Given all that, it is no surprise that I didn't watch either convention, and I haven't even gone and watched the recorded version of any of the speeches. I did, however, read the text of several of them. I find that I have been thinking a lot about Ann Romney's speech, and specifically the way she seemed to just accept- embrace even- the inequalities women still face. This didn't really surprise me- she was hardly going to get up and deliver a feminist call to arms. Whatever she actually thinks, that would torpedo her husband's chances of election. But still. Like a lot of the commentary I've seen on her speech, I am frustrated by this almost retro acceptance of sexism as being just the way things are.
I couldn't really explain why I was so frustrated, given my incredibly low expectations for the speech, but recent events at work have helped me figure it out. I am frustrated because she seemed to be shrugging her shoulders and trivializing the extra work I have to do in comparison to my male colleagues. She seemed to be saying, "Yeah, things aren't really fair, but oh well! We're strong and we can handle it, so it is no big deal. Don't make a fuss."
And well, I don't generally make a fuss, primarily because doing so would actually decrease my chances of achieving the things I want to achieve. I know there are women who face far bigger problems than I do. But damn it, the extra weight around my ankles is a big deal.
The events at work that are rankling on me right now are, on their own, pretty trivial. I do not want to give specifics here, but the broad outlines are this: there is a guy who is not treating me with the respect my experience and demonstrated expertise (and his relative lack of experience and expertise) in a particular area warrant. It is a subtle thing, but noticeable, and I am certainly not the only one who has noticed it. In this particular case, I will "win," but I find the experience wearying. Is this problem a gender thing? Or a generational thing (I'm about 10 years older than he is)? Or is he just an ass? It is hard to say.
And that's the thing. In any one case, it is usually hard to say. But these experiences add up over the course of a career, and they wear you down. Where my male colleagues are just walking along a path, I'm walking along wearing those stupid ankle weights that were popular in the 80s. Sure, I've adjusted, and I've done really well. But damn, I'm tired.
Worse than that, these little insults accumulate in the dark corners of my consciousness, and are there to poke at me when I'm having a rough day. Because I can't point at them and definitively say "that was sexism!" it is far too easy to fall into thinking that they happen because I am less competent or knowledgeable than others. They make it easier to get discouraged, and convince myself that I'm not making a difference, that my work isn't important, and that maybe I should throw in the towel and go do something else.
So here I am, solidly mid-career in a pretty good career, but feeling restless. Feeling like maybe this thing I'm doing isn't the best use of my time, because I seem to always be swallowing some possible insult, or pushing past some obstacle that may or may not be there for women only. Maybe those obstacles are real, and maybe they're going to keep me from realizing my goals in this field. I've got other ideas, other things I could devote my energy to. Maybe I should pursue those.
But I know all about imposter syndrome, and I know that there is nothing I am interested in doing that won't be touched by sexism- in fact there are a lot of people who say that mothers can't do the other things I'm interested in, either. So maybe I am just looking over at a different path and imaging that I wouldn't have ankle weights on if I were over there, but in fact, if I went over there, I'd discover that the ankle weights women wear on that path are 10 lb weights instead of 3. So maybe I should stay here and keep walking. Maybe the summit is just around the corner.
|The view I would have missed|
So I don't know what I should do. I am fortunate to be in the position to have this internal debate, but it isn't without cost. It isn't no big deal. It isn't something we should shrug away and just accept. I don't know how to change it and make those ankle weights go away, but I'm pretty sure that giving speeches where you almost revel in it isn't the way.