Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Glass Ceiling: Dude Gets Creative With Cause and Effect

Writing in The Sacramento Bee, Bruce Maiman recently explained why that pesky glass ceiling for ladies in the workplace persists and why men don't take women seriously. The problem, he says, is women.


"Two weeks straight and two stories about two fights involving women going for the top two jobs in California: First there was Carly Fiorina's hairgate. Now there's Meg Whitman's shoving match.
Is there pay-per-view?"

Har har har, cat fight! Am I rite? Here, right off the bat, Maiman let's us know that he doesn't take female violence seriously, implying that girl-on-girl action is entertaining, and possibly hot, but in no way threatening or serious in the way that it would be if he were talking about two men. Let's remember this in a moment.

He continues:

"Many have written about the new feminism in politics, but incidents like this recall questions about old chauvinism in the workplace – a misogyny in everyone, not just men. Why are women more hypercritical of women than they are of men? Why does it always seem to be about looks? Do they bully other women? How much of the relationship between men and women is influenced by the way women treat women?

Men don't generally knock each other's appearance. Personality, yes; ability and competency, yes, particularly when competing for the same job, but rarely looks."

Here, Maiman implies that when women fight it's about stupid girly shit, like appearances. When men knock each other, it's about important shit. Like, I don't know, dick size? While he dances around several outcomes of this superficial bitchiness, he asks a rhetorical question:

"How can women break the glass ceiling at work if they're ducking verbal blows from female co-workers? And if the perception, rightly or wrongly, is that women can't take one another seriously, why do they expect men to?"

Now, it's not exactly a Startling Revelation that women can be mean to each other and hyper-critical of each other's looks. Yet oddly, female aggression is framed as, as one "expert" in Maiman's article called it, "the pink elephant" in the room. Because, um, the ladies love pink shit and no one is talking about what's in plain sight except for brave dudes in the mainstream media? Yet, this pervasively-invisible phenomenon hardly holds true for all women and, indeed, applies to men as well. Hello, Perez Hilton and Rush Limbaugh. Yet, more importantly, Maiman suggests that misogyny in men is actually caused by misogynistic women who model the phenomenon of treating other women poorly. Which, of course, sort of lets men completely off the hook. Men don't take women seriously, you see, because women don't take each other seriously. Oh the poor poor men can't think for themselves.

To get to the bottom of why Maiman's proposition is absurd, it will be helpful to see what other dudes think about all this. In a comment that has been flagged as "popular," following the article, "sacbeeuser731" mansplained (wrongly, natch) that:

"[Maiman] hit the nail on the head. Female bullies can do far more damage to a subordinate than men in terms of destroying reputations because the victim isn't taken seriously. A man perpetrating the same offenses upon a female subordinate would be sued for discrimination. Currently, there are no laws protecting against same-sex, same-race harrassment. This results in a double standard in the workplace and needs to be changed."

First and foremost, our mansplainer of the day is wrong about sex discrimination laws not applying to same-sex, same-race harassment. In fact, he is not just a little wrong, he is like, so fucking wrong that the truth is actually the opposite of what he said. A quick perusal of the Equal Employment Opportunity website, for instance, clearly and plainly states that when it comes to workplace harassment, "Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex" and "Discrimination can occur when the victim and the person who inflicted the discrimination are the same race or color."

Nothing like a probable white dude being outraged by the Lack of Protection For White Dudes that is a figment of his own imagination. I mean, seriously, do people even try to look shit up before they get angry about and "teach" others topics they know absofuckinglutely nothing about?

Secondly, here "sacbeeuser" bemoans that female purveyors of violence and aggression are, for the most part, not taken seriously. While it is true that there are issues with traditional domestic violence narratives that gender perpetrators of violence as male and victims as female, how power dynamics, gender, and aggression play out in the workplace is much different than in domestic relations. Thusly do I call bullshit on "sacbeeuser's" claim that women can get away with much more aggressive behavior in the workplace than can men. When women display the same entitlement to aggression that men display (and are sometimes lauded for), whether their aggression is taken seriously or not depends on the gender of the victim.

When women are aggressive towards men (or, you know, just confident and competent) they are often framed as some variation of a Castrating Witch/Bitch. Yet, when women are agressive/mean to other women, men are likely to minimize it, reducing it to a catfight, or otherwise suggest that they are not threatened by female-on-female aggression. Indeed, let's scroll back to the top of my post, pause, and briefly consider Maiman's uninspired comment about wishing the totally-non-threatening lady catfight would be on "pay-per-view." Possibly in mud, am I rite?

And why don't men take female-female aggression seriously?

Because they take neither women nor "girly" shit seriously. That many women also denigrate women is a logical consequence, a trickle-down effect so to speak, of society's powerbrokers consistently denigrating women. Not a cause of it.

In noting the phenomenon of women who hate women, Andrea Dworkin noted that right-wing women recognize that women are categorically defined as sex, but that they reject feminism because for women not to be sex would make women useless to men. That women hatefully enforce codes of patriarchal beauty compliance upon other women is not the cause of male misogyny, but rather a "self-protective sense of repulsion" caused by it.

But we understand, don't we bitchez? Writing about Andrea Dworking is not as exciting to write about as women who cause men to not take women seriously in the workplace.

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