How Do You Solve A Problem Like A Handshake?

23 Oct

I was working with a bunch of women the other day (gasp) when one of them said to me “I’ve been so feminist-y lately. Everything has been setting me off!”

I found the statement a little funny but asked to hear more.

“Maybe I’ve just been too lucky, that lately I work with only the best guys but now whenever I work with someone else and they treat me differently it sticks out like a sore thumb.”

So what did someone do lately that upset you?

“So I worked this gig and I was the only woman, which is fine, I’m used to that. But at the end of the day he shook everyone’s hand but hugged me.”

Why do you think this upset you?

“It was different. It made me feel weird, different. Like he assumed I would want to hug instead just because I’m a woman. Or something, I didn’t even really know why he did it.”

Since this conversation I’ve told the story a few times and have gotten a random grab bag of reactions. I’ve been there‘s and I always don’t really know what to do‘s mostly.

The question it stirred in me was this.

We know what to make of the guy who hires her with no questions asked, “She’s the best at this work, so glad she was available.” Good guy, good feminist guy.

We know what to make of the guy who doesn’t hire her because of some visible prejudice of his, “Why do I have to hire her? Is this a quota thing?”

But what do we make of the guys who just make a weird mistake. Who hug you because they assume you’d rather hug. The ones who ask you about what you’re wearing instead of about what new program you’re coding because it just doesn’t leap to mind.

The ones who have been swimming in the patriarchal stream for so long that it’s just how they’ve learned to breathe. The ones that mean no harm. The ones who can relearn, who want to be better.

How do we communicate with them?

One Response to “How Do You Solve A Problem Like A Handshake?”

  1. A.Y. Siu (@therealaysiu) October 24, 2015 at 12:49 am #

    I wish there were a magic bullet. Unfortunately, if you try to say anything to guys swimming in the patriarchy who can’t imagine anything but water… they get very defensive.

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