I once worked with a woman who was an administrative assistant. She wasn’t my administrative assistant, but she was very helpful to me. She was cordial, articulate and competent. She dressed in what I thought to be a very stylishly seductive fashion. When I overheard her in informal conversation, she often spoke of her admiration of her husband. She sounded sincere.
I now, as then, believe that women should feel comfortable dressing any way they want to. I had no problem with her at all. Now if she had been grossly incompetent, that would have been different. Of course I have been around that type of situation many times as well. Who hasn’t?
I used to supervise social workers. Social workers are by and large, women. I have interviewed over one hundred women for social work positions. Most presented themselves professionally. Only a few licked their lips, twirled their hair, crossed and uncrossed their legs, wore short tight skirts and plunging necklines. Only one suggested it would be a good idea if she massaged my feet while she was being interviewed.
I had women, who found everything I had to say to be brilliant, every attempt at humor, hilarious. Some of these women had no questions about the job they were being interviewed for. That was good for me, because I didn’t have to waste my time questioning if I should offer them a position.
The most difficult to interview, were the women, who seemed quite well-suited for the job, but who still engaged in behaviors that I thought to be sexually provocative.
It seemed like they doubted their competence was enough and either decided or were in the habit of, hedging their bets with body language.
One lip-licking, leg-crosser was so competent, I couldn’t help but hire her. When I met with her, I looked away when she licked and got more interested when she used her tongue for talking. Her flirtatious behavior stopped.
Towards the end of my social work career, as I became more interested in men’s issues, I made a conscious effort to be more engaging with the few male interviewees that I could attract. I typically lost male interest when I mentioned the salary range.
I never engaged in reverse discrimination, because I didn’t believe in that, even though I thought it would be good to have at least one male in a social work department that had eight positions under my supervision. I never found a male applicant willing to take the salary offered.
I shifted my efforts to advising the graduate school, who sent interns to supervise, that I preferred male interns. I worried that I would be perceived as being gay and interested in an intern for purposes beyond social work training or that my wife didn’t like me working so closely with just women. Neither was the case.
I felt a little guilty for no longer hoping that the graduate school would send me their best interns, but not very. I was so interested in working with men on ways to engage with other men, women and children, that I didn’t stay guilty for long. Furthermore it was easy to send an incompetent intern through them, rather than an employee. My time spent with such an intern, could quickly be put to making up any additional service they had provided for the agency I worked for. I was fortunate that the need to dismiss a male intern never came up.
Working with female social workers taught me more about how to engage people in helping relationships than I’d taught them. I benefitted from observing the engagement that came from helping clients utilizing traditionally female-oriented values.
I had difficulty firing female social workers. I found myself wanting to make allowances
I caught the supervisors lying, or screaming at a client, or being clueless as to how to be helpful, after they had been given extra support and instruction.
I was of the mind that a supervisor who was struggling, was to be helped to understand why their services were no longer welcomed at the agency and encouraged to explore a better fit for their talents elsewhere.
Truth is, I think I had some bias towards thinking of women, in general, as being less capable of lying and deceit and the misuse of power than were men. I was lucky that nothing bad ever happened to a client because I was too slow to know when a social worker was hiding behind a facade of female nurturance.
I didn’t have to fire many employees, but when I did, I often became more interesting and funny to the person about to be terminated or more incapable of understanding situations from a woman’s point of view, or from the point of view of the one about to be fired.
I had one social worker say she had spent hours walking the grounds of a seminary praying for me and had come to be able to forgive me for treating her so badly. I thanked her for her understanding and hoped she would come to understand that when I heard her scream at a client over the phone I heard what I heard.
Sexism can fog a man’s perception of a women in many ways. In this fog a women, can look like a sex object or an angel no matter what she does, or intends to do.
This fog can obscure skills, talents and competencies.
I write today for the goodmenproject.com website the day after it was announced that Donald Trump won the election for President of the United States of America. There was fog swirling every which way as men and women cast their ballots. The goodmenproject.com website is dedicated to keeping a shining a light on that fog, so that women and men will be able to see more clearly and as a result, will more clearly understand how this light can keep us from crashing against the rocks of misperception.
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