E&M’s Friederike Sandow and Nicoletta Enria are back with a third instalment of their female rage series. This issue they deal with cis-male only panels and how they stifle debate and crush young womxn’s dreams.
This is a trend that I’ve always found infuriating. But I have to say, since entering the Brussels bubble, it’s something that I find infuriates me more than usual. I went to countless events on different EU foreign and domestic policy topics – with panelists bursting with credentials – how exciting right? WRONG. We need to stop valuing potential panelists just for credentials. Yes of course high-level experiences and top positions provide extremely valuable insights for debates on the topic at hand, but so does diverse representation. Debates must be reflective of society, and no matter how hard mainstream discourse and organisations try to convince of this, the world is not made up of heterosexual white cis-men. A discussion on ANY topic must include diverse voices, including young, queer voices and those of people of colour. Only this way can the debate actually be far-reaching and effective – reflecting the reality on the ground.
And whatever confidence I have left is then bulldozed over by young men in the field who are emboldened by constant manels that remind them their opinions are more valid than mine. And I am a privileged heterosexual cis-woman, it only gets worse from here.
But also, consider this, as a young woman trying to make it in quite a competitive and male-dominated field (foreign policy), I feel these panels constantly serve to remind me where my place is – aka not there. Every all-male panel is a slap in the face, a clear message that my opinion is not valid, and will never be valid no matter how much experience I accumulate. This takes a very serious emotional toll, chipping away at the already little confidence I have in myself and my opinions. And whatever confidence I have left is then bulldozed over by young men in the field who are emboldened by constant manels that remind them their opinions are more valid than mine. And I am a privileged heterosexual cis-women, it only gets worse from here.
Sexism at work kills. It kills your spirit, your motivation, your dreams, your career. (On what else sexism kills, read more on the silent killer here.)
It makes me rage when I see reports being released in this day and age, that show, black on white, that big corporations not only do not have any womxn in their executive boards, they also have the audacity in their friggin’ men’s club to set themselves the target of having “zero womxn on the board in the future”. What answers they come up with regarding why that is, can be chosen at random with this handy bullshit bingo. Naturally, I have a fair amount of rage for the culprits of these statistics.
It gets a little more difficult though when you start noticing the omnipresence of accepted sexism at the workplace. This underlying systemic sexism that happens on a daily basis to you and others by people you value, makes me incredibly frustrated. Sexism is so entrenched in male behaviour and female silence – and their acceptance of day-to-day sexism.
What is most infuriating to me is not that men often say things carelessly, not grasping the meaning behind their “what-used-to-be-okay-to-say” uttered phrases, but the fact that even though a lot of men I have worked with encourage gender equality, they continue to fall into the traps of daily sexism. And not only men – a good female friend of mine described a womxn as ‘ballsy’ the other day. When I pointed it out to her she was irritated and mad at herself that the first word that came to her mind to describe the womxn of question as ‘determined’, was ballsy.
Speeches, expressed gratitude or just mindlessly spoken addresses during meetings, are under more scrutiny by me and other like–minded womxn than ever before, and that’s good. And no, it does not mean that “this is exhausting” or “too politically correct” or “one can only lose” – one can always learn and the only thing why it’s not ok “all of the sudden” is because womxn are finally finding their voice. We’re tired of being put down. And that means men of every generation need to listen and learn. Sexism is all around, in the language that we use, in how we describe people, the attributes we give to them and how we treat them, intentionally (if you’re a chauvinist) or unintentionally. It shows how deep we have to go to make it right again, one day.
I have witnessed too many laudations where the addressed womxn were defined by their “motherly” team effort. Enough. Nobody put baby in the corner in 2019.
I mean that when a womxn made it onto a panel and she’s being asked “who watches the kids tonight?” (real thigh-slapper) or “if she never wanted kids but chose a career instead…?”, we need to make noise.
I mean that when bosses get up and deliver a thank you speech for colleagues who have a company anniversary and they mention (warmly and full of compassion) that the female colleague “has been like a mother” for the team or that “she always has an open ear.” We need to make noise.
Because I want to hear that she is where she is because of the work she does and the skills she has. Her empathy comes ON TOP OF THAT. (The kicker – if it doesn’t, females at the workplace, especially in higher positions, are often labelled the “ice cold bitch”.) By all means, mention her empathy as a plus, because it is incredible when a boss displays empathy, but do not mention it as what defines her. I have witnessed too many laudations where the addressed womxn were defined by their “motherly” team effort. Enough. Nobody put baby in the corner in 2019.