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Ruth Wallsgrove - 10 Mar 2018


"Dear Gents,

If you write Dear Gents on an email - make sure there is no chance a female colleague or client could possibly see this. Just imagine for a nanosecond what it feels like to receive something at work that explicitly spells out it is aimed only at men."

Having a few issues at my paid work, including some bullying, a bit of sexual harassment of a younger woman colleague, and generally stupid comments about women, and I would love to get your ideas on the best ways to raise consciousness.

In trying to get colleagues not to cross the line with women clients, for example, especially when I know the client hates it, I am thinking about:

-          Why would you say something to a woman colleague or client that you would not say to a male?

-          Don’t give a woman colleague a hug if you wouldn’t hug male colleagues.  Why don’t you hug men, by the way?

On comments about other women:

-          However strange this may sound to you, women notice if you joke about your wife – the more disparaging you are about your wife, the more we women may just interpret this badly. For that matter – why do you joke at your wife’s expense to colleagues?

Or to me:

-          Funnily enough, I do not appreciate being told I am too emotional, too loud, or insufficiently logical.  From all the evidence in this conversation, I am at least as logical as you, and although I do not believe being emotional is a bad thing, when you say it to a woman you mean it as an insult, and an extremely cliched one at that. And who are you calling loud, loud-mouth?

On bullying:

-          If you find yourself ganging up on the lone female in the do understand what bullying is, don’t you? PS this is not any better if you gang up in the youngest person, the only foreigner in the room, the one Black person, the guy with the funny accent...

In my experience you can roughly divide up the men who do these things as innocent, and not so innocent. A lot of men in my profession have never thought about it, have never been on anything like diversity training, or even anything about sexual harassment or bullying. I am more than happy to sit down with them and talk these issues through. 

But some men know very much more what they are doing. What should our response to them be – how should we respond, whether we are female or male? My temptation is to say they are being rude and nasty, rather than offensive, because too many men seem to think offensiveness is merely in the eye of the beholder. But obviously it's considered rude and nasty to confront people being rude and nasty...

The problem is that most women don’t want to show that it is upsetting, because ‘being upset’ is what women are. I mean, do. But like #Metoo, this is about women being hurt, objectively, fearing for their jobs or feeling their confidence being knocked out of them.

Thank you, by the way, all the men in my life who do understand and give us support, including the man who just sent me an email essentially apologising for his colleagues. But you may need to do something at the time, as well. x


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