Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Surly and the Patriarchy
I was summoned to a meeting that went as follows:
Male Division Head (DH): This individual stack of 3 by 5 index cards forms a perfect circle.
Surly: No, that's actually a rectangle.
DH: Whoa, calm down! There’s no reason to fly off the handle! Why are you being so difficult? You really have an attitude problem.
Male Administrator #2 (Not even trying to conceal his smirk): Yeah Surly, you really didn’t handle that shape-based conversation well.
Repeat this sort of exchange for about thirty minutes. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, scene.
About 15 minutes in, I thought "Holy shit, Surly, you're being gaslighted. Or maybe you've been transported to the set of Mad Men."
No matter what I said, no matter how calmly I spoke or how firmly evidenced-based my comments were, the two assholes just kept being condescending to me and sharing knowing glances about what a "crazy" woman I was to get all "emotional" about rectangles.
Surly didn't just fall of the turnip truck. I've had many different jobs, some in male-dominated fields and I know from misogyny. I have a good sense of humor and I think I know how to pick my battles. I just never in my life thought I would see this insanely sexist behavior in this particular setting. It was literally jaw-dropping.
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Maybe the two administrators were playing a game of ha-ha-we-know-something-you-don't.ReplyDelete
For several years, my last department head tried desperately to have me fired. He eventually resorted to putting information in my personnel file that was either not true or a distortion of the facts. But the institutional regulations dictated that he had to give me copies of what he wrote so that I not only knew what he said but I had a chance to respond to it. I never received those copies but the dean and the president of our staff association did.
At about the same time, I had meetings with that same dean and staff association president concerning the dispute with the department head. I always had the impression that those two seemed to know more about what was going on than I did, but they weren't going to say anything, and I, somehow, had to figure out the missing details.
It wasn't until I looked at my file a while later, with a different staff association president being present, that I became aware of my department head's shenanigans and I put all the pieces together.
Huge thanks to the mod who cleaned up the graphics on my post. What with being slumped in a weeping heap, I wasn't attentive enough to the layout.ReplyDelete
Who else would do it? Cal, even though he's traveling, can never abide a formatting imperfection...LOL. Actually, what caught his eye was the amount of formatting in your original text. Oftentimes when correspondents compose in a word processing software, there are tens of thousands of extra bytes that actually slow down the page for all viewers. So he strips it out, doing his best to maintain any other formatting you might have.Delete
And of course there are always blurry graphics availble.
Cal, did you survive your trip?
That sucks! Check out the tumblr Academic Men Explain Things to Me: http://mansplained.tumblr.com/ReplyDelete
And if you haven't read Rebecca Solnit's fantastic essay that inspired the term, it really will make you feel better: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175584/ReplyDelete
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"Lonely, insecure assholes come in all shapes, sizes, and genders." They do. But mansplainers come in only one.ReplyDelete
Surly, my ear is sympathetic, and I wish I could bring over a bottle of wine and hear you rant in person. I have no solutions. I'm amazed that your fingers were calm enough to type.
Ugh. This sort of thing drives me nuts. My field has a particular problem with misogyny. It's harmful to the profession, aside from being just wrong. Makes me want to tear my hair out.Delete
It is difficult not to mansplain, whenever dealing with anyone too dim to understand something as simple as the Doppler effect, and tries to conceal it with a barrage of "whys" worthy of a two-year-old.Delete
I have to tell you, I see this sort of idiocy in men and women. In my particular school, a grande dame of the college does this sort of thing with absolute presidential impunity, and we all just have to take it.ReplyDelete
WOw. Just Wow. Nothing like that to make you wonder how far civilization has come. Can one claim any progress if only half of the population is playing along? I'm so sorry!ReplyDelete
I"m sorry to hear about your lousy day! Tomorrow when you have had some sleep, do write down exactly what did happen, either for your own files, or for your own files and to send to whatever administrator would be useful to talk to. Or for your union rep or like that. I wish I could say I've never seen this behaviour myself but, of course, I have.ReplyDelete
That's good advice.Delete
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While documenting what went on is definitely advisable, one should be cautious about how that information can or might be used, partly because of the attitude of whoever is representing the teaching staff.Delete
If the rep is determined to defend individual staff members, then there might not be a problem. However, the rep might be someone who figures that it would be better to feed that person to the sharks if it means that the administration leaves everybody else alone. If that's the case, then there's not much point in presenting that information.
Recording such incidents might be perceived as being petty or vindictive. However, if that's not done, and, some time later, a grievance is filed, the staff member won't have much of a case.
(((Surly))) And I agree with Merely Academic's advice.ReplyDelete
Thanks for all the sympathy and great advice! The "Mansplaining" site provided many much-needed laughs!ReplyDelete
I have great difficulty with any term like mansplaining, vaginasplaining, n-----splaining, or k---splaining. The word restricts the bad behavior to that one group of people who happened to be born into a particular sex, race, or ethnicity. A woman is not able to mansplain, even if she is self-hating and abuses women. A Jewish person is not able to Palestiniansplain, even if he is a self-hating Jew.ReplyDelete
Is it a useful word for this forum? Maybe it is. I don't know. Probably few of us would object to "deansplaining" as a word here. But no one is irrevocably a dean.
Using the word "mansplaining" is like saying, "I invalidate you and negate you, from beginning to end. My dignity has been so thoroughly assaulted by penis-bearing people that I refuse to acknowledge or respect you."
OK, I get that.
And, yet, this post and these comments are accompanied by a large google ad apparently hawking Thai prostitutes, on the right side of the screen. It's as if the pimp landlord is laughing while the feminist group is paying him rent while having a meeting on his property.
For me, the entire situation is full of absurdity and despair. I hate it. I hate being conscious of it and not knowing what to do about it. It's like working at a university.
@Surly Temple: I'm sorry you were subjected to such a horrible experience. Your supervisors' behavior was unequivocally abusive and unprofessional and a million other awful things.
christ on a cracker, i barely slept at all last night, tossed and turned, seemingly slept for fifteen minutes at a time, just because i couldn't get this post off my mind. had such profound sympathy for Surly, having lived through a similar experience more than once. it was a beautiful brilliant post, in its own way, and yet it was so utterly goddamned awful. it made me so goddamned angry. i swear my neck was tense all night. i thought i'd check on the CM blog this morning and discover that Cal (in his warmly affable way) had chastised me for "disturbing the shit" by dissecting and questioning the mansplaining term. if i didn't have a goddamned powerpoint presentation to put together for some shitty fuck-ass meeting this afternoon, i would both cry and get drunk right now--both in great quantities. higher education is so glamorous, so fucking glamorous. life of the mind, my ass. mindfuck is more like it. goddamnit, i hate this shit.Delete
People disagree about whether someone can use the term "mansplaining" to refer to women; many people think it's fine. I don't do it personally, because then it just means something like "condescending asshole," which we already have a term for. I don't know if it helps or not (it probably doesn't) but I'd only use the term "mansplaining" to describe cases where I knew from experience that the perpetrator would have treated a man differently. This also may or may not help, but I don't think mansplaining necessarily indicts all men by nature; mansplainers are only a subset of men.Delete