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Jane Austen would be horrified

Posted in Life & Love, and Women's issues

A sure sign of aging is the inability to recognize the world around us.

I must be getting out of touch because I often think our world has gone crazy, and never more so when it comes to the glacial pace of women’s advancements in society.

A recent Morning Consult/NYTimes poll left me aghast. A sample of people were asked whether they thought meeting one on one with a work colleague was inappropriate and those who answered in the affirmative fell into the following categories (divided by party affiliations and religious inclinations):

Republicans 28%
Democrats 20%
Independents 20%

The margin was higher – 34% – amongst Evangelical Christians and significantly lower – 16% – amongst atheists.
Moreover, a majority of women, and nearly half of all men, think it’s inappropriate to have dinner or drinks with a person of the opposite sex other than one’s spouse.

What this suggests to me is twofold: this country is marching towards puritanism at a faster pace than I thought and sex is still too much part of the conversation. Not to mention how irksome it is to see that women are still considered, by implication, temptresses, and men weak morons.

How exactly are we supposed to advance in the workplace, for instance, if a quarter of the population feels it’s inappropriate to have a one on one meeting with a boss of the opposite sex; or a lunch or dinner with same boss or a colleague?

In an interesting op-ed in last Sunday’s NY Times Susan Chira summed up months of interviews with women who climbed all the way to (almost) the top: the number twos who never made it to number one, looking for commonalities and unifying threads. The reasons for their failure appear to be many and varied and they do include being shut out of those stereotypical boys’ clubs like golf games and drinks after work. But something Ellen Kullman, former chief executive of DuPont, said struck me:

We (women) are never taught to fight for ourselves. I think we tend to be brought up thinking that life’s fair, that you thrive and deliver, and the rest will take care of itself. It actually does work for most of your career. It doesn’t work for the last couple of steps.”

The implication of such a sentence is that, at the very top, it’s not even a catfight but a bloodbath and we are not prepared for it.

That, as women, we are mostly encouraged to be fair, more subdued and less in your face, is still true. What is prized in a man is not necessarily sought after in a woman. I believe it is a fair assessment that we are not taught how to fight like men, to encourage ruthlessness, to zero in on the prize and go for it no matter what, or who, we leave in our wake.

I also believe that we are asked to fight too many battles, on too many fronts: besides the basic prejudices and the assumptions that we are weaker, hormonal and prone to tears, we have to make sure we don’t come across as too flirtatious, lest we become too tempting. We need to learn to modulate our voices so we don’t come across as shrill. We have to lean in but not too forcefully. We need to find the right balance between family and work. And, to top it all off, we need to employ weapons we are not comfortable handling.

That we have come this far is a miracle of multi-tasking and ingenuity. Time for the opposite sex to come meet us half way. And time for us to get out of our way and perpetuating the myth that being alone with a man can only end in disaster.

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18 Comments

  1. Problema complesso e interessante, mi riprometto di tornarci su

    August 8, 2017
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  2. Recently the BBC was forced to reveal the pay of its top presenters. It has caused a HUGE furore, as it turns out that male presenters are paid vastly more than their female counterparts, who do exactly the same job as the men do.
    It has come as a huge shock to some of these women – and to the British public – because there is no rhyme or reason for this disparity apart from gender, and in many cases the amounts of money are eye-watering. Women presenters are fighting back. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40696402 and I think they have public support. It seems especially galling as the BBC has always held itself up as a bastion of decency and equality, and is funded by the ‘TV License’ which is, in effect, a tax on all citizens who own a TV set. The rows over this will get really down and dirty I am sure!

    August 1, 2017
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    • I read about it and found it pretty astounding because, in my naivete, I would have thought the BBC a “den of equity”. On hindsight, we shouldn’t be surprised. Companies often take advantage of women’s inability (or unwillingness) to negotiate hard for themselves.

      August 2, 2017
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  3. Ellie
    Ellie

    Men’s liberation is definitely way overdue !!
    If men had been liberated first, women would have been automatically free.
    PS I tried coaxing Siri on my boyfriend’s iPhone and nothing happened……..
    Perhaps setting Siri into English from its Italian default is a step in the wrong direction. I’ll experiment some more………

    July 25, 2017
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    • I think you need the American Siri (I bet you use the English one)

      July 25, 2017
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      • Ellie
        Ellie

        Oddly enough I used the American option and it gave me ‘No Match Found’…….

        July 27, 2017
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  4. The VICE PRESIDENT of the United States does not/will not have lunch or dinner with a woman alone and he calls his wife Mother. No words.

    July 25, 2017
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    • I know. That is what prompted the survey in the first place. I thought Pence was an outlier and laughed it off. How wrong I was!

      July 25, 2017
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  5. silvia
    silvia

    I’d be curious like a monkey to find out the figures of this survey had they done it in Europe

    July 25, 2017
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  6. winstonmoreton
    winstonmoreton

    At the beginning of my working life, not so many years ago, women were not expected to have occupations. In legal documents they were either Spinster, Married Woman, or Widow. By the end of my “career” their occupations were stated in the same manner as men. Not entirely my doing.

    July 24, 2017
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    • Let me believe you did your small bit and that it counted.

      July 25, 2017
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  7. Sad, isn’t it?

    When a man fights for what he wants in the workplace, he’s a leader, he knows what he wants. A woman is merely a bitch. Women are consistently paid less for the same type of job, and also consistently take it for less than men normally do. Have you read about the recent BBC scandal, where the top paid entertainers had their salaries disclosed? The difference between males and females is staggering.

    As for having dinner with the opposite sex, I have zero problems with it and am appalled that society can think men and women can’t simply be friends. Was Harry right when he said it to Sally?!

    Now, this has nothing to do with anything, but: if you have an iPhone or any device with Siri, tell her, “I see a little silhouetto of a man,” and watch the magic 😀

    July 24, 2017
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    • Oh Leonor, you made my day! I played it over and over. Am including it in my next 5 things.

      July 25, 2017
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      • Glad you liked it! 😁 I found another one: ask her How to hide a body. Not as good as the other one, but still fun 😀

        July 25, 2017
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        • I ask Siri all the time if she loves me. I don’t know what it says about me but I get a kick out of getting a different answer every time.

          July 25, 2017
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          • Oh, I need to try that!

            July 27, 2017

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