(F)e-mail

Everyone knows that there’s a double standard in the workplace between men and women. And if you don’t know, you A) have never worked with the opposite sex or B) truly don’t know there’s a double standard, so you shouldn’t be reading this blog. You should be reading every feminist text you can find.

But let’s just say that we’re all on the same page, and we’ve all noticed that men and women are treated (and paid) differently at work.

Where are the differences most evident? In promotions? In conversations at the water cooler? In the lunch room?

No, it’s in our e-mails.

When I first started working, I wrote e-mails that had sentences with question marks implied at every turn.

They looked like this:

Hello?

Um, excuse me? Do you mind doing the thing that you said you were going to do four weeks ago? I know you must be busy, but I’m sorry, do you think you could get it to me? When possible? Thank you? I really appreciate your work? Thanks for not yelling at me?

And yes, maybe that’s just because I am a very timid and shy person to begin with. But I’m also a woman. And I feel the same at work that I do in daily life: like I’m not meant to be there and I’m taking up space. My e-mails reflect that.

And this is a sentiment embedded in women since the day that we are born. Chimamanda Adichie points out in her book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, that little girls are constantly pulled back by their mothers, asked to “play nice” and “sit still,” whereas little boys are given free rein of the playroom. (And what is an office but an adult playroom? Where we are all free to interact with our surroundings and work on what we are best at?)

So, what do my e-mails look like now? They’re still nice. I understand that it’s not fair to take out my frustrations on an unsuspecting stranger. And as sad as it is to say, people do respond more nicely when you are nice to them in the first place.

But I beat around the bush a lot less. I ask. And in very rare and desperate times, I even plead. I do not demand. I’m not as confident in myself yet. But maybe someday, I’ll conquer my inbox in the same way that the vikings took new land: completely.

I Can’t Even

Author’s Note: I’m sorry about the lapse, absence, and neglect that has occurred on this blog. It was truly not my intention. But alas, life happened. I hope that I will greet you with more regularity in the future. I say “hope” because that is all I can offer as of now. 

 

I think us ladies have come a long way from “damsels in distress,” right? I mean, we’ve overcome some serious oppression (which was basically meted out to us by the fashion industry that put us into those uncomfortable petticoats and weird shoes). Now, we can vote, wear pants, and think for ourselves (the horror!). We’ve burned a few bras and generally raised hell in the name of equality.

So, why is there still stuff we (women) “can’t” do? (I use the word “can’t” very liberally, mind you.) I mean it more in the way that why aren’t we taught to do all of the same stuff? Forget breaking glass ceilings, why can’t we rip down the curtain that separates the sexes?

Because whether we like it or not, there are commonly certain tasks that are simply relegated to the male or female sex and so are passed over when one individual is provided with an education, either formal or otherwise.

I’ve become painfully aware of this since moving out with my fiancee. I pride myself as a woman who isn’t afraid to do a job that is generally perceived as “man’s work,” or whatever that means in the 21st century (which is a statement that I know subjects me to the same sexist ideals I’m trying to fight.) But the thing is that I never really learned a lot of those tasks, or was really interested in learning them, for that matter.

I don’t know how to hammer nails, for instance. Not that it’s particularly hard, but for some reason, my father was always in charge of such things. Wiring wires and screwing screws. These were simply things that I had missed, gaps as sure as the holes in the walls that my father used to make. And if I needed to do these tasks, it was easy enough to ask him to help or to do it for me.

But that was then. Now, nothing on this Earth makes me more frustrated–feeling like I can’t do something because some type of biological obstacle is in my way, either real or perceived. (Men are stronger, women are more adept at conversation, blah blah blah). But what’s really bothering me is that I feel ignorant for not trying to learn. For accepting the fact that someone (some man, perhaps, although I’d never voice it that way) would come along and help me do whatever it was that I needed doing. That I can’t even because I had never wanted to.

And maybe that was the right use of wording before…”pride.” Maybe I’m just being prideful by not wanting anyone to help me. But I also think that it’s quieter than that. A small discovery of not my own physical weakness (I can swing an axe if I tried, I think?), but a weakness of the mind, thinking that I didn’t need to try and learn.

Because although I hate being ignorant, I hate being helpless so much more.

And so, it is high time to leave off the stays of oppression of my mind, in which I simply wait to be rescued. It’s time to let down the rope (or my hair, whichever is available) and worry not about ceilings, but climbing down off pedestals to have level ground to stand on.