women as one-dimensional characters

Today after taking a math and English test for a possible position, I walked to the bus stop thinking about the math portion of the test. While I was in the office taking the test I thought to myself, “what if I don’t get hired because I have failed the math portion of this test…” I gave the math portion a second glance, and good thing I did. I was able to complete all three of the easy long division math problems that I just haven’t seen for decades. I needed a minute to not think and just do. I over-think, everything. Sometimes thinking too much makes us second guess ourselves and we end up getting wrong an answer that could have been right. I am definitely not the greatest test-taker. Now, I don’t need any sympathy. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I am not thinking negatively or poorly to have a self-fulfilled prophecy based on my attitutde towards test taking. It is not an attitude, it is a fact. Regardless of that fact, I will ALWAYS try my best. I will ALWAYS do the best that I can regardless of my proven poor test taking abilities. I only speak from a place of self-awareness when I state these facts. I did go to college. I did go to a university. I am very aware of my strengths, weaknesses, test taking abilities, and overall tendencies.
Back to walking to the bus stop. While I was walking to the bus stop reflecting on the math portion of the test, I thought about how in general a male would perform better on the test than I did. Not because of their propensity to be smarter but because of their social conditioning to act confident even if they have not done well. Males have been conditioned to respond in certain ways that come across as confident to an otherwise admittingly willing to announce their mistakes to everyone counterpart: the female. Social conditioning has sold women short of their true capabilities. Furthermore, I thought about the receptionist there, and imagined her thinking “that poor person who has just not found their place, yet…” And then I thought, my place as what? A receptionist? Those positions are definitely easy for a female to fill. She was super sweet and friendly, and I hope to have the chance to work there, but that is besides the point. I am just referring to the collective social assumptions when I used the receptionist there as the voice and brain of society.
I started to think about my application for the teaching position. I envisioned all of the white-haired, mostly retired men who I work with at my current job, and then I thought of a mature younger woman. I started to go down my list mentally one by one of the three white-haired teachers I work with. One by one I thought of each one teaching his class, and the general assumption and role that males have which dominate not only the workforce, but also our classrooms. When I was done reflecting on each male teaching his class, I then got to the female…
I could only think about the superficial comments that would be made about her, all ranging from personality, mood, and especially her physical appearance. Women’s work clothes are hideous. Tying our hair back is often unflattering. When it comes to makeup, I won’t even go there. Our options of impressing superiors with a good first impression are slim. Yet our competitor’s are so simple. They were slacks, a belt, tucked in shirt, and a nice pair of close-toed shoes. Why is it that easy? Slap a smile on that baby face, give the all-natural look of confidence that has been ingrained into every fiber of the male being and WA-LA! He gets the job, naturally.
Women were never taught to come across with the same amount of confidence. Furthermore, women have not ever actually been taught to speak properly. Not too long ago, women were to be seen and not heard. I say “not too long ago” but what I mean to say is that the notion of women being seen and not heard has long been rooted into society and infact the place where this tendency stems from- to this day. The attitude towards women prevails to this day which is the reason why she is graded often solely by her appearance alone. Let’s go back for a moment now and think about some women who come to mind when you think about “confident” women. What kind of images surface?… Do not let yourself supress anything, allow these images to come to mind freely…
While these confident women appear in your mind, what kind of words and attitudes do you associate with her?… What kind of profession did she have?…
Please be honest with yourself. You do not have to share what you are thinking with anybody else. This is for you and you alone. If you wish to share just lie and tell everybody what they want to hear, like a boss. (I muse.) Let’s continue with the exercise. The objective of this practice is to define the general attitude and assumptions that society has about women. We’ll come back to inferiority later.
Let me share with you now a couple of words that would describe some of the confident women that appeared in my mind’s eye. I would like to clarify first, there are no two people who will have the same idea, image, or words in their mind. Each and every person who participates in this exercise will have a different portfolio in their mind of confident women; images, words, and associations will all vary with plenty of different combinations. Let me continue by sharing with you just a few words to describe a confident female who I know very well, she’s loud, obnoxious, demeaning, defensive and even insultive to anybody who does not agree with her. Loud. Obnoxious. Demeaning. Defensive. Insultive. These words on their own do not spell C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-E. All of the words I used to describe a confident female have negative connotations.
