Real
Whether it's the constant condescension, the battle to be taken seriously or the fight to maintain rights in a time where we seem to be stuck in misogyny, it's clear there are still huge leaps to be had in the battle for gender equality.
I would write more, but I have to go listen to some men who are going to mansplain to me why the word mansplaining is sexist.