Saturday, December 5, 2009

Presumed feminism

So, I've had a few things happen in my life where I am talking about something, and someone assumes that I am being like, all offended in a feminist way, when in fact I was not thinking along those lines whatsoever.

It's very annoying because sometimes, I am so surprised that it is only minutes later that I even realize what they must have thought I was saying, and I can't even go back to fix it, and now they assume I am a raging overly-sensitive feminist.

Example 1:

There was a methodology and toolset proposed and pushed by a member of the faculty at my university. It's good in its place, but as technology has changed, it is no longer enough. I was at a conference, and this methodology came up, and when a question session came up, there was a queue at the microphone. A prominent professor at another university said, "REAL men use methodology Foo when they are doing Bar." Meanwhile, the professor at my university was standing RIGHT behind him, waiting to defend his honor because his methodology is simpler and does not do Foo. It was somewhat deliciously dramatic, but the moderator of the session stopped all questions after this.

I was back at school, relaying this story to a fellow student. I said, "and THEN, Prof. Awesome said, 'REAL men use Foo when doing Bar!' It was insane!" And then fellow student said, "Well, I'm sure he MEANT real scientists, he didn't really mean MEN." I was thinking to myself, what in the hell is he talking about?

After the conversation was over, I realized he thought I was offended at the term "real men" because it excluded women. Which was so entirely ridiculous that I missed it at the time. What the hell? It's so annoying. And now this guy walks around thinking that he can't use the turn of phrase, "REAL men do X" when I'm around because then I will try to kick his ass. Which is totally not true.

Example 2:

This occurred more recently. There is a policy in my office about making coffee, which I think is very common. If you take the last bit, you make a new pot. Very simple. Very reasonable.

I had been lucky enough to avoid having to do this for several weeks after I had started work. Then, I had the fortune of getting hit with making a new pot two days in a row. The first time, I was thinking, well, it's about time I guess. And the next day, I was like, "hahaha, how funny that it worked this way. well, shucks."

Then a coworker comes in and is like, "oh you're making coffee?" and I said, "yup, i've been lucky enough to get it two days in a row!"

And he says, "well, it's just random you know..." and something about it seemed really defensive. I know he said something else, but I don't remember what, but I do remember it was somewhat defensive. I was confused, but I don't know this guy very well. Later, I realized (though I don't remember exactly why, this was a few months ago) that he had thought I was annoyed at being foisted coffee duty because I'm a woman.

And again, I"m like what the hell? Any human would be like, "ack, two days in a row!" Not that I won't make coffee, but it's not like people are happy when they have to do it. Am I annoyed because I'm a woman? Of course not. Do I feel like there is some conspiracy to get me to make the coffee? No, because I'm a friggin reasonable person and I realize that this is just the way the cookie crumbles in this system. I was just griping good-naturedly about my luck, and he assumes I'm ready to freakin sue the company.

So again, since the leap of logic on the part of the dude was so ridiculous, I did not understand what he meant at the time, and then when I realized he thought I was getting my feminist panties in a twist it was too late to be like, dude, that's not it.

Does this happen to you guys? I feel like it happens to me more than I would like and it really bugs me.

9 comments:

PhysioProf said...

Some d00ds are eagerly looking for opporunities to make these assumptions, as it feeds their grievances with "political correctness" and "reverse discrimination".

Andrew said...

I think the real reason is that there is such a wide variety of women, some of whom get offended at some things, and some of whom get offended at others. Which is only to be expected, you know.

For example, there's someone at work around whom I can't use (as the poster did) the phrase "you guys" without getting at least a nasty look.

So I think it's only reasonable for a male guy to be cautious about what they say and how they say it, if they don't want to be interpreted as a misogynist.

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Alyssa said...

Yes, this has definitely happen to me, especially in cases like your first example where I am relaying some sort of story. It usually is about something else, but the person picks up on the "sexist" part, even though that wasn't the point.

This happened to me a couple weeks ago, but I can't remember the specifics for the life of me. If I remember, I'll come back! LOL

Alyssa said...

Oh! I know what it was! I was giving a summary of the Women in Astronomy conference to my group. One of the things I mentioned was how one of the presenters told us that Google was "biased" - if you Googled "she invented", for example, Google would say "Do you mean he invented?" (and similarly for other such "scientific" terms - this has been fixed).

I was simply relaying this information, along with all the other things I learned at the conference. But a few people got very defensive about this particular thing for some reason, and were saying things like "Well, that's probably because there are just more entries about male inventors - Google itself isn't biased".

They completely missed the point and totally assumed that it was me saying it, and not just relaying information. Even though there probably are way more entries about male inventors to skew the results on Google, that's not what I was thinking at the time.

It's aggravating.

Nicky said...

I've definitely been misunderstood in that way, but most guys I know are immediately defensive about it. Which is simultaneously annoying and useful. (Annoying that they're so rude about it. Useful that I can immediately correct them.)

But then, I'm so politically incorrect myself when it comes to gender that nobody who knows me thinks that I get offended about *anything*. Which is also both annoying and useful.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I have the opposite problem; I'm very observant and chatty, have a quirky sense of humour, and have a hard time being serious. All this adds up to people assuming I'm joking whenever I point out something a little "odd". They're right 95% of the time, but the other 5% is really annoying ;)

Marisol said...

You really can never tell how to act, I guess. Someone's always bound to be offended or annoyed. Personally, I don't go around rallying for feminism but I do encounter guys that seem rigidly cautious about those sorts of things at which point I have to put them at ease.
On the other hand, our department chair at school is very much an advocate of women and minorities (although he is a white male) and this somehow annoys some of the more strong-willed women in our group. I guess they feel that his support of women is false in some way? Damned if you do, damned if you don't...

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