Saturday, October 06, 2007

Just bitchin'

Even in libraries, which I celebrate as being pink, the male voice is heard more clearly than the womens’ voices. How often have I sat in a group of library directors and watched as a woman makes a point. It passes without comment. And just a minute or two later, a man says the EXACT SAME THING, and lots of agreement is voiced. What is this? A translation service?!?

There seems to be this continuing disparity where the voices, either real time voices, or written, e-mailed, whatever, of women are just not being heard. It’s an amazing thing to watch. And I’ll bet readers of OOTJ, male and female, have seen this happen.

I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. But I’m getting really tired of it, dammit. If a woman says something bold or critical, even now, in 2007, it comes off as butch or bitchy. A man saying the same thing sounds bold and critical. What is this? Are we still living under a double standard?

I guess we are.



Ms. OPL said...

There MAY be a physical reason ...I read somewhere that it is really harder for men to hear women's voices--they are too high in pitch for them.

Or, maybe, this is just an excuse. I've always said that there's a switch in men's heads that turns off all women's voices--especially wives.

Betsy McKenzie said...

Nice comment -- I have seen "selective deafness," not just in husbands and wives, but also in children and dogs. Handy sporadic mis-ability. Like disability, but it's an ability mis-used. And you might be right - maybe I should give these guys the benefit of the doubt. But I think we should also speak louder.

Jacqueline Cantwell said...

Dear Betsy,

You have described a common problem in meetings: how to ensure that an individual’s authority and contributions are respected. The situation you describe happens to minorities and those from cultures with different values and social expressions of power, as well as to men. Women have to learn to how to handle challenges to their authority.

If the situation is not part of a pattern of bullying, you have may want to consider the following suggestions.

First of all, accept that many social and business encounters conceal conflict and coercion. The workplace is political. You will have to think strategically. This can be difficult for women who are not socialized to fight for rank and prefer to advance by consensus. Remember that consensus can be coerced. Read Woman’s Inhumanity Toward Woman.

You have to learn how to present your authority. It helps to think of any meeting as a Shakespearean drama in which you are manipulating the members’ attention. In a meeting, people don’t reflect on earlier statements; they respond to the current statement. A well-run meeting would have been moderated and the earlier speaker’s contribution recognized. She would have been asked if her statement had been correctly summarized and did she have anything to add. This did not happen. After the man spoke and all the heads nodded, the woman should have interjected, in a quietly authoritative way, and clarified the source of the insight, adding another point and influencing the discussion. That takes practice, but I have seen it done.

Jacqueline Cantwell said...

Also, I don't believe in the physical reason that men cannot hear women. What women do have to learn is how to deliver their opinions and insights. Read Fast Talking Babes.

Our libraries would be a lot more fun if we tried to talk like those '30s heroines!

Julie said...

I'm curious why all the comments here require the woman to change her behavior, become more strategic, raise her voice, speak deeper, etc. to solve this problem. How about this instead... How about men pay attention to women instead of blaming us for their own poor (or selective or, dare I say it, sexist) listening skills and requiring us to change our behavior to compensate for their rude behavior? How about that?