Today I vacuumed, like, the really big vacuum you do once a month where you move the furniture and really get every crumb. The whir of the vacuum was a soothing white noise to the clang of toys and the squeal of toddlers, and it gave me time to think. I recently read an article about why women drink, and it really opened my eyes to the culture we embody as females in a male-dominated society. The article doesn’t focus on how much we drink, or if we’re irresponsible, but points to the reasons we reach for even one glass of wine.
The author had recently quit drinking, and was able to take an outside view of the situation because she was so sensitive to the offer or need for alcohol. She posted on social media that she had fallen and scraped her knees, and every comment recommended she have a drink. She works in the tech industry, and at every work function she had to plan strategically what beverage to carry that would look like booze and what to say if someone offered to buy her the next round. She found that in that circumstance, not drinking is socially unacceptable and someone invariably gets angry at the teetotaler for not indulging and thereby making a pious comment about others’ problematic intake. She decided to carry soda water, make a lap to greet the five people that needed to see she had shown up, and then make an exit before anyone found out she wasn’t actually drinking. That’s right, it’s unacceptable not to drink.
The thing that really got me worked up as I was attempting to fluff the downtrodden carpet on the stairs, was her story about a panel she participated in to discuss working in the tech industry. She was informed she was chosen for the panel because “we need one woman”. Lovely. And then she fielded a question from a female audience member asking what the atmosphere was like in her male-dominated field. She replied diplomatically, but her answer could be translated to, “you will have to put up with some BS in this Boy’s Club, but it’s not impossible to work here”. And then, here’s where I start to roll up my sleeves and put down my purse: her three male colleagues jumped in to refute her explanation of what it was like to be a woman, because they know women who “get along with everyone” and are happy at their jobs.
First, are we saying women don’t otherwise get along with others because we are naturally emotional bitches? Surely that isn’t what the audience member meant, and she wasn’t asking if the other women were nice and could be her work-friends. She was asking if the men in the workplace would hold her down or overlook her contributions based on her gender, and she got her answer within two minutes. The female panel member answered the question about being a female, and then the boys mansplained what it’s really like to be a woman in tech.
While flipping over furniture in full-on rage-clean mode, I was incensed for these women. Of course they needed a glass of wine to get through each day. It’s either that, or punch their coworkers in the throat. And I was going over what I would have said to shut these guys down if it were me on the panel, but there was no right answer. Even though the men had blatantly disagreed with her point, one which was clearly the expert, if she had so much has come up with a rebuttal, she would have been too emotional, hysterical even. No matter her even tone and valid points, as the author of the article says, “there’s no acceptable way to be a woman”.
As a SAHM I’m not sure there’s much I can do to improve workplace culture for women in the tech industry, so I flip over the ottoman and fume. But then it occurs to me that, while we all somehow know being kicked in the balls is the worst pain in the world, though half of us are free from danglers, we didn’t all agree that childbirth was painful until those guys strapped sensors to their bellies to simulate contractions. And, for the record, no matter how long they lasted with contractions, their undercarriage didn’t split open like the Joker’s grin, so they still have no friggin idea what it’s like to birth a human bobble-head. But clearly, nothing is painful until a man verifies it first.
And then there’s the Dad who had to take care of the kids for two days when Mom got the flu (not my husband, who cleaned up the entire downstairs so I could vacuum, bless him) and then declares that being a SAHM is, like, really hard! Yea, those two days are totally the same thing. Until a man says it’s hard to be a full-time mom, though, we assume housewives are eating bonbons and spending Dad’s paychecks at the mall.
How can we, a tribe that has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to become leaders across all industries, need a man to validate our experiences? We carry these kids in our bellies, suffer loss, suffer morning sickness, health scares, guilt, and stretchmarks before we even get to the hospital, and we need a man to tell us it’s tough? BS. Sexism is everywhere, if you look, and it absolutely makes me want a soothing glass of pinot noir. But maybe that’s what they want…maybe the men are handing us the booze to keep us numb and confused.
We revolt at dawn.