What’s Made Me Feel Like A Feminist Hack
Coming to terms with some of my privilege
I’ve had a lot of conversations with people recently about feminism and what it means. When I explain my stance on feminism, it rarely involves anything having to do with the work place. Now it makes me feel like a hack.
I have been sexually harassed. I have had male co-workers completely steal my ideas and pass them on as their own. They have been given opportunities I was not, when I was just as qualified. Still, I have brushed it off.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I can control my role in my workplace.
This is where my privilege comes into play. I am a 44-year-old white woman, with a college degree, living in the 5th largest metropolitan area in the country. I have choices.
I have built a career spanning 20 years and have done as much as I possibly can to make me a desirable employment candidate. It’s worked.
This allows me to make choices regarding where I want to spend my professional time. Choice is a privilege many other women simply do not have. We can’t act like choice is available to them. It’s an immense disservice. I have been guilty of making this assumption and I feel like an ass about it.
I once held a job that I absolutely loved. It brought me such great joy to do it every day. However, the company I work for was so steeped in misogynism that dealing with day to day situations was nearly unbearable.
I had a boss that would pile more and more work on me. Most of it was passed on to me because my male counterpart, who he protected wildly, was unable to keep up and get the job done. When I was inundated with work and stressed beyond belief, my boss had the audacity to walk by my office, look at me, stick his head in and ask that I smile. To say that I lost my shit might be an overwhelming understatement.
I went off on him so loudly and so furiously that I’m sure the entire office heard it. At least, his assistant did. Who already had flowers ordered for me and deliver to the office by the time my boss could even get back to his own office after I reamed him.
I needed to get the hell out of there and I planned for the next few months how to do that. I exercised my choice not to tolerate a workplace that did not support me. When the aforementioned male co-worker got a raise and I didn’t, I left.
There are scores of women that don’t have this choice. They are working mothers. They are women living in less populated areas of the country where there are fewer jobs in general.
They have to take the job paying 20% less because they need the job. Being subjected to the pay gap is the lesser of two evils compared to unemployment.
This isn’t to say that only women in certain areas or certain jobs are victims of the pay gap. This is where my privilege swings the other way. I am sheltered from a ruthless work environment because I am not working in a male dominant industry.
Consider this: women in technology are far outnumbered by men almost 4 to 1. The number of male candidates to female candidates for a job or promotion is heavily in the men’s favor. If a woman does get the sought after position, her salary will still be determined by a group that is very predominantly male.
This leaves the door wide open for the “Good Ol’ Boy Club” to keep the pay gap solidly in place. If the woman wants the job and the promotion, there may be little else she can do than accept her reality. Men are still pulling the strings. Suck it up and move up.
There’s a lot in the world I don’t acknowledge because it doesn’t affect me. To ignore its existence is self-centered and arrogant. It makes me feel like a tool. I have not done a good enough job of carrying the flag for women in the workplace. Blinders are a pretty thing. Just as real as that damn pay gap. Both need to be acknowledged.