In Isabel’s latest post for “Behind the Scenes,” she makes an important observation: “If you [women] want to work in a traditionally male-dominated industry or occupy a traditionally male role, you are asked, ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’”
No one asks this to women’s faces. That would be rude. But I did find the following comments about working women shared online:
“She is in the position because she uses her good looks it seems.”
“Ladies (for the maybe 2 others on this website,) you don’t have to give up your femininity to be a [man’s job holder], but for the love of christ, please don’t exploit it…
“I don’t think just being a girl means you’ll get an awesome [man’s] job, but I know of a handful who have def gotten hired because of their gender.”
(The second quote was written by a woman, but it shouldn’t be surprising. Women can be anti-woman, too.)
Isabel’s point was that women are socialized to believe they’re supposed to stay in a single, specific lane–wifedom & (more important) motherhood–and that daring to jump lanes invites wrath and judgment.
It’s this blanket effort to coerce women into a narrow role that, I believe, leads not only to people asking them “What do you think you’re doing?” but also to questioning whether they even qualify for the jobs they have once they get them.
Surely they only got them because they’re women – which means they either flirted or quota-ed their way in.
People who believe women are meant to raise children don’t question women who become wives and mothers because that’s what they think women are designed for. They’re built to catch a mate so they can reproduce and raise offspring, a job that is perfectly suited to the kind of innate nurturing tendencies that are indicated by the presence of a vagina.
Those women, the ones using their vaginas and bodies and faces to snare husbands and procreate, are the only ones doing it right.
And it’s that foundation of thought that fuels the little jabs men (and some women) make about “how she got the job” outside the home. They may not think that’s what they’re talking about, but it is.
The byproduct of the effort to keep gender roles neat, tidy, and man-friendly is that some men (and a couple of women) actually believe the following:
Women who “use their looks”–that is, women who don’t make themselves less attractive in order to avoid any accidental or incidental interest from men–to get jobs that are rightfully reserved for more qualified individuals (who are identified by the presence of a penis) are:
a) failing to recognize and adhere to their natural, biological, scientific, prehistorically-endorsed boundaries, and
b) unfairly capitalizing on vulnerable men who have no control, none whatsoever, over their devastating sexual and emotional immaturity
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE:
A close male friend of mine is currently in training in a male-dominated profession. His training partner, in private conversation with him, said of the women in the same training class, “How do you think they got here?”Tweet
Mind you, this was last week. In the year 2020.
My friend told me that it seemed like his training partner was skeptical of the women’s deservedness and was hinting that they were allowed to interview at all because the company needed to meet a quota, of some kind.
In other words, they used their looks/vagina/sex/womanliness/breasts to get the job, somehow, and very likely weren’t–could not possibly be–equally qualified to do the work.
Which has to make that man wonder why he got hired and whether that’s the kind of company he wants to work for…
Anyway, this man feels wronged in some way because three or four women popped up in his training class of nearly 40.
He’s not alone. Many men question the right of a woman to work alongside them at a “man’s” job (police officer, pilot, firefighter, soldier, or, in some cases, any profession outside the home).
But it doesn’t have to stay this way. Leaving aside the whole “women should be having children” thing, because that’s probably not what these men think they’re saying, maybe focusing on the immediate gripe (women unfairly taking men’s jobs) will lead to a small forward step in thinking.
Dear men, if you’re of the family of sapiens who will proudly admit to being but “simple” creatures (who by all logic probably shouldn’t be allowed to vote), the kind of men who look to caveman-era norms to justify modern-day behavior, please know that although you’re convinced it was only a quota requirement or the witchy, mesmerizing, hypnotic spell of a woman’s looks and/or vagina that was impossible for an adult heterosexual man in a hiring position to overcome, there are four simple things you can do to stop fretting that women working alongside you must have had an unfair and underhanded advantage:
1. Assume that even if she had a vagina and/or looked pretty when she submitted her resume, her boss–also your boss–was very likely able to focus on her bullet-points (the ones on the paper).
It isn’t in the length of her hair, the shape of her eyes, or the size of her hips where your boss or HR found her qualifications, but in the previous jobs she’s held, the certifications she’s secured, the training she’s had.
Remember–this is a professional environment; otherwise, you wouldn’t work there, would you? If you respect where you work and believe you were hired for your expertise and potential, you can probably assume your boss or HR was just as interested in finding someone who’s good for the job when they hired her as they were when they hired you.
2. If you like the way her butt looks in her slacks, resist the temptation to hate her for having a butt you like while also hating your boss or HR for hiring a person with a butt you hate yourself for liking.
You are a grown man at work. So, act like one! Instead of hating that you love her butt and telling yourself and the men around you that you wouldn’t have to look at her butt if she were at home making babies where she belongs, simply look away from her butt. Focus on your job. Do not let the fact that she has human anatomy perform a sneaky, Jedi mind-trick on your judgment.
3. Understand that women, in many cases, have to work twice as hard as men to get the same jobs, which means the woman doing the same work you’re doing may actually be more qualified than you are and wasn’t hired for her looks or vagina at all.
This alone should be a great comfort as well as a testament to your own professional worth. That they hired both her and you is a reason to feel proud.
4. If you’re a man who feels compelled to hire a woman because she’s ruthlessly and sneakily used her looks on you, read this first!
An older friend recently told me that many years ago, a man he worked for hired a pretty woman to fly a helicopter even though she didn’t have enough experience to be a pilot in adverse conditions. He hired her because she looked good and could fly it well enough.
She eventually crashed the helicopter, killing all on board.
“She was in a business that valued superficiality, and she used her appearance to get somewhere she ought not to have been,” this older friend said, the years of gender role training so complete that he actually forgot who was in charge of the woman being hired.
(Hint: It was the hirer. The hirer is always in charge. In the above case, the tool who hired the ill-prepared pilot was in charge.)
If you’re a hirer experiencing similar weakness of character in the presence of a female human, remind yourself that the person in the position of power is you. Tell yourself, “I don’t have to be an ignoramus like that guy who hired the pretty, crashing pilot.”
Remind yourself it is the applicant’s skill, experience, and value to the profession that matter, and not the shirt she’s wearing or how she looks in it. Say to yourself, “I am a professional. I am looking out for the best interests of the company, and the best person to hire is the one most suited for the work. I am not so ill equipped for my own job that I would hire someone because boobies hahaha.”
There’s reason to think that with the above lessons, if practiced regularly, men will someday not fear the competition of humans who happen to look different from them. I have faith that with a little bit of self-reflection they’ll also learn to resist being angry at women for qualifying for positions men have been occupying for centuries primarily because they have penises.
And when they can do that, they’ll be that much closer to understanding that women, like men, are all unique individuals with dreams, ambitions, and goals that may or may not include having children–and that’s just fine.
Kristen Tsetsi is the author of the novel The Age of the Child, “a provocative story of what could come from a society ruled by anti-choice laws” (Laura Carroll, author of The Baby Matrix). She’s also a 1/3 founding non-mother of Childfree Girls.