Next, I will share some words to describe another confident woman who I don’t know at all but has made infamous appearances on television and magazines. She’s a blonde bombshell, total babe, great body, legs for days, tits-yes please, and oh, what a damn good looking *ss. Arguably this is not the best example. The problem is that it is actually a perfect example because this image fits the bill for what society perceives as confidence. Let me continue by mentioning the fact that if this blond bombshell had a PhD, and knew every answer to every pop quiz regarding your local football, baseball, or basketball team it would put to shame and hurt the almighty male ego. Can you imagine how that would make your typical man feel? She’s already out of his league as far as appearances are concerned, but to make her an even bigger threat, throw some knowledge, and education in the mix and spice it up with some sports information too. That would make any man wimper. The male ego is oh so fragile. We have had to learn to tiptoe around it as to not step on anyone’s toes or make any trouble for anyone. Male and female alike, nobody wants or likes to feel stupid. It is a humiliating experience which I highly suggest people become more acquainted with- humility that is. Yes, it sucks. No, it isn’t fun. Ouch, it hurts. But we can not deny our very own existence and capacity to continue to learn and grow by stifling the growth of those around us. All of those things and more, such as an inability to admit to fault, failure, or genuine lack of information all stifle the growth of women who could have otherwise made something better of themselves in this world.
We can not act as though we do not still need a man’s permission to move up in this world. We absolutely need his permission, and one of the reason’s why is because we will probably be filling his place if and when he chooses to move on to something else, whatever that may be. In the job market there are currently many people who will soon retire from working and move on from the workforce. The positions which have primarily been held by men are opening up to an unheard population; namely, women. Women now have the skills, qualifications, and experience to fill the many positions that may or may not open up in the near future. And still, our new skill sets and equal experience as well as education do not match with the outwardly confident male counterpart. Still seen as inferior, tell me why we always come up short.
I will tell you why, this right here. I can and will tell you exactly what I feel I did wrong today. I apologized. I said, “I’m sorry about the math part”. Everyone tells me I apologize too much. So I can not say that I speak for all women in writing this, in fact, I do not. They all have their own voice, just as I have my own unique, individual voice. In my case, I have learned to not listen to myself. I tuned my voice out for years- over a decade. I discovered this when I was 28 and found that I literally could not hear myself speak. I still sometimes can not hear myself speak. Speaking is a practice that I continually need to work on, and unfortunately when I don’t, things always take a turn for the worse. So about seeing women and not hearing them, I myself am guilty of this too. I am also always the first to admit fault even if there was none. I basically apologize for being an infallible human being everyday. I could go into the history as to why I have always had to be the bigger person and in what context but I will spare the details of the novel for another day. I equate it with humility, and am actually proud to be a humble person- as much of an oxymoron I am to say “proud to be humble”.
Furthermore, I will continue by saying that I work with primarily all white-haired, retired men, and not because I did not have the qualifications, but because I do. I am equally qualified for the positions they have. But, every one of those men will surely doubt my ability to stand on my feet for 40 hours a week. Why? In the past and still to this day it was perfectly acceptable to see women as weaker than men. I have taught in China, Hong Kong, and Japan. I have travelled around the world, this idea is not uniquely of the U.S. though as most other things we are just a little bit further ahead here than everyone else in the world. The same attitudes exist around the globe. If you have not been outside of the U.S. I highly recommend teaching English as a Foreign Language overseas. It is a great opportunity to experience the ways of other places and witness first-hand what it’s like to be a 2nd class citizen. They are not too chivalric in most other places around the world. In fact, if you ARE a woman, get out of the way for the man. Yes, I am serious.
Finally, let’s return to the idea of inferiority. If you can openly question my ability to honestly stand on my feet for 40 hours a day and not see that as stifling the growth of my true capabilities. I am here to tell you that you are dead wrong. I once watched a TED talks video called “Women Entrepreneurs- Exception not Example” which pointed out how often people think small and aim low when it comes to women’s true capabilties. I could not agree more with that statement. I myself have personally witnessed this very attitude and have had to overcome the small mentality that people have of me and what I am fully and truly capable of. I do not say this with glee. I say this in outrage. I am outraged because I am an allstar player who has been benched all season due to the crippling mindset of those around me. How would you feel? You have worked your whole life to be somebody just to have people judge you based on your gender and claim that it is not a form of discrimnation and continually hold you back from your potential because of their misperceptions. Those misperceptions do a lot of damage, much more damage than good. Half of the people saying I can not stand on my feet for 40 hours are the people who cannot admit their own age as to admit to themselves that they are getting to be to old to continue working full-time. These men are already retired, they are past retirement age but continue to work full-time. So when we take a good and honest look at liabilities by far the risks of employing retired men full-time greatly outweight the risks of employing a younger person, despite their gender.
These crippling perceptions that stifle a person’s capabilities do not teach anyone anything other than it is okay to teach an able-bodied person how to play handi-capped football. That is NOT okay, despite popular opinion (popular opinion is always wrong). Do not tell me that an allstar basketball player would not be offended if his teammates or opponents told him that to let him be an allstar and win they would let him play on the handicapped team. When I speak of crippling people’s abilities, I mean that this attitude teaches us NOT to make someone greater but rather teaches people how to PREVENT a person from even doing the g*dd*m bare minimum, aka 40 hours a week. I worked in China, I worked in Japan, that’s NOTHING.
If I want to be an allstar I am going to play with the allstars. There are allstars in the special olympics too, by the way. But I am tired of being the handicapped gender, the weaker link, and sold short of my true potential by these ways of social conditioning that deem men more confident than women. I am not insecure. I am very secure in knowing my capabilities and more than confident that I could handle any position that came my way- as long as it was not unemployment or part-time work. I do have a male ego too, and ouch, that one hurts every time. It is not okay to treat people as inferior. It is especially not okay to treat people as inferior based on their gender. But that is was society is say is okay, I am here to tell you that it is NOT. Just because everyone is doing it does NOT mean it is right. In fact, it is the opposite. The majority have never had the minority in mind, so follow the herd with caution. I have never been one to follow a crowd because I think for myself. I have always been this way. I have been bullied into silence too many times to not feel as though I have to shout to have anyone listen. Unfortunately when noone listens we have to yell, we have to shout. We have been silenced for so long that someone needs to scream at the top of their lungs I AM SORRY FOR LISTENING TO EVERYTHING THAT HAS BEEN SAID TO ME MY WHOLE LIFE. I AM SORRY FOR SPEAKING. I AM SORRY FOR BEING AN ABLE-BODIED, CAPABLE, NORMAL HUMAN BEING. I AM SORRY THAT THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME. I AM SORRY FOR BEING SMART. I AM SORRY FOR BEING PRETTY. I AM SORRY FOR BEING SKINNY TOO. I AM SORRY FOR BEING A GIFTED WRITER AND TALENTED PERSON. I AM SORRY THAT IT MUST SUCK, for YOU. These are the real things I am modestly and humbly apologizing for.
Then I am accused of being the public enemy. Well, which is it? Am I my own worst enemy or the public enemy? Just tell me the truth. I’d rather hear the truth than live a lie. I know who I am. I have never NOT known who I am. I am pretty sure that the only person who can honest to God sit here and tell you that they really know who I am is me, myselfie, and I. No one else. Whether by social conditioning, popularity, or just others not being able to raise their own bridge as to lower the water around them, I am super tired of getting the short stick. I have worked hard for and earned whatever 40 hours may come my way. I am sorry that I am not sorry, but get the H*ll out of my way. I am tired of being treated like a paperdoll, a one-dimensional character with only a physical appearance. Judge me by skill, not by appearance. Judge me by qualifications, not by gender. Judge me by agility, not by size. If you can not do this, then please do not judge me at all, thank you.